Are the Common Core State Standards Developmentally Appropriate? Are the State Tests Punitive? Has the Commissioner Unleashed a Tiger?

A couple of meetings ago Harry Phillips, a member of the Board of Regents, made a proposal, a moratorium on the impact of the grades 3-8 state tests, a few Regents supported, it never made it to the agenda.

It was a grievous error.

The heavily scripted rollout of the new tests began in the spring with presentations by State Ed staff and Regents Fellows, all very detailed and upbeat – then the scores were released and the feces hit the fan.

The outrage over the sharp declines in scores has not abated; the anger grows by the day.

Have my kids gotten dumber? Have my teachers and principals suddenly become inept? Why are my kids being punished? Is it possible that there are no highly effective teachers in Syracuse?

Angry parents and teachers interrupt a meeting with the commissioner and he blames “special interests,” and the anger overflows.

Standards (“Students will be able to …”) + a deep, rich curriculum (in NYS curriculum is the responsibility of the district or school) + effective instruction (the responsibility of the district/school and measured by the teacher evaluation system aka APPR) = high level student learning.

The Common Core State Standards set a high bar, for example in Social Studies Grades 6-8,

Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of primary and secondary sources.

Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary of the source distinct from prior knowledge or opinions.

Identify key steps in a text’s description of a process related to history/social studies (e.g., how a bill becomes law, how interest rates are raised or lowered).

If we started in the sixth grade by the eighth grade it would be fair to include these skills on a standardized test; unfortunately the kids, unprepared, were pushed off the cliff.

My early childhood teacher friends tell me the third grade standards are not age appropriate,

Write opinion pieces on topics or texts, supporting a point of view with reason

Introduce the topic or text they are writing about, state an opinion, and create an organizational structure that lists reasons

Provide reasons that support the opinion.

Principals and teachers were never part of the review process.

Does the state provide a Social Studies curriculum, well; they provide a draft 65-page document, NYS Common 9-12 Social Studies Frameworks, for whom is document intended? The school district? The school? The classroom teacher? Why can’t a teacher simply go online and download the sixth grade Social Studies curriculum? Why can’t the state or a school district simply adopt a well-regarded curriculum, perhaps E D Hirsch’s Core Knowledge?

“Cultural literacy constitutes the only sure avenue of opportunity for disadvantaged children,” Hirsch writes, and “the only reliable way of combating the social determinism that now condemns them to remain in the same social and educational condition as their parents. That children from poor and illiterate homes tend to remain poor and illiterate is an unacceptable failure of our schools, one which has occurred not because our teachers are inept but chiefly because they are compelled to teach a fragmented curriculum based on faulty educational theories.”

Classroom instruction? The state only “measures” the effectiveness of the instruction utilizing the deeply flawed APPR. A just-released report by a number of NYS superintendents points out significant flaws in the state plan.

New York’s first attempt to grade teachers on their students’ progress was flawed in several key ways, a new study commissioned by the region’s superintendents says.

The state’s formula gave less credit to teachers serving disadvantaged students, judged some teachers on the performance of too few students, failed to measure key variables such as students’ mobility and did not clearly signal how schools can assist teachers or students, the study found.

“Our fears were realized,” said Harrison Superintendent Louis Wool, who was president of the Lower Hudson Council of School Superintendents.

The three legs of the stool: standards + curriculum + instruction are all absent, inappropriate or confusing.

The pushback from parents and principals and teachers is an example of the wisdom of crowds.

The wisdom of the crowd is the process of taking into account the collective opinion of a group of individuals rather than a single expert to answer a question.

The commissioner is an expert; however, the “collective opinion” of the “crowd” is correct. The commissioner may blame “special interests,” in reality he has moved ahead too quickly, he left core constituencies behind, and is now the brunt of a growing anger.

If the Common Core (CCSS), the teacher evaluation plan (APPR) and the new state tests were phased in over a number of years; if New York State principals and teachers, selected by their own organizations, had an opportunity to review and modify the standards; if the state adjusted the plans as a result of on the ground experiences; if the folks leading schools and in classrooms had played a “real” role in the process we may have changed the face of education.

The anger, the attacks, the growing hostility, the reaction of electeds will likely sink the best of intentions.

Hopefully and there is time, sanity will prevail.


3 responses to “Are the Common Core State Standards Developmentally Appropriate? Are the State Tests Punitive? Has the Commissioner Unleashed a Tiger?

  1. Peter, you ask “Why can’t the state or a school district simply adopt a well-regarded curriculum, perhaps E D Hirsch’s Core Knowledge?” The state has done just that. It contracted with Core Knowledge to create the pre K -2 curriculum aligned with the Common Core standards. The curriculum is now available on line to any school in the state. The question is why doesn’t the New York City DOE insist that all schools use the curriculum and provide teachers with the support to teach it?


    • Sol It is simply a suggestion by the state, school districts can use Core Knowledge or whatever they chose, in NYC principals were given a narrow choice of textbooks, in essence the text is the curriculum .. Sad

      Sent from my iPhone



  2. Retired- no Longer Public Enemy No. 1.

    How can there ever be sanity if none of the big shots even BEGINS to consider asking “mere school teachers” what they might have to contribute.

    Oh, wait- I forgot- the whole structure, from consultants to experts to the newly-minted MBA-type educational micromanagers exists solely for the purpose of reminding the public that teachers are solely to blame for all the problems of society.

    Worst of all are those who are the “chosen,” those who have rapidly ascended out of the lowly classroom or entered from business schools directly to the coveted top positions of power.

    These people pontificate from on high at Tweed or from other slightly lower levels, but all ultimamtely are merely fawning and servile toadies for the chancellor or for the outgoing Mayor.

    These people exist first to drain the schools of those willing to make a career working for the children. Then, they blame the Union for every promise the city made and now wants to break. Their most valued employees are the “instant teachers,” who “must be committed and who surely know all the latest ideas” and especially, are cheap to employ. Since most of these wonder children leave after (as much as) two years, there need be no real, honest commitment from anyone to finding durable and reliable methods of improving our kids’ education.

    Give these fancy supervisors and micromanagers of human lives assignments to schools far from where they live, with a program of five (oversized) classes, a building assignment, an official class, and then lock ’em in with the neediest kids. Will these hot-shot experts last even a single week?

    Meanwhile, who mourns for another generation of kids lost, hopes and dreams crushed?

    All the while, the terrified and vilified teachers dance faster and faster to the wild and erratic beat of the latest costly administrative cacophony.

    If you’re a teacher reading this, may you find some solace in the realization that there are indeed a few of us left who do understand.

    If you are one of the manipulators of teachers for personal, for career, or for corporate profit, and indeed some of you do post on this forum, then shame on you. That’s the most gracious, the gentlest, and the kindest thing I could muster up from deep inside me.


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