State Education Commissioner John King is fighting the good fight for the Common Core.
If you’re a public school parent, get ready for your kid to come home frustrated this week. He or she — and you — are about to get a rude awakening.
New York State on Tuesday will introduce new standardized English and math tests that are geared to a new curriculum called the Common Core. The exams are far more difficult than in past years because the new curriculum is dramatically more challenging.
This is the start of a revolution that promises to richly reward students, the city and the nation.
Common Core’s arrival is one of the most important developments in American education in generations. It is designed to guide kids to readiness for college or careers, every step of the way from pre-kindergarten to high school graduation.
At present, the city’s schools — and schools across the country — fail miserably at meeting that crucial goal. Although 74% of the kids who enter high schools in the five boroughs wind up graduating, only 35% are ready for higher education.
The Common Core is meant, for the first time, to give kids everything they need to succeed in an increasingly knowledge-based economy.
Math gets harder earlier, and kids are taught to perform, and to understand, more complicated calculations.
In English, basic fiction passages give way to a welcome dose of harder-to-parse nonfiction — real readings about real subjects requiring real textual analysis rather than expressions of personal feelings about a topic.
The old state English exam given to eighth-graders asked questions written at the fifth-grade level. Now, those children will be tested at actual grade level.
Expect standardized test scores to drop substantially as children are asked to meet higher standards. Roughly 60% of the city’s students have been graded at or above grade level on the old math tests, and almost 50% have hit that mark in English.
It is conceivable that the pass rates could fall well below 40%, with some local districts down even into the single digits.
The reason will be that although the kids are as smart as they always were, they are nowhere near as smart as they need to be.
Expect also that, after the initial shock, teachers and students will raise their games. That’s what happened in Massachusetts, which pioneered standards far higher than New York’s and saw marked gains from one year to the next.
And, finally, expect an outcry.
Opponents of standardized testing are urging parents to refuse to let their kids take the new exams. And New York State United Teachers, a labor union, is circulating a petition calling on the state Education Department to delay the start of Common Core testing.
Kudos to Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch, state Education Commissioner John King and city Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott for forging ahead in the face of sure controversy. They have been pushing the Common Core into schools for the past three years, and now there’s no reason for additional delay.