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Saturday, September 5, 2015

Common Core Wars: The Empire State Strikes Back Against the Common Core – Will Other States Follow?

First appeared on Blogcritics.

images (1) In case you live somewhere other than New York State, one of the biggest stories this week involved NY Governor Andrew Cuomo announcing his plans to review Common Core standards as well as the standardized testing associated with it. If this sounds like the death knell for CCSS, don’t get the party started just yet.


This very surprising turn of events indicates that Cuomo is yielding to the pressure of angry parents and exasperated teachers who have been crying foul regarding the standards since their implementation in 2010 – as well as the ludicrous linkage of state assessments to the standards and using the scores from those exams to “evaluate” teachers.

images  Of course, livid parents and teachers are a big part of this equation, and as an educator and parent I can tell you that we all realize that Cuomo has made this big announcement a little late. We recognize that he and ally – former NYC Mayor Michael (No Big Drinks) Bloomberg had seen CCSS linked to exams and teacher evaluations as an ideal way of getting rid of long time teachers (with their salaries and benefits) and paving the way for cheaper and more controllable charter schools.

Cuomo’s sudden revelation is still good news even if we are left to question his ulterior motives, since we know he has had them in the past. His comments do make clear what parents and teachers have been saying all along.
The fact is that the current Common Core program in New York is not working, and must be fixed. To that end, the time has come for a comprehensive review of the implementation of the Common Core Standards, curriculum, guidance, and tests in order to address local concerns. I am taking this action not because I don’t believe in standards, but because I do.
That last sentence can be taken two ways – one is that the end of Common Core in New York is nigh; however, we can also wonder if Cuomo’s “review” will lead to continued use of CCSS in some tangible way that may just eliminate the connection to exams and evaluations. That would be a victory, but a hollow one at best for frustrated parents, teachers, and students. If the CCSS do go down after this review and New York establishes its own standards (as it had in the past), this could be a tipping of the dominoes – with these faulty standards dropping like flies in the other 47 states that have adopted them. Parents everywhere are feeling the same frustration with the standards that take what used to be a simple addition problem and turn it into a dissertation.

commoncore-new-rally-protestors-2Last spring Cuomo saw the writing on the wall like some befuddled King Belshazzar who could not believe what was happening. Over 225,000 students statewide opted out of the standardized testing linked to the Common Core. As Port Jefferson Long Island teacher Beth Dimono put it, she was a “conscientious objector” to the testing and refused to proctor the exams. Obviously, many others agreed with her.   



Make no mistake – standardized testing is big business in this state and all across the country. The opting out is part of parents finally realizing that they are in the driver’s seat, not testing companies or state education departments. Many local superintendents and principals agreed with the sentiments of their constituents and made their feelings known, so it was essentially a matter of time until Cuomo had no choice to become enlightened.

The problem with CCSS from the start was that they were shoved down our throats as “good for you” and necessary for the future success of students. The literal dumping of these new, confusing, and laborious standards on local districts’ doorsteps initiated a rush to train teachers – which meant inadequately – and then Cuomo and Bloomberg had the audacity to link the standards to testing and teacher evaluations. This incongruously forced students to take tests that they had been poorly prepared to take because their teachers had little or no training; furthermore, those teachers would then be evaluated on how well or poorly their students did on those exams.

21TEACHERS1-articleLargeAnyone with an ounce of intelligence would see through Cuomo and Bloomberg’s nefarious plot to get rid of teachers – and promote their goal for more charter schools that are easily controlled without those pesty teachers’ unions standing in the way. Also, anyone with an ounce of integrity would have stood up and shouted that this was bad for teachers, bad for students, and did nothing to advance the learning environment. How could teachers – now obviously concerned about their future employment – be expected to teach anything but to the test, which is hardly teaching at all?

For now we must take Cuomo’s announcement as a sign of minimal progress until we see where this “review” will take us. Hopefully, CCSS will be eliminated in New York and that housecleaning will then extend to other states across the nation. The goal should be to set up reasonable standards for each subject area – with a focus on reality rather than on the fantasy of state education lackeys and their testing company enablers.

Using a boots on the ground approach, parents and teachers should be involved in the manifestation of a new era in education – one that meets the needs of students ideally on an individual basis. The bottom line is that standardized tests are only good for one entity – the company that churns them out.

The elimination of standardized testing should be the goal moving forward. Any educator worth his or her weight will tell you that testing is not teaching and teaching is not testing. In fact, the whole matter of evaluation of teachers and students needs to undergo a radical change as soon as possible in order to make every minute of class time more meaningful and productive for all involved.

At this time it is fair to say the Empire State has struck back against the pernicious Common Core that has hovered over our schools like a hideous monster for years. We have to see where this will go, but parents and teachers must continue to rise up in their glorious union against the tyranny of testing linked to CCSS. We have won this small battle, but it is a long way until we have won the war.

  Photo credits: Long Island Press, articlelarge.com, 5tjt.com,Wikipedia.org

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