A number of speakers at the Eastport-South Manor High School forum November 25 were eloquent in their pleas to State Education Commissioner John King to abandon or change the Common Core Standards (CCS). They had the solid backing of most of the educators and parents in the room. But perhaps the most eloquent were students who expressed their dismay at being labeled failures because of their performances on poorly designed tests.
The battle over CCS, which has been adopted by all but five states, is aimed at creating a curriculum that will put students on the road toward critical thinking. Those opposed to it charge that the whole thing has been rolled out much too quickly, plus it’s education based on test performances.
There’s no question that a community should demand accountability from schools preparing children for college and the job market. But a one-size-fits-all solution is both a lazy and flawed method of assessing schools.
Linking test scores to teacher assessments — especially assessments under a new system introduced at the same time CCS was implemented — is one of many mistakes the State Education Department has visited upon our schools. Is it fair for a teacher of students with learning disabilities to be judged inadequate, at least in part because of lower test scores those students are inevitably going to achieve? What about teachers educating children whose English is a second language? Low scores don’t mean those students shouldn’t be given every opportunity to succeed educationally. And holding their teachers accountable for their scores this year is to potentially punish able educators.
Do we trust those who gave us this flawed system to revise both preparation for testing and the tests themselves? Or might they inflate next year’s scores and falsely claim the system is working?
No one is arguing that many students need to demonstrate greater proficiency in reading, writing and mathematics. But the commissioner and State Education Department failed to involve those on the front lines — teachers, administrators and parents — in the process of developing a system to enhance and assess student performance.
Despite that, Shelter Island School Superintendent Michael Hynes tried to embrace the changes, listening to faculty complaints, but hoping that all would eventually fall into place. He did so until he could no longer stomach watching the frustrations of his teachers and students.
He had to acknowledge that despite good intentions, CCS was stifling creativity, threatening programs necessary to creating well-rounded students and providing no new information in the district about students’ strengths and weaknesses.
The state is facing an insurrection and Dr. King and the Board of Regents trustees better rethink and retool, this time with input from those with the most at stake.