My wife has been working on aligning her school's curriculum to the Common Core. Actually, it's the Kansas standards that are based on the Common Core, but the skills and assessments are basically the same for English and social studies. The problem is that she has textbooks that are not aligned to the standards that include quizzes that cover way too many skills. Terrible situation to be in, actually, and if her school really wants to align to Common Core, the best bet is to purchase books or at least quizzes that do this for them. If you at least have skills-based quizzes, you can use the books in order to work backwards from the assessments. The question I had, however, was how long does it take to create one assessment? The answer, when I tested it out today, was two hours. I will explain why in the rest of the article. Feel free to send a link to this page to your administrators who want you to create pre-test, post-tests, and lessons for each skill very quickly. It's just not feasible to spend TWO HOURS creating each skills assessment you will need.

For my test, I decided to cover Common Core English Grammar L.8.1b. The standard is: "Form and use verbs in the active and passive voice." Obviously, a multiple-choice assessment won't have students actively DOING this, but it can assess whether or not students understand how the skill is DONE, so it's legit. My goal in the assessment was to have students look at four sentences and be able to identify which one was an active-voice sentence or a passive-voice sentence, at least in relation to the verbs being used. Simple, right? Not so much, since a 10-question multiple-choice quiz like this one would require the teacher creating a total of 40 sentences, not just 10. There are ways to practice using a more ACT-like style (which is using a paragraph instead of sentences), but I chose a more straightforward version of demonstrating the skills for my quiz. Both are perfectly fine, and I think the one that resembles the ACT is often preferable as test prep. However, in my experience, you don't really save any time using a longer passage and shorter answers, so my time evaluation will be similar.

Since my goal was to create the best and most usable assessment for 8th grade (and sell them for $1.49 each), I chose to integrate sentences from 8th grade history. Why? Students learn better when curriculum in different classes correlates to others. Even if my random facts about John Adams are not specifically aligned to EXACTLY what was covered in history, it reinforces some of what they were covering. It's better than creating 10 sentences about Dick and Jane, anyhow. The problem is that a teacher spends an extra half-hour looking for appropriate sentences to use if integrating into other subjects is a goal. Yes, the results are better, but your teachers don't have the time to do this consistently, and with all worksheets, etc.

Most of the time was spent in reworking the correct sentences into those that were incorrect. I basically took one good sentence and was tasked with creating several bad ones for each question. That's not nearly as easy as it seems, especially since the goal was to only discern between active and passive verbs, without trying to get students to only choose the one that made the most sense. The goal was for ALL of the sentences to make sense and be relevant, but for the students to figure out which ones worked best as active (1-8) and passive (9-10) verbs. Well over an hour was spent on doing this.

Now take a look at how many standards there are total. Not a lot compared to the number of school days, perhaps, but if each and ever pre-test, post-test, and lesson takes TWO HOURS, then your teachers don't really have time to do this effectively on their own. Buy a few quizzes to cover each skill. Use one for a pre-test, one as a post-test, and maybe another as practice or remediation. But don't try to have your teachers do this unless you hate them.

Of course, once a skills-aligned, multiple-choice quiz that even integrates with social studies or science is created, this is GOLD for years to come. Simple, accurate, and effective. Plus, it's as good as a MAP or other assessment at identifying where students need help because the focus is much narrower than most English grammar books or DOL. Buy the one listed here to see how it can be done, but don't expect to tell your teachers to create a few dozen of these while already working too many hours. And don't expect textbook companies to really get it right, either. What I'd do is pay someone to find as many of these over the summer as possible, and then get the site licenses (if on TpT) in order to use them department-wide. It will still take some time, but one person can do it over the summer rather than your entire staff killing themselves all year long.