Niagara Gazette

Columns

December 2, 2013

CONFER: Common Core: Welcome to more of the same

Niagara Gazette — Editor’s note: This is the second in an eight-part series about Common Core.

When I was an elementary school student in the 1980s, the anxiety and urgency that teachers and administrators had for the California Achievement Tests was palpable. Even as a child I could sense that the exams were make-or-break not just for the students but also for the school district’s workforce. The same observations held true a few years later when my classmates and I were being prepared for New York State Regents examinations.

Looking back on those experiences, it’s obvious that the tests had a deleterious effect on educators and students alike.

Teachers and schools were being graded as much as their pupils were on the tests, so they were being forced, either directly or indirectly, to teach to the test, rather than to the mastery of the subject matter. In order to conform, creative, engaging and effective teachers saw their potential stifled and, in turn, had to dictate rote material and administer an endless series of practice exams. It wasn’t the career they wanted or expected.

It’s not coincidental that as standardized testing has becoming more commonplace, even pervasive, at all grade levels and in all states since the advent of the U.S. Department of Education in 1980, the outcomes have suffered.

America, once one of the world’s leaders in student performance, now sports only a middling showing. According to the Program for International Student Assessment, of 65 countries featured in its study, we rank 23rd in science and 31st in math. It’s no wonder that most high school graduates are ill-prepared for the rigors of higher education, let alone employment.

It’s obvious that the American educational system is in crisis. It’s in need of a significant transformation, one with both immediate and long-term positive results. Status quo will only cause our country’s brilliance to be diminished in the coming decades as more-learned people of other lands begin to dominate in our ever-shrinking world.

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