America speaks out against common core

Megan R.

Staff Writer

As the school year comes to a close, students are burdened with test after test. In previous years, students were required to take finals, AP Exams, End of Course Tests (EOCTs), and Student Learning Objective Tests (SLOs). This year a new test has been added on to the already-stressful month of May. Students across the nation were required to take the standardized field tests associated with Common Core. Many students have complained that having to take more than one standardized test at the end of the year is completely unprecedented. Recently several students from Alabama and New York have taken this complaint to a new level. Alyssa McKinney, a middle-school student from Alabama, was suspended after refusing to take a standardized test. Another student in New York faced the same penalty when she told classmates that they did not have to take the standardized assessments. These suspensions, and others’, have caused a controversial debate over standardized tests and have resurfaced concerns about Common Core standards.common core 3

This year, PARCC (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers) and Smarter Balanced released field tests covering the math and English/language arts standards of Common Core. These tests will be used to create the official assessments for 2016. Both the field tests and the official assessments will only be given to students in Common Core States. However, of the 45 states that adopted common core last fall, 5 chose to not participate in these tests; other states, such as Georgia, could not afford the price of testing; and still others will not commit to using the PARCC or Smarter Balanced tests.

Refusal to participate in these tests is not completely unwarranted. Though parents were not permitted to view the tests, some teachers and officials who saw them found issues. One serious concern was product placement. Students reported having questions that referenced items such as Mug Root Beer, Nike, Barbie and more. One student complained, “Why are they trying to sell me something during the test?” This infuriated many parents, who questioned whether these tests were assessing the students or simply selling advertisements.

The main issue, however, is that many feel these tests do not effectively asses students and are not aligned with Common Core standards. Reading passages seem to be well above the students’ capabilities. Some teachers have even found sentences that are written so poorly they cannot be comprehended by either the student or the teacher. Liz Phillips, principal at PS 321 in Brooklyn, called the field tests “confusing, developmentally inappropriate and not well aligned.” While some teachers have said that they fully support Common Core standards, they cannot support the tests as currently written.

As a result, some school officials urged parents to withdraw their children from the field tests. Teachers worked to make parents aware that, with a written note, students could opt out of the standardized field tests. An epidemic to opt out erupted in New York. One middle school student was suspended for telling other students that they did not have to take the tests; school officials called this ‘insubordination’ and suspended the student. In Hudson Valley over 3,000 students withdrew from the math field test. Nationally, over 28,000 students withdrew from the language arts field assessment, ABC News reported.

From its birth, Common Core has been criticized by educators and civilians alike. For many states, this field test is the breaking point. Indiana has already removed Common Core from its schools. New York has stated that it is considering doing the same. Common-Core 2The mission of Common Core is to hold all American students to the same educational standard, but many feel that no progress has been made. Ms. Rosa Frederick, middle school literature teacher, comments, “Common Core standards are very broad. At least I can go off of what I taught students in previous years. But I feel bad for new teachers because the standards give them no guidelines or parameters.” Some teachers agree that these standards have only stratified learning more, as universal but vague standards become customary. Other opposition states that these standards have drastically decreased how much classic literature is read in school. Zachary Rosinko, freshman, said, “I feel like it is set up to dumb down students.” Some fear that this will limit students’ creativity and imagination.

One of the largest proponents to opt out is the movement growing in California. On April 30th, thousands gathered outside California’s capitol building to protest Common Core. They argued that the standards are an over-reaching of federal authority and furthermore too expensive. Yet, with no avail, opposition has been forced to move to a more individual level, in the classroom. One source reports, however, that California teachers have been told that if they protest, they could lose their job. In March, the Georgia House Education Committee voted on a bill to pull Common Core out of Georgia. After months trying to pass it, Senate Bill 167 was effectively killed. This means that, for now, this bill cannot be discussed again and Common Core will stay in Georgia.



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