No one should have expected huge improvements in the results of math and English tests tied to the still-new Common Core standards. Such a transformation in education is not going to happen overnight.
The standards were rolled out last year in New York State. It has been a long year, with some parents and teachers railing against the new standards. Parents unaccustomed to seeing their children perform poorly on tests blamed Common Core, and some directed their children not to take the tests. The rollout of Common Core coincided with a new teacher evaluation system based, in part, on test results. Teachers didn’t like the idea of being evaluated based on those tests.
The Common Core standards were not put in place to raise the stress level of students or get teachers fired. They are designed to prepare students to better compete with the more challenging world in which we live.
The protests against Common Core are delaying the necessary shift to better ways of educating students based on the best available research. And with that, there has to be testing to measure how well the new standards are working. The data obtained from the tests will help educators pinpoint where help is needed. Simply put, you can’t manage what you don’t measure.
This becomes a philosophical debate. One sides accepts that new standards are needed to meet changing times; the other seems to believe that Common Core is just another educational flavor-of-the-month mandated by Washington that will soon give way to another trend.
But the Common Core holds the promise of better preparing students for a fast-moving world in which competition is coming from all directions.
As Donald A. Ogilvie said, “In public education none of us can afford to be complacent.” He should know. He is interim superintendent of the Buffalo Public Schools and served as liaison to the state for 19 local school districts before taking the Buffalo post this summer.
Progress, as measured by the latest tests, has been slow in coming, but it is not fair to write off Common Core based on one set of tests. The statewide math and English exams given to third- through eighth-graders reflect the new learning standards, but they have been part of the curriculum for only one year.
The latest results show elementary and middle school students making modest improvement in math, but little progress in English compared with a year ago. Large-city districts saw slight year-to-year improvement. Wealthier suburban districts statewide experienced overall declines in the English exam.
Math results in both high- and low-need districts improved overall, and students across all races and ethnicities showed gains in math.
State Education Commissioner John B. King Jr. said that he considered this year’s statewide scores “encouraging” overall. Such incremental progress is to be expected. As students, parents and teachers adjust to the new learning standards, scores should improve – assuming everyone puts in a sincere effort to help kids have a better future.