By Elijah Mercer, CEI Intern
The debate concerning the implementation of Common Core testing standards is now shifting from policy makers and researchers to an increasing number of parents and teachers. There are several factors affecting the pushback.
Unclear governing regulations. While some parents and educators are simply concerned with ‘testitis,’ or the instructional time that is consumed with testing, others have concerns related to choice and freedom in education. One reason parents are discontent with Common Core testing derives from the governing bodies requiring the testing, rather than the idea of testing itself, noted Lindsey Burke of the Heritage Foundation (Kellogg, 2014). Burke asserts that parents are sometimes unclear about which levels of government (i.e. national, state, or local) mandate testing and how much of it they can mandate. This has led to parents becoming very unsettled by government intervention in education. Instead, Burke suggests that testing should ideally be left to the school. This, in turn, will allow parents to find schools more suited to their students’ needs and academic levels. Other parents have simply called and asked for schools, or at least for their children, to opt out of all Common Core testing.
Pros and Cons from CEI’s perspective. At CEI we support the promise of the Common Core, particularly in terms of a common curricula, deep conceptual understanding, and its yardstick for measuring progress. The promise was based on substantial logic and insights into improving education. As in other areas of education, however we see divisiveness among educators and parents over some very fundamental questions concerning not only the Common Core, but also issues related to teacher creativity and parental choice. Additionally, we are concerned about the roll out and lack of adequate planning and resources for implementation. We will be writing more about this in the coming weeks.
Parents protesting tests. Earlier this year in April, parents in New York took to the streets to protest high stakes testing and the Common Core (Bobkoff, 2014). Liz Rosenberg, a parent at the rally, stated that because questions and answers are not released after the test, she feared students like her fourth grade daughter would not know how to improve her test scores (Bobkoff, 2014). Because the test determined her daughter’s acceptance into the next grade, Rosenberg and her daughter’s principal have challenged whether the questions actually assess children’s reading comprehension and understanding.
Amelia Costigan, another parent at the New York protest, recalled her twin sons and other classmates being ‘worried sick,’ and unable to sleep (Bobkoff, 2014). She noted that students became so ill, they were admitted to the doctor, and doctors ruled that the sickness derived from test anxiety. New York has slowly begun to listen to parents by not putting test scores on students’ permanent records and not using tests as major determinants of whether students go to the next grade. Parents have voiced that while they are not against testing, they are against the implications the amount of high stakes testing has on their student’s future and well-being.
Creative teaching. Increased testing has diminished the creative flexibility many teachers remember as a hallmark of their classroom. Instead, U.S. News opinion writer David Greene (2014) and teacher blogger Jose Vilson argue that because no teachers were involved in the drafting of Common Core Standards, messages from Common Core proponents about increasing the depth of instruction and engaging lessons have fallen on deaf ears. Instead, academic creativity and autonomy have been replaced by dull testing of uniform standards that force teachers to tailor lessons towards that end. Greene recalls hearing about a student who could read the entire Harry Potter series before she was 11, but thought she ‘sucked at English’ because she thinks differently from how the standardized test questions are written (Greene, 2014). For Greene, school districts’ purchasing of resources, materials and scripted resources to increase test scores undermines teachers’ abilities to facilitate engaging and creative and lessons. This has led to high turnover in teaching recently, with many great teachers replaced by teachers willing to stick to banal lesson plans and instruction. Most notably, the average teaching tenure has dropped from about 15 years of service in 1990 to less than five years in 2013 (Greene, 2014).
What do these concerns say about the implications of Common Core in education? An ambiguous government regulation has led parents to question school autonomy in testing. Additionally, the growing culture of over testing has increased scrutiny regarding the merits of Common Core instructional implementation. Lastly, teachers’ creative sovereignty in delivering engrossing content in the classroom has been overshadowed by monotonous test prep. This tells us that educators and parents need to continually have a voice in the implementation of growing national standards. Additionally, both parties must fully understand the role they can play in ensuring excellence for students as well.
Bobkoff, D. (2014, April 30). New York parents opt out of high stakes tests. Marketplace.org. Retrieved 2014, from http://www.marketplace.org/topics/economy/education/new-york-parents-opt-out-high-stakes-tests
Greene, D. (2014, March 17). The long death of creative teaching. US News.com. Retrieved 2014, from http://www.usnews.com/opinion/articles/2014/03/17/how-common-core-standards-kill-creative-teaching
Kellogg, B. (2014, October 27). Parents starting to balk at amount of Common Core Testing. OneNewsNow.com. Retrieved 2014, from http://www.onenewsnow.com/education/2014/10/27/parents-starting-to-balk-at-amount-of-common-core-testing#.VFaF4TTF-So