Thursday, August 8, 2013

Common Core Test Results

Over the next few days there will be plenty of media buzz over test scores in New York State.  These stories draw viewers, sell ad time and sell newspapers.  Ka-ching!!

As a writer I was impressed by the choice of the word, “plummet” in one headline I saw.  As a teacher looking at the same headline, I hoped the editor who came up with that vivid verb was educated in a public school where he or she not only learned the power of precise words and concise text, but was inspired to pursue a career in journalism.  Because as educators, that is what we aspire to do; to educate, inform, inspire, and yes, adapt to a rapidly changing world. 

The Common Core Standards are a change for the 45 states which have adopted them, this year’s assessments are a change, and APPR is a change.  Should all of these changes have happened in one academic year?  Debatable, but the fact remains that all of these changes did happen at once, so where do we go from here?

In the June issue of Parenting: School Years,  I wrote an article entitled, Great Expectations in which Michael Keany, co-founder of School Leadership 2.0, Kate Gerson, Sr. Regents Fellow, and New York State Education Commisioner, John B. King, Jr. all offered tips to parents to better prepare children for the rigor of the new standards.    We know that we can’t achieve anything without parental support and involvement, but what else can teachers do moving forward?  How can we reconcile these disappointing results with all of the hard work that we know we did last year?

The first instinct might be to blame the test.  We can fairly question the validity of the most recent tests as accurate measures of a child’s college and career readiness.  We can continue to complain about the way in which these changes were rolled out, but what is done is done.  How do we as individual classroom teachers help students thrive in a less than perfect system? 

First we have to embrace the goals of the Common Core Standards themselves.  The goal of increased rigor and more challenging tasks is a lofty one.  How do we make it practicable?

Long Island commuters are all-too-familiar with the phrase, “Mind the Gap,” and since I really started researching the Common Core Standards in earnest back in 2011, that phrase kept coming to mind.  “Mind the Gap.”  First, I was trying to identify gaps between the old New York State Standards and the new Common Core Standards.  What would I need to give my 6th graders to ready them for the new standards that they weren’t prepared for by the old 5th grade standards?  Now, with the state releasing these disappointing test scores, I’m “Minding the Gap” again.  What was the gap between what we prepared for and what the tests revealed?  More importantly though, I’m “Minding the Gap,” between test prep, APPR, and the real work of teachers to educate, inform, inspire, and yes, adapt to a rapidly changing world.  For it is the real work of educators, that we don’t want to fall in the gaps.


Happy reading and teaching,