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Education ‘Reform’ Is Wrecking Our Schools

Developmentally inappropriate tests, aimed at students as young as Kindergarten, are undercutting any gains the Common Core might help us make.

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“The current Common Core is not developmentally appropriate,” she stated.

Setting Struggling Schools Further Behind?

Getting little kids up to expectations for implementing the Common Core seems difficult enough – now imagine what it’s like when they also don’t speak English.

That’s the situation for teachers in the lower Hudson Valley area of New York who have already seen how their predominantly Spanish-speaking students performed on the first go-round of new standards-based tests.

“We have children come to us in seventh, eighth, ninth grade with no English skills and little education,” explained the head of the local teachers’ association. Nevertheless, these children were supposed to meet the same assessment targets as their English speaking peers elsewhere in the state.

The test results weren’t pretty: over 80 percent of seventh- and eighth-graders failing in math, and 85 to as many as 92 percent of fourth- and fifth-graders missing state goals for English language arts.

Noted the reporter, “These districts are used to relatively low test results, as many students from poor, Spanish-speaking homes don’t develop rich language skills before reaching school age. But the new tests results have set them back further.”

Adaptations To Children Not Allowed?

Traditionally, when teachers encounter students who lack the readiness to tackle new academic work – whether for developmental, linguistic, or personal interest reasons – they’ve been trained to devise their own strategies for engaging the students in learning.

Implementing the Common Core may leave little room for this according to an Iowa teacher, Amy Prime, whose blog post about implementing the Common Core in her class went viral on the Internet. In her experience with the new standards, teachers are being given “new materials packaged and sold as magic bullets to cover everything Common Core” and told to “cover” those materials “without deviation.”

“I was trained as a teacher in the ’90s ” Prime explained. “We were taught to discover what our students were interested in and then create cross-curricular units of study that would build upon those interests to instigate learning.”

Elaborating in an interview with a local reporter, Prime expanded, “The problem is when districts chose to bring in [a] program that is purchased and marketed as covering the Common Core; then they insist upon teachers following that without deviation and fidelity.”

Further, Prime continued, “When you are required to spend 90 minutes to two hours a day on a specific program that [school officials] purchased … it shuts out other things. A huge majority of our day has to be focused on teaching reading and math. But what does that do for science, what does that do for physical education, what does that do for the arts, what does that do for social studies and history and all of those things that are important to a well-rounded education? It just narrows the focus down, and it hurts kids.”

Your Opinion Doesn’t Matter?

Even the biggest fan of the Common Core would have to admit, “Houston, we have a problem.”

But the old ways of doing reform – NCLB’s command-control driven administration, demanding compliance or else – seem to apply with the implementation of the Common Core.

Dismissing teachers’ concerns about the inappropriateness of using bubble tests with kindergarteners, a New York department of education official responded that the new tests were just examples of “multiple tools” that every teacher “should” want to employ in order to “diagnose what students already know and what they need help with.”

“I can tell when a student needs help,” replied a Staten Island veteran. “I don’t have to give them a test.” But who believes her opinion will be heard?