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Common Core: The New York State of Mind

Most states have now implemented teacher evaluation systems that include student test scores.  At the same time, schools are in the process of implementing Common Core, which, of course, comes with a new set of tests.  The New York State Education Department officials admit that the tests are more difficult than before and to expect a drop in test scores.  Anyone see a problem here?

Well, the New York State United Teachers do.  The association, the largest teachers’ union in the state, is pushing back against what its leaders call “obsessive” standardized testing.  The tests, in grades three through eight math and English language arts, are scheduled for mid-April.

Teachers say they haven’t really had time to implement the new curriculum and it’s unfair to include scores in teachers’ evaluations.  The Department of Education says it’s no big deal because teachers will be measured against all the other teachers in the state who are in the same situation.  Teachers would like another year to get ready.

Currently the union is running ads in newspapers and conducting forums around the state.  The forums, called “Tell It Like It Is,” are attempts to encourage teachers to speak out against the new testing.  In addition, the union is pressing for local school boards to pass a resolution calling on state and federal officials to end excessive testing and find alternate evaluation methods.

But the State Board of Regents so far is standing by its decision to test on material some teachers say they haven’t had a chance to implement and need more time to implement.  Merryl H. Tisch, chairperson of the New York State Board of Regents, isn’t buying it.  She says the timeline for implementation was made clear Test taking two years ago and that school districts would have to have been “living under a rock” to protest now. 

In addition, New York’s contract with its testing companies contains the provision that all materials would be free of licensing restrictions, allowing them to post on their website free curriculum materials.  The State Education Department touts the ready availability of materials; NYSUT officials say that materials have been posted, taken down, revised, and reposted.  My experience with the State Education Department regarding other posted information for state exams suggests that NYSUT probably has a point.

It appears at the moment that Common Core implementation has seen uneven acceptance and implementation throughout the state.  It remains to be seen if pressuring teachers to produce good test scores will work to the benefit of kids.  It’s test time in New York, and let’s see who the real winners are in this latest skirmish.


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