I have insisted again and again that the Common Core standards should be field-tested so that we could learn what works and what needs fixing. Here is a comment from a reader describing how Common Core works. I hope we get other reviews from teachers as the standards and tests are rolled out. Teachers, please send your comments if you have implemented the Common Core in your classrooms.
The teacher writes:
“Next week I will finish my first year teaching the CCSS to Title I primary students, most of whom were ELL and about a third ESE students.
Asked last August by my then principal to take on a “remedial” class of all the students who had failed to meet the end of year requirements of the previous primary grade the year before, I was concerned about the long-term effects on my employment due to VAM but interested in the challenge of helping these struggling children.
My overall assessment of the CCSS for primary grades is that although the standards themselves were not far from my own expectations and traditional teaching style nor were they impossible to use for planning, teaching, and assessment, the stated outcomes were not developmentally appropriate nor realistic and there’s the rub.
Coupling these standards with high stakes testing will lead nowhere but to disaster. I was able to bring the majority of my students to what used to be considered an acceptable part of the continuum for “end of grade” in reading and mathematics. All but 2 of my students made an easily measurable “year’s growth” as determined by 3 separate and different assessments required by my state and district. But they were not at the CCSS determined level. So where does that leave us?
My district created an end-of-year computerized math assessment to pilot with the primary cohort that taught CCSS this year, basing it upon the coming PARC assessments that will be in place in 2 years. Unsurprisingly, most students in the district fell into the middle range of around 50% or below.
Leaving aside the problematic nature of devising some questions for 5 – 7 year olds that were written to trick the students (higher order thinking? please. . . it’s just trickery to these literal-minded little ones) what, exactly, did this assessment do? Did it “prove” that the students had or had not mastered the mathematical standards? Impossible since for many standards there was only one question. Did it “condition” the students to the process of taking online tests? Maybe, if you think that a primary student can understand what that process is or care what it is. Why, exactly, are districts and schools doing this kind of assessment? Can anyone say?
We were encouraged to review the test questions after the fact. My students eagerly dissected the questions and were able to select the correct answers quite readily in the atmosphere of the classroom workshop, which we had used all year, and they were able to articulate their reasoning without issue. So did they “master the standards”, as evidenced in our classroom work routine or did they fail to “master the standards” as measured by the one shot, computerized, multiple choice test? I think we all know the answer the reformers would give despite the fact that I have 10 months of work assembled in portfolios that do show the “mastery” of the standards quite clearly. But those portfolios don’t count, do they?
Reading was no different. Using measures that for the last dozen or so years placed them squarely where they should be at the end of grade but now, due to CCSS decree, says they are way below expectations, tells me what? I already knew quite well, from many years of experience, that children learn to read at different rates and times. CCSS makes no allowance for that at all. They made a year and a half of growth yet they are still considered a half-year behind. Hmmm.
CCSS declare that “students will . . . .” So we are left with a system that reforms by fiat. And students who last year were considered at grade level are suddenly half a year or more behind, simply by declaration of the CCSS authors, with no consideration given to the fact that they weren’t subject to the ruling by fiat levels of success the previous year. How is this declaration and raising of the bar differ in any way from the misguided fiats of NCLB that declared all students would read on grade level by 2014?
The authors and supporters of CCSS are not willing to “weaken” their vision in any way nor are they open to revision, discussion, or compromise so I don’t see how it would be possible to maintain any kind of moratorium to “get things right”. I’m disappointed and saddened that so many professional organizations seem to want to ignore this simple fact and pretend that their calls for moratoria will have any effect at all.
By the way, I’m very proud of my students and I feel that we accomplished more than we set out to do this year, no matter what the CCSS say. My children love science and reading and math and writing and are leaving me with their sense of wonder and excitement about the world and their own learning intact. I wonder myself if that means that I’m the endangered species here? CCSS says “yes”.