The district also recently designated four half-days for staff development this year, with the stated purpose of helping transition the teachers to the new standards and curriculum changes.
The Common Core requirements, which have been adopted in states across the country, are aimed at helping children acquire sophisticated reasoning skills. The goal behind these standards is to move the schools away from rote learning to a writing-intensive curriculum that emphasizes problem-solving skills. Tests are graded on a scale of 1 to 4; levels 3 and 4 indicate proficiency. This year the state averages were about 31 percent, last year those numbers were closer to 55 percent, but state education officials said the tests are so different that they shouldn’t be compared.
“The world has changed, the economy has changed and what our students need to know has changed,” Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl H. Tisch said. “These scores reflect a new baseline and a new beginning. We have just finished the first year of a dramatic shift in teaching and learning. Teachers, principals, superintendents and school boards have worked extraordinarily hard to implement the Common Core. With the right tools, the right training, and continuous feedback and support, our teachers — the best teaching force in the country — will make sure all our students are prepared for college and career success in the 21st century.”
Because these scores supposedly create a new “baseline” for measuring student achievement, King asserted that they would not affect state aid for districts, nor would they negatively impact teacher and principal evaluations.
The major issue, however, is that many of New York’s teachers say they were — and still are — inadequately prepared to teach Common Core, and that’s what contributed to low scores.
“These tests were attached to Common Core standards, which have been incompletely rolled out in New York,” said Dr. Teresa Thayer Snyder, superintendent of the Voorheesville Central School District near Albany; the district boasts a 97 percent high school graduation rate, yet has comparable ELA and math proficiency levels to the rest of the state. Snyder, who has been a school administrator for several years, made the comments on her blog, which has been praised by education policy analyst Diane Ravitch. “The material covered large quantities of information that have not been taught, with texts well past grade level and concepts that require cognitive processing that is more typical of older students. From my point of view, after many years of studying teaching and learning — and multiple years spent working in schools — these assessments are impure science. I cannot justify impure science as a means of determining student learning or teacher effectiveness.”