The Common Core Loses This Teacher’s Support

Your local school board members LOVE Common Core.  Either stand up or home school your kids!

By Anthony Cody on June 18, 2013 8:42 AM

Guest post by Katie Lapham.

In April I carried a guest post written by New York City elementary teacher Katie Lapham, expressing support for the Common Core standards, but opposing the tests attached to them. Since then, Ms. Lapham has shifted her views. She explains:

When I first learned about the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) two or so years ago, I didn’t question their implementation. I’ve always preferred designing my own lessons and was sold on the idea that the standards were mostly a guide; we were free to choose our own curriculum.

Since writing to Dr. John King, head of New York State’s Education Department, about the excessive CCSS state assessments administered in April, I have spent countless hours educating myself on education reform and Race to the Top polices. I now feel duped. CCSS are much more than a set of learning objectives. By attaching them to government initiatives such as high-stakes testing and teacher evaluation plans, the standards are being used as an instrument to standardize and control public education in the US. Teachers and schools feel increasingly micromanaged, which is insulting and demoralizing. We have less autonomy and choice, and my own personalized instruction is being threatened. Below are the main reasons why I, a teacher and parent, oppose the Common Core State Standards.

1.) My biggest concern has always been high-stakes testing, which deprives students of meaningful learning experiences. The NYS ELA and math exams have been redesigned to align with the CCSS. The content and length of these exams are educationally unsound. I have written about this in great detail on my blog.

I now understand that you cannot separate the CCSS from high-stakes standardized testing. The two go hand in hand. I originally thought the CCSS stood alone, used solely as standards to shape instruction. I now see that they are much more than that. The current high-stakes tests in New York State that I so detest are the way they are because of the CCSS.

2.) I am witnessing a shift towards uniformity and increasing government control with regards to the curriculum in New York City public schools. The NYCDOE has compiled a list of “recommended” CCSS-aligned curriculum (Core Curriculum), and it urges schools to use the CCSS-aligned performance tasks from their online Common Core Library. Two of the Core Curriculum programs – ReadyGen for ELA and Connected Math Program 3 – are published by Pearson, the publishing giant that creates New York State’s ELA and math assessments as well as the Next Generation Assessments. ReadyGen is not yet ready, and New York City schools that have signed onto the program are expected to start using it in September. Developmentally inappropriate performance tasks frustrate both teachers and students. Kindergarteners who don’t yet know all their letters and sounds are expected to write persuasively, and 8-page multiple choice assessments are administered to them in October.

According to the NYCDOE’s New Teacher Evaluation and Development System, 40% of a teacher’s overall rating is based on student learning through state assessments, or comparable measures, and local measures. Local measures are determined by individual schools, but schools must select a measure from a list of NYCDOE- approved options such as NYC performance assessments aligned to the CCSS, 3rd party assessments used in NYC schools, and state assessments. In my mind, this not choice, nor do I buy that it is giving schools autonomy.

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