EDITOR’S NOTE: This article is the first part of a series by Caleb Cohen on the Common Core State Standards.
January 21, 2013 by Caleb Cohen
The national standardization of our education system is an idea that has sparked much debate in recent years. The Common Core State Standards Initiative is a nationwide program to unify education that the National Governors Association supports.
Opinions of the Common Core do not fall cleanly along party lines like so many issues today. Parents, teachers, administrators, students, and politicians have varying views on the Common Core, both as a legal matter and an educational program.
The Common Core is not yet fully integrated into curricular standards, especially in science and history. Students in the 46 states that are currently united under the Common Core (including New York) can expect to see some changes.
However, according to Saratoga Springs High School Principal Brett Miller, the changes for high schoolers won’t be too drastic.
“It’s a bit less severe and quick [at the high school level] than it has been at the elementary and middle school level,” says Principal Miller. “You’re still going to take those exams, they’re just going to look different,” he explains. “They’re going to be a different format and different skills than standards that have been tested in the past.”
Brett Miller said that “the intent [of the Common Core] is good.” Don’t expect a radical change in the material that is taught, but expect to see changes in how the learning process is addressed, he added.
“You can see a much heavier emphasis on problem solving, [with] deeper understanding and less material covered,” says Brett Miller. Mike Miller explains the new approach to the math curriculum with the Common Core. “It teaches you a different way to work in math. You have to be able to explain math facts, not just remember them.”
Despite the good intentions, Mr. Mike Miller, an SSHS history teacher and president of the district’s Teachers Association worries about the elementary schools, where the Common Core’s impact will be the most severe.
“My fear on the Common Core is that it is based too much on test results, and not enough in learning,” he says. “It’s taking the fun and excitement out of learning. I have a seven year old who’s in second grade, and the fun is out of her elementary learning.”
The emphasis on testing has been a controversy even before the implementation of the Common Core, and opponents of standardized testing are concerned that the issue may worsen. “I really don’t think a seven year old should have to worry about what she gets on a math test,” says Mike Miller. “And that’s what we’re starting to see, due to the Common Core.”
Testing has had an impact on students and teachers alike. Along with the arrival of the Common Core, New York State has implemented APPR Teacher Evaluations; Annual Professional Performance Review.
Mike Miller says that APPR has not necessarily changed the way he teaches, but it has had an impact on the perceived importance of standardized tests.
“You add onto [the Common Core] with APPR, where teachers’ evaluations are now based on test scores. You’re going to have a much more heightened sense of these tests.”
The truth is, we can only make inferences until we see the common core in action. “I don’t know,” says Brett Miller, “I don’t have a crystal ball.”
In addition to the educational aspect of the Common Core, the legal issues surrounding it have been a cause of much debate. Stay tuned for the next segment as we learn more on the Common Core from members of the community.
FROM THE ARCHIVES: Check out an April 2013 article on a resolution passed by the Board of Education against the overuse of standardized testing.