Wrong Answer

Cartoon by Mike Sheinkopf.

Earlier this month, many members of the New Paltz Central School District convened to rally against the Common Core education standards that have been implemented in New York State. The goal of Common Core is to teach students by state standards in English and mathematics to prepare them for entry level collegiate courses or jobs available to those without a college degree.

There are two main aspects that parents, teachers and students shared concern about: teaching methods and the standardized tests that students have been required to take up until this year, when they became optional. Many parents made the decision to have their children opt-out of these tests this year.

We at The New Paltz Oracle are glad to see members from our local community taking action for the sake of the future of K-12 education and defending their children from what they feel are unnecessary and stressful means of evaluating the quality of their teachers. Although the Common Core’s standardized tests did not exist during our elementary and middle school years, we agree with critics who say that the state’s methods of testing creates a stressful and demanding environment that does not allow for the growth of young minds or evaluation of students themselves.

The Common Core standards appear to be a very appealing idea – at first. That is because their “goal” is one we can all sympathize with: get our children ready for life after high school. However, it is apparent that the implementation of these standards may not accomplish this because, as dedicated and professional as they are, teachers will not share the goal of the Common Core. The goal of the teachers may stray from real-world prep and move towards test-prep.

Although they are not the only element of teacher evaluation, student results on Common Core tests do currently account for 20 percent of teacher evaluation. Gov. Cuomo has pushed to increase this to 50 percent.

If a large group of students perform poorly or opt-out, teachers are the ones who pay the price. Ultimately, teachers may obtain the goal of students passing the tests, and students may be less prepared for college or the workforce as a result of the changing teaching methods — changes which are also difficult for teachers to adapt to.

If those implementing the standards do not share the goal of the standards themselves, the standards will not have the desired effect.

Common Core encourages students to approach their work through new methods and challenge the “traditional” ways of learning. But when teachers, who are trained in educating, claim that Common Core is not benefitting their students, how can the state continue to advocate for these standards.

Last August, The Washington Post reported on the 2014 results of the New York State Common Core-aligned exams along with commentary from two state educators on what the results mean to students. In the article, the two teachers explained that upon review of test questions from the 2013, many were “far too difficult for many students” and didn’t actually provide information on what the students had learned.

The writers also noted that the tests were particularly challenging for students with disabilities, where the bottom percentage of test takers scored similar to results one would receive by randomly selecting answers.

We at The Oracle are concerned that the students of New York and all other states subjected to Common Core are being represented unfairly through the results of standardized testing. Every student retains information differently and has varying levels of comfort during test taking. By suggesting that young students take these tests, the state is prioritizing skill in memorization over comprehension.

Though the tests have concluded for this year in New York, the clash between students, parents and teachers and the Common Core system still remains controversial. We do not believe that these tests help young learners, but rather hinder their abilities to learn practical skills and knowledge that will supplement their lives outside of secondary education – and we hope that educators and officials will work together to create new policies that are more conducive to personal growth and engaging, inclusive learning.

Editorials represent the views of the majority of the editorial board. Columns, op-eds and letters, excluding editorials, are solely those of the writers and do not necessarily represent the views of The New Paltz Oracle, its staff members, the campus and university or the Town or Village of New Paltz.