Feedback on the Common Core

Recently, New York State’s Education Commissioner, Dr. Mary Ellen Elia, launched a survey, seeking the public’s input with regards to the Common Core State Standards.  The survey can be accessed here.

The implementation of the Common Core State Standards in New York State cannot be described as smooth.  Critics of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) lodge complaints ranging from political to pedagogical concerns.

Adding on to these concerns is the recent change in direction by the Federal and State Education Departments that claim over-testing is occurring in schools.  Outgoing U.S. Education Secretary, Arnie Duncan, suggest placing a cap on testing not to exceed more than two percent of instructional time during the academic year.  An article on this issue can be read here.

During the past five years, I have witnessed a confusing proliferation of mandates from the State and Federal level, watching teachers spending time rigorously rewriting curriculum to meet CCSS.  In order to gauge whether students are meeting these standards, a whole cadre of tests and student learning objectives (SLOs) have been developed.  This has led to the expansion of a testing industry.  At one point, even Randi Weingarten, a Clarkstown North graduate and current president of the American Federation of Teachers, gave her support for the CCSS and the corresponding exams (which were linked to teacher ratings) stating that New York’s performance appraisal of teachers was the best system in the nation.  Interestingly, even Ms. Weingarten has reversed course, applauding the recent reversal of federal policy regarding over-testing of students.

Political criticism of the CCSS stems from those who decry the loss of local control over the curriculum.  These opponents of the CCSS claim that the federal government is sticking its nose where it does not belong, i.e. local school districts.   The U.S. has had an educational tradition wherein what is taught and how it’s delivered to students remain within the auspices of the local schools.  These critics argue that the CCSS represents a move away from localism to national control; thus, eroding a time honored tradition of education that is locally controlled.  Senator Rand Paul (also a Presidential candidate) takes this position (see below).

Other concerns stem from parents who believe that there is too much testing and that the CCSS place too much stress on students (particularly at the elementary level).  These parents point to multiple day exams in English and Mathematics.  These exams also last for hours each day.  Additionally, students with special needs experience an added burden as they will need much more time to complete these exams.  A news clip reports on the opt-out movement.

Finally, other concerns are more pedagogical in nature.  These concerns emanate from tests being age-inappropriate and developmentally unaligned to the maturity level of the student.  On the high school level, parents and students experience lower grades as the New York State Education Department keeps on resetting passing and mastery rates.  Well-respected administrators and educators have voiced their concerns regarding the CCSS and the corresponding exams.  These educators claim that the recent reforms are essentially damaging to public education in New York and the nation.  Dr. Carol Burris, retired principal of Southside High School in Rockville Centre, Long Island, highlights her pedagogical concerns with the Common Core in this video.

Then, there are others that defend the CCSS for attempting to prepare students for career and college readiness.  The supporters of the CCSS decry that public schools do not prepare students for advanced college studies and that our students are falling behind their international counterparts in China, Singapore, Japan, and Finland.  Some of the supporters of the CCSS can be heard advocating their position (see below).

As parents, you have your own unique experience with your child’s testing experience.  As you know, schools have already rolled out the Common Core exam in Algebra and Geometry. This year, the English Regents exam will be fully Common Core aligned.  If the Algebra exam is an indicator, we are being informed to expect lower student scores on the new CCSS English Regents compared to previous years.  The lower scores bring their own set of frustrations and concerns.

Given the hotly contested issues and experiences with the CCSS and the associated tests, New York State Education Commissioner, Dr. Mary Ellen Elia, has asked for the public’s input.  I do encourage parents to participate and fill out the survey.  The survey can be accessed here.

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