The latest news stories from the brave frontiers of a movement known as “education reform” are in, and the consensus view is that down continues to be the new up.
Personnel programs such as teacher merit pay that were supposed to improve the financial efficiency of schools are now being discarded for financial reasons. New competitive forms of schooling such as cyber charters that were supposed to reform the system through competition are now in need of “top-bottom reform.” Teachers who are held more accountable for children’s motivation to pursue education are discouraged to seek more education for themselves. Schools that are supposed to rescue children from poverty are bearing the brunt of deep cuts in spending.
Amidst this colossally dysfunctional scenario descends the new national standards known as the Common Core, what many believe constitutes education reform 2.0. Is it any wonder people are skeptical?
Whether you’re a big fan of the new standards or not, it should be clear that the old way of doing “education reform” will not work for the Common Core. Yet that seems to be the strategy rolling out, and no one seems to be coming forward to propose a better way forward.
Common Core Not For Kids?
By all indicators, teachers are generally favorable to the new standards. But like its predecessor No Child Left Behind, the Common Core is proving to have many unanticipated consequences.
Who would have thought, for instance, that adopting new academic standards would necessitate kindergartners barely able to hold pencils being made to take bubble-in tests?
In states, such as New York, that are on the advanced guard of implementing the new standards and their accompanying tests, multiple choice tests are being pushed down to the youngest students, not because they’re good for the kids, but because they’re required to evaluate whether teachers are teaching according to the new standards.
Based on the report linked above in The Daily News, the exams are a “complete headache” for teachers, making the very act of testing “slow and traumatic.”
“Trying to get a proper answer was next to impossible,” the reporter observed, and teachers complained that the process caused their little pupils to “break down” and “cry.”
“‘Developmentally, it’s not the right thing to do,’ said one Queens teacher.”
New York is not alone in encountering unanticipated problems related to the new reforms. According to a report in The Washington Post, 14 states that have agreed to field-test the new exams linked to the Common Core are realizing that implementing the exams requires teaching little kids, from kindergarten up, to learn how to use a computer.
The standardized tests “require students to be able to manipulate a mouse; click, drag and type answers on a keyboard; and, starting in third grade, write online.” And while most elementary-age children are no strangers to technology, what they’re used to is operating those devices with “a swipe of a finger” rather than using them to compose a well-structured paragraph.
“It’s a huge deal,” said a California teacher who writes a popular blog called Ask A Tech Teacher. “All these elementary teachers are dying, worrying how they’re going to get their kids to meet these new requirements.”
The need to get little kids “to sit with two feet on the floor, elbows bent, hands hovering over keys and eyes on the screen” caused at least one Arizona teacher – like her colleague in New York struggling with paper-and-pencil tests – to wonder “whether developmentally, if it’s appropriate for kids.” A professor of educational psychology quoted in the article clarified: It’s not.