Identified as being a set of high quality academic standards in both Mathematics and English language arts, the Common Core exams are given to students to determine they have learned necessary skills associated to their grade at the end of each grade year.
The Common Core initiative is aimed at ensuring that when students graduate high school they have acquired the skills and knowledge that will help them succeed in when enrolling into college, the job market, and in life itself.
So far 44 states have adapted the Common Core exams into their education system. New York State is one of those states that adopted the Common Core standards back in 2013 and has drawn both criticism and praise amongst parents, educators, and politicians themselves.
In New York, an estimated 1.2 million students—400,000 located in the city—from grades 3 to 8 took the Common Core reading exam yesterday. The exams are held over three days with students spending about an hour and a half taking them. However, not many students were going to take the exam since across New York parents are protesting the exams by having their children not take them despite it being state law.
“By making everything about this test, they’re sacrificing real learning to prepare for this test and to me, that’s not education,” said Danny Katch, a parent from Public School 69.
Criticized as holding tougher standards parents, educators, and some politicians believe that the Common Core exams do more harm than the reported good.
“A simple basic math problem that used to be solved traditionally in maybe one or two steps is now solved in up to 120 steps,” said Danielle Flora, also a parent.
Since adapting the Common Core exam, protestors are stating that the exams have caused scores across schools to drop by more than half. The drop in test scores are also said to be showing that across the state only 30% of students are barely making the grade in both math and English.
Some educators are arguing that in order to prep students for the exam they are not given sufficient material and guidance to teach the new standards. And not being the required materials to teach the Common Core standards not only harms students but also the teachers themselves.
“They’re also being used to evaluate teachers, to give school grades, to base principal salaries,” said Daniel Dromm (D-Queens), the New York City Council Education Committee Chairman, “Test scores were never meant to be used in that way. It’s a violation of educational standards to do that.”
The protest against the Common Core is not just a one party ordeal. The disapproval of adopting the exam in New York State is mutual for some politicians in both parties.
“My children will join with thousands of other school kids tomorrow, statewide, in refusing to take the Cuomo Common Core test,” said Rob Astorino, the Republican candidate for New York Governor joining in with other parents protesting the exams which he feels is the blame of Governor Cuomo who introduced the exams into New York school.
However, supporters for the Common Core exams find the new standards to integral for the future of their children and all students.
“We are absolutely committed to the Common Core,” said New York State Education Commissioner John King Jr, backing the highly debated standard exams. “We see that Common Core is a path to make sure more of our students are college and career ready.”
In response to protestors arguing that students and educators were ill-prepared to take the exam, Governor Andrew Cuomo has come out to address the matter after budget announcement for New York State was discussed on Monday night.
Since the exams are relatively new, the results from the Common Core exams would remain off the transcripts of students until 2018. By keeping the scores off transcripts parents do not have to worry about unfavorable scores preventing their children from student placement.
Governor Andrew Cuomo also agreed that the current outcome of the Common Core exams have not been favorable and understands the concern felt by both students and teachers but still believes the Common Core standards is the right path.
“It is the right curriculum,” said Governor Cuomo, “They’re going to learn this curriculum over the coming years. But it was a little bit too much, too fast.”
Supporters for the Common Core believe the standards will teach children how to reason as oppose to remembering when it comes to learning skills and acquiring knowledge. However, protestors believe the standards make learning math equations and other necessary skills far too complicated and unreasonably difficult.
What should be the mandate for both sides is coming up with an agreed upon method that will be an effective way for students to acquire skills and knowledge that will be beneficial for their future. Learning should be fun for the student not something that causes unnecessary strain and stress.
Today our country is currently falling behind when it comes to subjects such as Math, Science, and Technology and while there may be initiatives trying to change the appeal more action should be taken by educators, parents, and politicians in making education fun not troublesome.
As Common Core exams continue only time can truly tell whether the debated exams will prove useful.