If you’ve read or watched the news recently, you’ve seen the mixed response to the changes in school curriculum and the discussion as to whether or not these changes are actually helping to prepare our children for the future. Despite a lack of true dialogue over how to best implement these new standards, they were implemented in a rushed manner, causing an abrupt change in the way our children are taught. This massive overhaul happened despite the fact no plan for gauging the efficacy of these changes or creating stronger accountability to ensure children are receiving the quality education they need was put into place.
When the statewide standardized test results were released, they showed only 31 percent of third through eighth grade students tested in New York State “passed.” While many state officials were quick to remind parents that the new standardized tests reflect tougher standards rather than student performance, that concept is hard to explain to a fourth-grader who’s been told he failed.
Following that announcement, students and teachers alike will have to live with the sting of failure until the next test date. Until then, teachers will cope with pressure to do whatever it takes to raise test scores. Students, regardless of how they fared on the test, will suffer as a result of this added pressure. Instead of giving that fourth-grader a chance to fall in love with a book, or work on mathematics problems at his or her own pace, teachers will be forced to “teach to the test.” The result – a generation of students who are expert in mastering test questions but lack any experience in, let alone passion for, real learning – will be a disaster for our state.
In forgetting that students and teachers are first and foremost human beings, we forget that, just like everyone else, those teachers and students react negatively to failure. No one wants to be told they’ve failed – and yet that’s exactly what we’re doing to 69 percent of our state’s students.
No matter how well-intentioned the new standardized testing scheme was, it failed to take into consideration the human side of education. As a result, students will begin to see themselves in a starkly contrasted black-and-white: either you passed or failed, with no room for error. When a young student is labeled a failure at such an early age, it causes irreparable harm. It’s time to take a hard look at the new Common Core curriculum and ask whether our students and teachers deserve better. I think they do.
That is why I am co-sponsoring Assembly bill 6593, which ensures that the results of the tests taken by kindergarteners through second graders are used for assessment and diagnostic purposes only, not as an item that determines whether or not they complete their grade level. I am also supporting Assembly bill 6594, calling for a statewide review of standardized testing to see whether or not these exams impinge upon our schools’ abilities to provide the resources and tools our children need to receive a quality education.
It is imperative that the money spent on education is used effectively. While we work to raise achievement in lower-performing schools, we must also reward the ones meeting these high standards. For those schools, which include many of our local schools, we must provide them, and their taxpayers, relief from Albany’s exorbitantly high mandates and federal mandates like Race to the Top, which incentivized the adoption of the Common Core. We also must always remember that when it comes to the future of our schools, we cannot overburden our teachers with costly and unwieldy measures that stop them from doing what they do best: helping our children become the successful leaders of tomorrow.