As the New York State Teacher’s Union (NYSUT) takes a firm stance against the implementation of common core and Commissioner King, I’m more aware than ever of the need for our students to learn a curriculum aligned to the common core standards. Why? Because I want our students to be active learners and citizens who read the overwhelming amount of information coming at them carefully—learners who are able to discern evidence based facts from hype and opinion and just plain old lies. We need our young people to be students who are engaged and open-minded—but discerning—readers and listeners. The very issue at hand–implementation of the common core standards–has become so convoluted, confused and misused that those very skills are critical.
Every change in education is often labeled “common core”. Just this morning on the radio I heard a report that the “governor is calling for an end to standardized testing of students in grades K-2”. That’s wonderful considering NYS doesn’t have standardized testing of students in grades K-2. In our school district, we extend our iReady diagnostic and interim testing to grade levels K-2 because those grades are critical, integral parts of our K-12 system and that local assessment choice keeps all grade levels focused on a continual K-8 pathway that better prepares our students for grades 9-12 math and ELA. The story is almost always much more complex than the simplicity at which it’s reduced to in a sound bite.
To demonstrate that complexity, consider that as a district leader I support our implementation of the common core standards in our school system and I agree with NYSUT’s stance too. If ALL state and federal involvement disappeared from our schools tomorrow, under the direction of the Randolph Board of Education and the Administrative Team, along WITH our teachers, we would continue to implement the common core standards and to use iReady diagnostic testing, computer based instructional modules and materials to align our curriculum. We would continue to have a focus on continuous school improvement and increasing our academic expectations. We would continue to use the Danielson rubric for teacher evaluation and the MPPR for evaluation of our principals. We would continue to support teacher collaboration in developing curriculum at grade levels, aligned to the common core standards. Our curriculum coordinator and principals would continue to listen to our teachers, to study the common core and materials available, and to use all of the data and information at hand to make good instructional decisions for our students.
And we’d support these requests of the state teachers union:
* completion of all modules, or lessons, aligned with the Common Core and time for educators to review them to ensure they are grade-level appropriate and aligned with classroom practice;
* better engagement with parents, including listening to their concerns about their children’s needs;
* additional tools, professional development and resources for teachers to address the needs of diverse learners, including students with disabilities and English language learners;
* full transparency in state testing, including the release of all test questions, so teachers can use them in improving instruction;
* postponement of Common Core Regents exams as a graduation requirement;
* the funding necessary to ensure all students have an equal opportunity to achieve the Common Core standards. The proposed Executive Budget would leave nearly 70 percent of the state’s school districts with less state aid in 2014-15 than they had in 2009-10; and
*a moratorium, or delay, in the high-stakes consequences for students and teachers from standardized testing to give the State Education Department – and school districts – more time to correctly implement the Common Core.
Support for common core standards is NOT sinking here–every parent I talk to wants as much for his or her child as possible. Our teachers are working hard to figure it all out, modifying curriculum to meet the standards AND to teach the students in front of them, who come with a mix of prior year common core standards attainment and skills. It has been difficult for everyone–especially with the poor timing and sometimes poor ELA module development and delivery. Would we be better off with a slower implementation? In my 25 years in education, I’ve never seen this kind of cooperation in implementing a K-12 curriculum so I’m not so sure. It’s been hard, messy, stressful—just like every other major change I’ve ever experienced in life. And as I’ve said often these last couple of years, we’re figuring it out together–teachers, parents, administrators and BOE members.
Maybe not smooth sailing yet, but certainly not sinking.