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This is a tremendous victory for the parents and teachers of the state who became “the force” for good against the dark side of standardized testing and Common Core.

Common Core Wars: Parents and Teachers Force Awakening

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News 12 Long Island

The major educational news of the day in New York State should set a precedent and be good news for people across America – the Common Core Panel (established by Governor Andrew Cuomo) recommended to delay teacher evaluations linked to standardized test scores until the 2019-2020 academic year. This is a tremendous victory for the parents and teachers of the state who became “the force” for good against the dark side of standardized testing and Common Core.

The Common Core State Standards (CCSS) have been under fire here in New York since implementation started in 2010, most notably for complicating the education process and fomenting the standardized testing monster and making it get bigger and more ugly as it became linked to the standards.

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News 12 Long Island

Parents and teachers (always the most important elements in the education equation) here in New York State mobilized an extended protest of the CCSS and the over-testing it spawned. More importantly, the despicable plan to link testing to teacher evaluations was exposed for what it was – the true agenda of the formerly pro-Common Core Cuomo and his partner in crime, former New York City Mayor Michael (No Big Drink Cups) Bloomberg.

Back in September Cuomo saw the light or at least the groundswell of popular opinion against the CCSS and testing linked to it and established the Common Core Panel to study the situation in New York. This recommendation by the panel clearly indicates that Cuomo and Bloomberg’s punitive plot to tie evaluations to test scores was exposed for what it really has always been – a way for the state and city to rid itself of long-time teachers, close so called low performing schools (ludicrously based on said test scores), and pave the way for more charter schools.

The roll-out of CCSS, mishandled from the very beginning, asked teachers to take a whole new set of standards that they had not been well prepared to understand, use a new curriculum that they were unprepared to teach, and prepare students to be tested on assessments linked to the CCSS that the students couldn’t possibly be ready to take. The result was a complete disaster that included low test scores, frazzled teachers, confused students, and furious parents.

That is why it is not surprising that in April 2015 frustrated parents reached a breaking point and more than 200,000 students statewide opted-out of standardized testing in Math and English. This sent a powerful message to Cuomo and showed that parents appreciated their children’s teachers as much as they wanted to prevent their kids from suffering through the absurdly long testing schedule.

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cbslocal.com

Now Cuomo has embraced the recommendations of the panel he established, which means the ongoing turmoil (which I have called Common Core Wars) might be coming to an end here in New York. Reacting to the panel’s findings Cuomo said:

 

 

The Common Core was supposed to ensure all of our children had the education they needed to be college and career-ready — but it actually caused confusion and anxiety. That ends now.

While it is encouraging that Cuomo has come around, it took him long enough. As an educator I saw the writing on the wall as soon as the boggled roll-out of CCSS began. I can attest to the ridiculous amount of time, energy, and cost involved in the gorging test monster that grew bigger and bigger – a behemoth so hideous that it kept consuming teaching time, upsetting teachers with the gravity of linkage to evaluations, and worrying students about what the implications were for their grades.

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News 12 Long Island

There is one irrefutable and detestable fact about CCSS being linked to standardized testing – these testing periods in schools have simply nothing to do with the education of children and waste an inordinate amount of time preparing students to take them, on administering them, and later on teachers grading the tests (which takes teachers out of the classrooms). This has nothing to do with best educational practices and everything to do with furthering the agendas of those far removed from the classroom.

Most teachers and students will not forget the aberrations and errors on the tests over the years – most notably the infamous pineapple questions on the 2012 ELA exam that stumped and mortified everyone including this writer. We can all look at this and incredulously ask, “And you were going to base teachers’ evaluations and thus their careers on something like that?”

There was additional good news from the panel – fewer and shorter standardized exams. The members also recommended a new set of state standards be adopted with input from teachers and parents (meaning bye-bye CCSS). This is extremely good news for anyone in New York State who has children either in school or preparing to attend school.

core12n-1-webIn this case “the force” of parents, teachers, and students – all of whom made an effort to have their voices heard – fought the good fight and defeated the “dark side” of the state education department and districts who aligned themselves in a pernicious agreement with testing companies in lucrative long-term deals with complete disregard for what is good for students.

We must continue to watch the process as this winning team of parents and educators moves forward and gives input in the months ahead into creating a new set of standards and a curriculum that should (if done as promised) create a new model that will be the best way to teach our children the things they need to know and hopefully will not be anything about teaching to and taking tests.

May “the force” be with them.

 

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About Victor Lana

Victor Lana's stories, articles, and poems have been published in literary magazines and online. His books 'A Death in Prague' (2002), 'Move' (2003), 'The Savage Quiet September Sun: A Collection of 9/11 Stories' (2005), and 'Like a Passing Shadow' (2009) are available in print, online, and as e-books. His latest books 'Heartbeat and Other Poems,' 'If the Fates Allow: New York Christmas Stories,' 'Garden of Ghosts,' and 'Flashes in the Pan' are available exclusively on Amazon. After winning the National Arts Club Award for Poetry while attending Queens College, he concentrated on writing mostly fiction and non-fiction prose until the recent publication of his new book of poetry, 'Heartbeat and Other Poems' (now available on Amazon). He has worked as a faculty advisor to school literary magazines and enjoys the creative process as a writer, editor, and collaborator. He has been with 'Blogcritics Magazine' since July 2005 and has written many articles on a variety of topics; previously co-head sports editor, he now is a Culture and Society and Flash Ficition editor. Having traveled extensively, Victor has visited six continents and intends to get to Antarctica someday where he figures a few ideas for new stories await him.

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3 comments

  1. Dr Joseph S Maresca

    These tests tend to be geared to assessing the very top students. For this reason, there may be a lot of resistance in the community. Testing needs to be geared to the minimum necessary to satisfy the grade level requirements for passing. And so, a Pass/Fail may be the route to go.

    In addition, the testing questions are designed in a very complicated way. For instance, the questions involve critical thinking, memorization, more advanced reading skills and sometimes intermediate level logic. These things are best ascertainable by high school or even college students.

    The tests have to be designed for the slow incremental learning of a child from pre-K to the 8th or 9th grade. Another problem is that many schools work with texts that may not be completely up-to-date or texts that do not develop critical thinking skills.

    The biggest problem I see in the schools is that students don’t read enough books. Students in the primary schools need to read at least a book a month or more of grade-level appropriate reading which comes from a librarian’s published list of books. i.e. The New York Public Library List of Grade Level Appropriate Books

    Teachers should be working directly with their NYC Public Library and mandating that students read a book a month or more from this readily available published list at any local library. The grade appropriate list spells out specific books taking into consideration vocabulary development and grade level appropriate reading complexity.

    Lastly, these tests are too long. An hour long test is all that is needed. Beyond this, the tests are not really serving a useful purpose-especially for primary grade level students.

    • You make many good points. The most important is that In NYS the English test takes 3 days, the math test takes 3 days, and science in grades 4 & 8 takes two days. This doesn’t include the training of teachers for proctoring the test, time afterwards to mark it (both take teachers out of the classroom), and all the prep time beforehand prepping – complete waste of time for all involved.

  2. Dr Joseph S Maresca

    After having graded thousands of papers, I can judge in several paragraphs whether or not a student can write reasonably well. An English Language test can be developed easily. The test should consist of submitting a writing sample, reading several paragraphs/answering multiple choice, selecting correctly spelled words, some antonyms/synonyms and not much else. The exam must parallel the level of difficulty found in books recommended on standard library lists for each grade level.

    Some school systems have many children who are English Language Learners since English is not spoken in the home. In these cases, the school system should engage a professional language institute like Pimsleur. The Pimsleur can guarantee a basic fluency in 10 days for virtually any language. The idea is to bring all of the students in the school up to a basic threshold in linguistics on an immediate basis.

    The overall problem with the current system is that the testing is geared to identify the very top students. This is not fair to the students who are minimally qualified to progress to the next grade. The purpose of this testing is to make sure that students in the current grade are ready to be promoted to the next grade level.

    The system has special tests to assess the advanced level students. These are the tests taken by students planning to enter schools like Bronx High School of Science and other institutions which are geared to serve students at the highest academic level of achievement. Additionally, these customized tests for gifted students are taken much later in the academic experience. i.e. 8th or 9th grades

    There is another problem with the current testing. It’s not tailored to serve the ever growing Special Education student constituency. These students require customized interventions like large letter printing, more time to take the tests and other conditions which are best ascertainable by people qualified to teach these students.