Our Students Deserve Better

“What parents are observing is the inevitable consequence of a reform that did not put the gradual implementation of standards first, but rather put testing front and center, as charter schools do. King’s holding of the microphone for one and a half hours at the now infamous Poughkeepsie hearing (and the subsequent suspension of further hearings) was a strategy to contain the voices of teachers, principals and parents across the state who are saying, “Slow down. Something is wrong. Let’s thoughtfully institute reform, keeping the well-being of our children front and center.”

The paragraph above recently appeared in Valerie Strauss’ Washington Post column.  It was written by Carol Burris, a New York high school principal who has criticized the test-driven reform taking place in her state.

New York has been moving forward with Race to the Top reforms and is ahead of many states in the process of implementing the Common Core.  This means they are also ahead of other states in rating principals and teachers using results from brand new assessments.  New York is an educational canary in the coal mine.  Other states would benefit from paying attention to what is going on there.

What is becoming clear is that the federal government, and the states that are adopting the CCSS, have skipped a step in the implementation process.  Their missteps are driven by an attempt to comply with federal guidelines and to avoid losing out on funds.  They have rushed past the provision of adequate training on the standards to rating and evaluating teachers and principals using questionable student data.  They completely skipped over the teaching part.

I have heard very little criticism directed at the content and scope of the CCSS from teachers.  No one is arguing that raising the level of instructional rigor is a bad thing.  Teachers and principals just want the time to learn the new standards before being judged by assessment results.

Ironically, Race to the Top has brought us right back to the problems associated with No Child Left Behind.  The data-driven focus of NCLB forced many school districts to adopt a teach to the test approach to instruction.  Can we all agree that teaching to the test is a poor way to raise the level of rigor?  Our students deserve better.

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