New York state education officials have been sounding the alarm for months: English and math tests that schoolchildren will take this week and next will be harder than before and scores will drop.
"In fact, we expect them to be lower," warns a video released Thursday by the state Education Department.
The tougher tests awaiting New York's third-through-eighth-graders are aligned with the Common Core standards, a national set of guidelines intended to boost academic rigor.
While students across the state have spent hours drilling for the annual tests, a small but vocal group of parents is planning to boycott them, saying those hours could have been better spent.
Will the results fuel more parents to boycott the tests and push politicians who have promised increased achievement to rethink their policy decisions? It is possible when considering comments like that below in this New York Times piece from yesterday.
Chrystina Russell, principal of Global Technology Preparatory in East Harlem, said she did not know what she would tell parents, who will receive scores for their children in late August. At her middle school, which serves a large population of students from poor families, 7 percent of students were rated proficient in English, and 10 percent in math. Last year, those numbers were 33 percent and 46 percent, respectively.
“Now we’re going to come out and tell everybody that they’ve accomplished nothing this year and we’ve been pedaling backward?” Ms. Russell said. “It’s depressing.”
The following comment from Secretary Duncan supporting the shift to the Common Core and new tests is for me another indicator of how far removed some of the key policy makers are to the reality that teachers and students have in their classrooms.
Speaking with reporters, Mr. Duncan said the shift to the Common Core standards was a necessary recalibration that would better prepare students for college and the work force.
“Too many school systems lied to children, families and communities,” Mr. Duncan said. “Finally, we are holding ourselves accountable as educators.”
So, telling students in our state that they do not meet a standard for which there was no aligned curriculum, insufficient support for the changed instructional practices required of the new standards, and no opportunity to learn is better than providing students and families with feedback on how well they did against the STANDARDS that every state identified as a required component of NCLB? I disagree with his portrayal of what we have been doing and ask him to reflect on how appropriate it is to hold a tenth grader accountable to standards that require learning experiences beginning in Kindergarten when he or she may have had one year of opportunity to learn. I use the word may because that will depend on the school system and school's capacity to provide the aligned curriculum, formative assessments, and teacher support necessary to meet this high demand.
I support the move to a common set of standards, but disagree with implementing assessments aligned with standards until teachers and students have had the opportunity to learn. Phasing in assessments beginning in the lower grades makes more sense to me. I am also concerned with the standards moving towards a national curriculum as states, districts, and schools search for the silver bullet that will not be out there. There will, however, be schools that perform at a higher level and others will naturally want to know what curriculum they are using. We know that the answer is not in the curriculum though that is a necessary component. If not the curriculum, then what is the answer?