March 25, 2012, 2:37 AM
We are veteran high school teachers from Long Island with 35 years of combined teaching experience. We share an entirely different view of the Common Core Standards than Ms. Nasser, and are writing to voice our concerns. http://www.nytimes.com/schoolbook/2012/03/23/no-need-to-fear-the-common-core-standards/
Over the past year, New York teachers have been introduced to the Common Core Standards, which were adopted as part of the competition for “Race to the Top” funding from the Federal Government. The State Education Department claims that these standards will help to accomplish many goals: boost academic literacy and increase college and career preparedness among students; shift the focus of curricula away from their “mile-wide and an inch deep” formats; and help American students to compete against their global counterparts.
While these goals are desirable in the eyes of any educator, we believe that the untested Common Core Standards fail to recognize shortcomings in addressing the true needs of students across New York State. Adoption of the Common Core Standards further entrenches the recent trend of assessing students by standardized criteria. This trend has caused schools to adopt policies which “teach to the test”, at the expense of broader educational goals. One needs only to recognize the devaluing of social studies and science curricula on the elementary level as a result of ELA testing.
On the secondary level, will the emphasis on Language Arts and Mathematics promoted by the Common Core similarly devalue the content knowledge in other curricula? Teachers from diverse subjects have voiced concerns about the Common Core Standards. In mathematics, teachers and students will face a fourth curricular revision in fifteen years. How can we expect our students to achieve results if the expectations are changed so often? Language arts teachers, many with backgrounds in literature and grammar, wonder what form of training they will receive to teach reading, a skill unto itself. A shift in the social studies toward teaching history more exclusively with primary source documents may improve reading skills and build vocabulary, but will come at the expense of content knowledge (as the Standards specify, “how Madison defines faction in Federalist No. 10”, not what role faction plays in democracy).
Many teachers question attempting to teach material in the name of college and career preparedness to 14 through 17 year olds who developmentally may not be able to understand and process such material. One final question: to what extent will the need to implement and evaluate whether our lessons abide by the standards detract from our efforts to creatively engage our students and make the content we teach relevant to them? Like many schools across New York State, ours regularly succeeds in meeting and surpassing the expectations set out for us by the community we serve and by the State Education Department.
Our school boasts a graduation rate of 98% with Regents diplomas, 76% of students receiving Advanced Regents Diplomas, and 96% of our students go on to attend a two or four-year college. Are these achievements no longer valid? We do not understand why the State Education Department would want to “fix what ain’t broke.” Another concern of ours is the timing of the State Education Department’s implementation of the Common Core Standards. During this time of economic hardship, school districts have little extra funding to devote to developing new curricula, providing training to teachers to meet the new requirements, and purchasing textbooks and materials to support instruction. Finally, during our careers as teachers, New York State has always taken a leadership role in providing diverse and quality educational opportunities to its students.
As well, New York has a long tradition of assessing student achievement and the role of schools in facilitating that success. Reform measures such as Regents exam requirements, grade-level testing, test revision to include higher-order skills (i.e. DBQ’s), and secure testing and reporting procedures all attest to that fact. We believe that the State Education Department is undermining the progress it has made in the past 15 years by adopting standards formulated for states that have yet to measure up to ours.
Social Studies Dept.
W.C. Mepham H.S.
http://www.nytimes.com/schoolbook/2012/03/23/no-need-to-fear-the-common-core-standards/ FULL TEXT POSTED HERE