New York and Kentucky have begun testing based on the new Common Core education standards, and they are quickly seeing frustration among educators, parents, and students.
The states that have signed on to the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) initiative are supposed to fully implement the standards by the 2014–2015 school year. Common Core is a set of uniform math and English language arts standards and corresponding assessments that will nationalize the content taught in every public school in the country.
Earlier this month, 49 New York principals wrote a letter to New York education commissioner John King explaining the problems teachers are finding with the Common Core assessments. While the principals state that they agree with Common Core in theory and are “are committed to helping New York realize the full promises of Common Core,” they write that its implementation has been haphazard:
Because schools have not had a lot of time to unpack Common Core, we fear that too many educators will use these high stakes tests to guide their curricula, rather than the more meaningful Common Core Standards themselves. And because the tests are missing Common Core’s essential values, we fear that students will experience curriculum that misses the point as well.
The New York principals reported problems with the assessments, including:
- Difficult and confusing questions (some on unrelated topics).
- Unnecessarily long testing sessions—“two weeks of three consecutive days of 90-minute periods”—that require more “stamina for a 10-year-old special education student than of a high school student taking an SAT exam.”
- Field-test questions that do not factor into a child’s score but take up time.
- Confusing directions for the English language arts sessions.
- Math problems that repeatedly assess the same skill.
- Multiple choice questions that ask the student to choose from the right answer and the “next best right answer.” The fact that teachers report disagreeing about which multiple-choice answer is correct in several places on the English language arts exams indicates that this format is unfair to students.
Kentucky, the first state to implement Common Core, has experienced similar testing problems.
Last month, the Kentucky Department of Education “discontinued scoring for all constructed-response questions in each of the four CCSS-aligned high school end-of-course exams.” Leaders said that the slow turnaround times for scoring and lack of diagnostic feedback on how scores are determined would cause the results to be delayed past the end of the school year.
In two states in which the Common Core assessments have been tried, they have posed problems. Both New York and Kentucky should be red flags for states moving forward with Common Core implementation.
Common Core and the effort to create national standards and tests is further federal intervention onto what children are being taught in school. With full implementation set for next year, states should reject the national education standards while there is still time.
As Heritage’s Lindsey Burke writes, “The movement to nationalize standards and testing—and ultimately curricula—is a challenge to educational freedom in America and is costly in terms of liberty, not to mention dollars. State leaders who believe in limited government and liberty should resist this imposition of centralized standards.”