Thursday, August 8, 2013

Common Core faces another big test . . .

Will the results of the first Common Core aligned tests in New York State feed the slow to ignite movement to move away from the standards?  The results are lower than some expected and even with an intentional campaign to prepare the parents and community for lower scores the state and city are experiencing push back.  This Wall Street Journal article from April 14th is an example of trying to prepare people for lower scores.

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?

1 comment:

Unknown said...

It's interesting debate. To me, the standards for Common Core and to help GUIDE me as an educator, to make sure I have taught all the needed skills to be successful later in life. Even with the EALR's everyone was up in arms, but eventually we understood that it helped the teacher make better educational decisions for their students.
It is my belief that too much or too little "curriculum" gets in the way of what the teacher has been trained to do. We are not monkey's blindly following a "set of lesson" that is not what we have gone to school for. We all know really learning takes place in the strangest of circumstances and sometimes you NEED to abandon the "prescribed lessons" in order TO teach. Curriculum is also a hinderance when you have to follow exactly lesson by lesson. I normally use around 4 different curriculums to teach writing, math, and even reading! There is no one size fits everything.
The assessments ALSO need to be taken with a grain of salt. I had a student last year who decided he wanted attention and CHOSE to not take district assessments to the best of his ability. He a was a smart boy, very smart... but received almost no points because this was his newest way to get attention. I cannot make him or anyone else do their best, they have to WANT it. However, after a close conversation with the principal, family, and myself he decided that was not the best use of his time. lol
With that stated, I do believe the Common Core is rigorous, but tangible, and it will help ME see what my kids need to know to be successful in life. Are the tests perfect, nope. But... the WASL took a few years to get a working model that made sense. This too shall take time. We are so quick to dismiss if it fails in one year or say the kids did not learn. I would disagree. I am sure they learned something new and maybe even enjoyed a subject that they had not before.
Education really is an enigma. Everyone, for the most part, has had an experience. Everyone believes how they went to school and they way THEY learned is how it should be done now. You would never ask a doctor to make the incision a bit more to the right or question the lawyer in your case is that they right way to argue the point. You trust them, with the most important decisions in your life. I too, would like that kind of trust. :)