By Hannya Boulos
New York’s 74 percent graduation rate doesn’t paint a complete picture of what’s happening in our classrooms.
Too many of our students, especially low-income and minority students, fail to graduate from high school prepared for college or career. In Buffalo, roughly 15 percent of our students graduate prepared for college. Of those who enter college, too many must take costly remedial courses that lead them to fall behind in their studies or drop out altogether.
In order to address this growing gap between high school graduation and college and career readiness, New York State adopted the Common Core Standards in 2010 with the aim of raising academic standards and graduation requirements. The standards provide parents, teachers and students with a clear picture of what qualities and achievements students need to complete in order to be ready to succeed in college, or pursue meaningful postsecondary career opportunities.
These standards require students to write more, think critically, comprehend diverse texts and solve real-world problems. Students are taking new assessments in English language arts and mathematics in grades three to eight that are aligned with Common Core Standards, and will demonstrate whether students are on track to graduate from high school and to succeed in college and career.
These assessments are raising the bar, which likely means that fewer students will be deemed proficient in comparison to earlier years. The state has taken steps to ensure that this new data and information will not be used to punish schools, students or teachers.
New assessment data will not be used as a basis to label schools as low achieving, or as priority or focus schools. All teachers will be evaluated relative to the same terms, so any fluctuation in student scores will not adversely affect a teacher’s rating under New York’s teacher evaluation system. Further, only 20 percent of a teacher’s overall rating is based on Common Core assessment scores.
Although NYSUT, the New York State teachers union, agreed to collaborate in the implementation of these standards three years ago, union leadership has recently called on the state to delay implementation of Common Core.
We can’t afford to delay implementation of these standards. The transition may not be seamless and scores are expected to drop, but the implementation is necessary in order to set a baseline, or starting point from which to measure students’ growth. The value of this data is giving our parents, students and educators a clear picture of how prepared they are for college and career.
These standards and assessments are more rigorous and challenging, but we must continue to raise the bar for our students as they enter a rapidly changing and more competitive work force.
Hannya Boulos is director of Buffalo ReformED.