NYC principals fight back against state tests
A group of New York City principals said they'll no longer consider the state's standardized tests for admissions.
May 30th, 2013
10:13 AM ET

NYC principals fight back against state tests

By Marina Carver, CNN

(CNN) A group of 15 New York City principals announced last week that starting with the 2014-2015 school year, they will no longer use state test scores as part of their middle  and high school admissions criteria.

In a letter sent to parents, teachers, principals and education officials, the principals said the tests were “inauthentic” and take away time “for quality instruction and authentic learning and testing.”

This year’s New York state standardized test was introduced as being aligned for the first time with Common Core Standards - the new national standards that have been adopted in 45 states.  The tests were administered to students in third grade through eighth grade in April and are used by some selective New York middle and high schools when considering admission.

Common Core encouraged many teachers and administrators at first, including Stacy Goldstein, a principal who signed the letter and the director of School of Future's middle school in Manhattan.

“We like it because it focuses on critical thinking and reading across a lot of texts,” she said of the education standards. “We were hoping the test itself would reflect more meaningful work, but it didn’t.”

The principals’ letter expressed that disappointment:  “The length, structure and timing caused many students to rush through the tests in an attempt to finish, get stuck on confusing questions, and not complete the test or even get to more authentic parts like the writing assessment,” they wrote.

“We’re not just worried about the kids’ scores going down, we’re concerned about the validity of the test itself,” Goldstein added. “We didn’t want this letter interpreted as principals just concerned about the test scores, so we wanted to get it out before the scores are released.”

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Filed under: Common Core • Elementary school • High school • Middle school • Testing
My View: Why we need the Common Core Standards
August 20th, 2012
04:00 AM ET

My View: Why we need the Common Core Standards

Courtesy NAMEBy Jon Wray, Special to CNN

Editor’s note: Jonathan Wray is the instructional facilitator for secondary mathematics curricular programs in the Howard County (Maryland) Public School System and is an elected member of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics board of directors. He is co-founder of the Core Challenge, a program to support teacher collaboration and execution of the Common Core Standards in math.

(CNN) – The United States’ worldwide ranking in mathematics education is a common lament among teachers, parents, students, politicians and just about anybody else who has a stake in our nation’s future. The United States recently ranked 25th out of 34 developing countries in mathematics falling behind countries such as Japan, Germany and France. Ask a hundred people the cause of this situation and you’ll get a hundred different answers. One reason in particular, however, is that we have hundreds – if not thousands - of different ways of teaching our students, and different ideas of what they ought to be taught.

As an educator, I would love to tell you that I have the magic formula to teach every single student to succeed. While I don’t, I do believe a key step is for all educational stakeholders to approach our mathematics challenges in a more collaborative manner.

One problem is that each state in our country has developed its own criteria for measuring student success. Imagine being a student or teacher who has to move across the country or find a new teaching job, only to be told that, by their new school’s standards, their approach to math or reading is suddenly wrong – or even more likely, that a student’s “A” performance at his last school now only merits a “C.”

I may have a brilliant system for teaching mathematics to primary school students in my home state of Maryland, but if I try to apply it to kids in Pennsylvania, suddenly I’m trying to prepare and grade students under different standards.

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Filed under: Common Core • Curriculum • Math • Policy • Practice • Voices
My View: The looming ‘classroom cliff’
August 8th, 2012
06:04 AM ET

My View: The looming ‘classroom cliff’

Courtesy Reginald GallowayBy Adam Frankel, Special to CNN

Editor’s note: Adam Frankel, a former speechwriter for President Barack Obama, is executive director of Digital Promise, a national initiative chartered by Congress to advance innovation in education.

At a time when the country is focused on the “fiscal cliff” that will come when huge tax increases and spending cuts kick in at the end of the year, America is also heading toward a “classroom cliff” in our nation’s schools.

In 2014 and 2015, the first tests will be administered to assess how students are measuring up to the Common Core State Standards – new college and career-ready standards that have been adopted by 45 states and three territories. The result of those tests, many educators believe, will be a disaster.

First, a little background: Historically, one of the biggest barriers to achievement in our schools has been a patchwork of state standards, some much higher than others. For example, states have had different standards for algebra, even though algebra is the same everywhere. That makes it difficult to get an accurate picture of where our students stand or make sure they are getting the best possible education.

The Common Core State Standards, known as “the Common Core,” were developed to change that status quo. The Common Core – a bottom-up, states-driven approach to establishing better, clearer standards – is one of the most significant steps we’ve taken to regain the global lead in education. For the first time, a majority of states have come together to develop and adopt common standards for math and English language arts, putting America on the path to greater educational achievement.
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My View: What a 21st-century science classroom should look like
July 9th, 2012
04:10 PM ET

My View: What a 21st-century science classroom should look like

Courtesy From the Partnership for 21st Century SkillsBy Tim Magner, Special to CNN

Editor’s note: Tim Magner is the executive director of the Partnership for 21st Century Skills (P21), a national organization that advocates for 21st-century readiness for every student. He has had an extensive career in education, serving most recently as the vice president of Keystone for KC Distance Learning (KCDL) as well as the director of the Office of Educational Technology for the U.S. Department of Education.

(CNN) – Whether it’s technology, the global economy or the changing nature of work itself, we are tasked with preparing our children for success in college, career and citizenship in a world that looks very different from the one we grew up in.  I’ve had the privilege of collaborating with P21’s members, partners and leadership states to help educators embed key 21st-century skills – like the four Cs of communication, collaboration, creativity and critical thinking – into the educational experiences of all children.

Our children need these 21st-century skills not simply because employers are looking for them (they are), or because they are essential for success in college (they are), or because other nations are also recognizing this skills gap (they are), but because we want our children to not just survive in this new millennium, but to truly thrive. 

21st-century readiness – having the knowledge and skills to pursue further education, compete in the global economy and contribute to society – demands much more of all of our students, and our education system must change to meet these demands. Recognizing this fundamental shift, the ongoing Common Core State Standards initiatives are embedding these skills into the new standards frameworks.

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Filed under: Common Core • Curriculum • education • Practice • STEM