A step toward national standards and assessments

No more Regents exams in English and math?

Maybe-maybe not! However, as things stand now, during the 2014-2015 school year New York students will probably take a number of examinations in English and math based on the new national common core standards that the State Board of Regents approved earlier this year.

Ever since No Child Left Behind became law in 2002 and the federal government, along with the states, started punishing individual schools and school districts, I have argued for national standards and national assessments. Does it make any sense to have the fifty states use their own tests to evaluate their students and the federal government imposes sanctions across the board when the tests in one state might be a lot harder than in another state?

If the federal government is going to call the shots on school performance and the resulting penalties, then let's have a level playing field, once and for all.

How will this ever happen? New York belongs to a 26-state consortium called the Partnership for the Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers. Eleven of the 26 states, including New York, are involved in the development of a national pre-kindergarten through grade 12 assessment system "aligned to the common core standards in English language arts and mathematics." This is no inexpensive venture and the Federal government has given the states $170 million to develop the tests. Already, more than 200 U.S. higher education institutions have agreed to help develop the tests. The payoff for those colleges and universities is to be able to use the results of the new assessments for placing students in appropriate level courses.

Although not formally approved by the Regents, we're moving towards a system where students take the assessment tests several times a year, rather than waiting for one crucial exam in June. Ideally, teachers and principals will have the data to see how students are progressing and provide the extra help they might need. All this is a move in the right direction, but as Massachusetts Education Commissioner Mitchell Chester, said so aptly, "the harder and more important task is to ensure that higher standards are taught in every classroom and that teachers and students have the tools they need to succeed."

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