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Saturday, December 12, 2015

Common Core Wars: Parents and Teachers Force Awakening

First appeared on Blogcritics.

core2 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.


core1Parents 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.

core3Now 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.

core4There is one irrefutable and detestable fact about CCSS being linked to standardized testing – these testing periods in schools are simply nothing to do with education 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. In 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.

  Photo credits: News 12 Long Island, CBSlocal.com

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