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Common Core: Tests for Tots
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Editorial 12/17/2013
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Common Core: Tests for Tots
presented by Peter Kohler

State Senator John Flanagan had some encouraging words for parents worried about tests for tots.

In a series of recommendations aimed at correcting the state’s flawed implementation of Common Core standards, Flanagan urged banning standardized testing in early grades–pre-k through second grade.

His education committee heard testimony that second graders in New York City were given “bubble tests” in math, including kids still struggling to hold a pencil.

The challenges facing early learners are sure to grow now that New York City’s mayor-elect has audaciously promised to provide full-time pre-k for all 4-year-olds in the city.

Long Island is a long way away from offering universal pre-k aligned with the Common Core. Only half of 118 Long Island school districts now support public pre-k programs, and for only half a day. Most use non-profit groups to instruct children.

While the state is encouraging more school districts to offer full time pre-k programs, only eight Long Island districts have applied for state grants to do so.

So should pre-k be offered to all 4-year-olds on Long Island? Or should high-needs districts be the priority? Should pre-k stress social skills or focus on vocabulary and math skills as required by the state’s Common Core standards?

On all these questions, experts disagree. But there is growing agreement that standardized testing for little kids is inappropriate.

At a time when most 4-year-olds are getting ready for Santa’s visit, their parents should not have to worry that their little ones will encounter the Grinch of standardized testing.

Carol Locklin
Lake Grove, NY
Sachem offers half-day Universal Pre-K, but due to lack of funding, the spaces are limited to a lottery. My youngest was lucky to get in last year and he is doing very well in kindergarten this year. Sachem’s state aid was cut $26 million this year. Kindergarten was almost only half a day or not at all. We had to rally and protest to save it. Senator Flanagan found “Bullet Aid” to save full-day kindergarten. Kindergarten is only mandated in New York City, not the whole state (which is not fair or right); it should be for the whole state. If Universal Pre-K comes about, they should mandate Kindergarten first so the kids don’t miss a year of school.

Mary Calamia
Holbrook, NY
We need to shift the focus away from so-called “flawed implementation” and back onto the Common Core itself. The Common Core standards are untested, unreliable, and developmentally inappropriate. Correcting the implementation of bad standards will result in a better implementation of the same bad standards. It’s like getting a wheel alignment to fix a flat tire. Common Core needs to go. Period.

Stony Brook, NY
In response to the editorials regarding Common Core and assessments, I can only say that your flair for dramatics, as well as your complete lack of insight into America’s children and education, is frightening. I am part of the CommonCore.org curriculum writing team (along with approx. 100 other teachers, math coaches, administrators, and mathematicians). I am also a tenured teacher with 15 years of experience in the mathematics classroom. Research aside, international comparisons aside, students in the sixth grade lack basic number sense, and those that have even the slightest hint of it lack basic math facts. It is impossible to move forward while we spin our wheels filling holes and closing deficits. We are educating young people to be mediocre, and parents are allowing it. The rigor expected in Common Core is quite high, as it should be. As a father with two girls (7 and 5) I want them to be pushed. I want their resolve to be strengthened, I want them to not always succeed. Some of the greatest lessons I have ever learned about myself is when I had to rise after I fell. You and others are not, in my opinion, seeing the larger picture. Tests are necessary, as are work reviews, and meetings with HS guidance counselors. It tells us, as learners, as parents, as people, if we need to change course. Consequences foster personal responsibility. I have never had a student tell me he studied as hard as he/she could and still failed a test. Social promotion, making excuses, coddling our young people, does not and will not make this country globally competitive. The goal of testing children is it causes us to ask, is our current work working? Are we producing “viable products?” Are our young people going to be competitive in a global market? Testing is not a means to an end, it is an end to a means. Young people are resilient, they don’t stress over tests, their parents and teachers do. Teachers are graded on the results and parents judge themselves. Neither of which is cause enough to not test children. I do agree that with the roll out of this new curriculum we take a good hard look at HOW we test. I believe the PARCC exam is a step in the right direction. Teachers that focus on the test and “teach to the test” are not teaching. To teach someone means they learn, they can apply knowledge in a way that makes sense in order to solve a new problem. I don’t ever remember being in the supermarket and someone running up to me and handing me a sheet of fractions telling me to divide. Teachers should teach, and good teaching results in true learning. If students actually learn then a test is just another day at school. We are doing a grave injustice in not focusing on how to better teach. We are so busy trying NOT to make our kids “feel bad” that we forget “feeling good” comes from achievement. The right testing can measure that achievement.

Amityville, NY
As I watch and listen to all that is being said about our new Learning Standards, I’m wondering how it can be determined that standards described as “untested” can also be called “unreliable” and “developmentally inappropriate” in the same sentence. Every new set of learning standards is “untested” until it is around long enough for its worth to be determined. So is the case of the Common Core State Standards. There must be SOMETHING to these standards, or federal funds or not, 46 states would not have agreed to implement them. For the first time in our nation’s history we have a set of learning objectives in place that puts all of our children in the same game, not just an even playing field. Our children, as a whole, right now, are simply not able to compete globally. The statistics do not lie. This is despite the fact that we are second in the world in per-student spending. If “the old way”, or “the way we learned it” was the BEST way, we would be having much different results. Our education system was developed over a hundred years ago for the purpose of educating only those who needed formal education. We now educate, (proudly!) everyone. But until Common Core we still sought to teach the same things in much the same way that we did when we were only educating shop keepers and business owners. We need to look at how the top performing countries educate their students, and implement the ideas, strategies and methodologies that have made them successful. The Common Core Standards do just that. Their goal is for our children to be MASTER COMMUNICATORS AND PROBLEM SOLVERS, NOT “answer-getters.” All of the brain research and research on early learning tells us that our children are capable of so much more at earlier ages! If that were not the case, there would be no need for Baby Einstein DVDs or Dora the Explorer. We need to stop being afraid of the changes these standards have brought about, and see the potential that they bring. We need to stop deciding that “the way I learned it was good enough for me,” and realize that “good enough” isn’t. We need to learn along with our children, encourage them as they face new challenges, and stop feeling bad because we think we can’t help them. We need to realize that our children won’t feel bad about themselves because they struggle, they will feel great about themselves when they struggle, solve, and learn. When the bar is raised, students WILL rise to meet it. The answer isn’t removing Common Core, and it isn’t taking away the testing. The answer is keeping high standards in place and giving students and teachers time to acclimate. The answer is giving teachers the training and collaboration time necessary to become master facilitators of learning. The answer is measuring children for growth based on their own prior scores. The answer is developing tests that give students the opportunity to apply the skills they’ve honed in class, instead of hours of mindless multiple choice questions that they need to be “prepped” for. The answer is recognizing that any year’s test measures so much more than what children learn in one year, and having teachers own a part of subsequent grade tests. The answer is admitting that what we were doing WASN’T WORKING FOR MOST OF OUR STUDENTS. The answer is being willing to give something markedly different a chance to work. *Note: In addition to my work as an elementary teacher and curriculum writer for CommonCore.org, I run a consulting company with a colleague. Together we train teachers on the implementation of Common Core Curricula.
Review the findings of State Education Department hearings and the legislative action proposed by Sen. Flanagan
Presented by the New York State Education Department
Dec 3, 2013
Recently, we received this e-mail from Beth Forrester, a retired first grade teacher: “I hope you’ll reconsider your strong support of the Common Core. I’m a recently retired first grade teacher, one of those teachers you’d have loved to teach your kids. Unfortunately, teachers like me can’t teach like we used to…”
Nov 26, 2013
At a recent hearing in Brentwood, a Levittown parent told state senators of her concerns that hackers could invade a state-sponsored computer cloud to access confidential data about her children. “I also feel that there are hackers out there that can break through those firewalls… and access this important private data,” said Marianne Adrian or Levittown. “It’s stored on a cloud system. I do not feel like that has the security that it needs to house my children’s data…”
Nov 19, 2013
Last week, Education Commissioner John King brought his Common Core forums to East Setauket and Mineola, generating more heat than light. At Ward Melville High School, one teacher told King that the new curriculum and teacher evaluation reforms were taking the joy out of learning. His plea for slowing down this rocky roll out brought cheers from a crowd angry at Common Core reforms…
Nov 15, 2013
We received dozens of calls and e-mails recently, when we suggested delaying Common Core education reforms that tie student performance and teacher performance to high-stakes tests…
Nov 12, 2013
As he resumes parent meetings on Long Island this week, state Education Commissioner John King is sure to hear many anxious questions about excessive testing after last spring’s chaotic roll out of Common Core reforms. One influential critic is Carol Burris, a Rockville Centre educator who was recently named New York’s principal of the year…
Oct 29, 2013
Questions are urgently being raised about Education Commissioner John King’s leadership, and the rocky rollout of the Regents’ Common Core reforms, leading some to urge King’s resignation. Facing a firestorm after canceling parent meetings after a tumultuous event in Poughkeepsie, King has sensibly reversed course, announcing a new series of parent meetings, including three on Long Island…
Aug 16, 2013
Back to school is likely to bring more pain than pencil boxes to thousands of Long Island students who are about to be told they aren’t making the grade. Letters from Nassau and Suffolk school districts will tell the parents of more than 126,000 elementary students that their children failed to score as proficient on math and English tests aligned with the state’s tough new Common Core standards. No wonder local educators are upset…
May 17, 2013
In a recent editorial supporting testing related to the new Common Core curriculum, we mentioned State Education Commissioner John King’s advice to worried parents: “It’s really important for parents to send a message of try your best,” he said. “I get that it’s hard. At the same time, I want my daughters to be people who try things that are hard.” Michele Trageser of Merrick responds…
Apr 19, 2013
When a mother asked how she could relieve her daughter’s fear of failing the state’s tough new tests, State Education Commissioner John King answered as a parent. “I think it’s really important for parents to send a message of try your best…”