[I am reposting this article because the formatting was not clear the first time round. Arthur was quoting the linked article, but I did not set off the quoted sections correctly. My mistake, not his. I think I got it right this time.]

 

Edwize, the house publication of New York City’s powerful teachers’ union, just published a strange and somewhat incoherent article, saluting the collapse of test scores and the arrival of Common Core, which is sure to return authority to teachers and end teaching to the test. Got it? Neither do I.

Here is what high school teacher Arthur Goldstein says about this essay:

A rather incredible piece is up at Edwize right now. It makes several assumptions about Common Core tests that are tough to comprehend. Commenting on the as yet untested and unproven standards, the writer ventures:

“And here’s the thing: these are the very skills educators want to teach and have had to forego in favor of test prep.”

I’m certainly glad that’s clear to the writer, who I very much doubt is a working teacher. Personally, I like to teach kids to love to read. This will help them greatly when they face more challenging reading tasks later. All the Common Core analysis, according to teachers I actually know and speak with, is making their students crazy. Even their quickest and brightest students are pressed for time and find it difficult to even answer the questions in the time allotted.

The assumption that this will preclude test prep, particularly considering the increased volume of testing due to Common Core, is nothing short of preposterous. Couple that with the fact that value-added measures will determine whether or not teachers keep their jobs, and you don’t have to wonder very much how those of us who actually have to work feel about them.

There is then some largely incomprehensible nonsense about forcing “accountability to grow up,” and placing “standardized tests back to their rightful, and less overblown, place.” How we are supposed to accomplish that when there are more tests is an utter mystery to me. And “accountability,” from all I read, tends to relate to ways to fire unionized teachers more than anything else.

“So less than a third of students meet standards. Well, what else do we know? How do students perform on social studies projects, lab work, art and music, sports, leadership activities, group tasks, or community service? What 21st century skills do they have; what ones need to be developed? What are the best models for teaching those skills? What can students tell us about what they do and don’t understand and what helps them learn? And how do we measure those?”

This is the same writer who told us paragraphs ago that Common Core Standards were the very things we wanted to teach. Now, apparently, we are checking their art, music, and leadership activities, none of which are measured by the tests that could very well determine whether or not working teachers are fired.

Why can’t we assess students that way?

One big reason is that we’ve supported not only the Common Core, with its additional layer of testing, but also taken part in crafting a law designed fire teachers based solely on test scores. I have no idea whatsoever why we’ve done that. I would love to assess students in the ways the writer suggests. But there’s now a gun to my head, and I’ll certainly be fired if my kids don’t get sufficient test scores, likely as not on tests that have little or nothing to do with what my kids need to learn. Creative and carefree assessment does not remotely seem the way to go here.

“It would be a relieve if tests became more the province of educators.”

It would be a “relieve” indeed. On this astral plane, Common Core adds to standardized testing and makes that more difficult. Furthermore, there is now a NY State law that prohibits us from grading standardized tests of our own kids. Much to my disappointment, I can’t recall my union objecting to that at all. In fact, working teachers, who know their classes even better than Meryl Tisch or John King, should be testing our own classes and making judgements about our own students.

Sadly, Common Core takes us even further from that. This article, sadly, does not remotely address the concerns of working teachers. Anytime UFT leaders or writers would like to speak to me, they need only reach out. I only wish they had done so sooner.

I’m a real working teacher, and I hear from others each and every day. I’m not at all averse to sharing.