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November 27, 2014
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FAQ: Common Core breakdown

The Common Core Learning Standards, adopted by the New York State Board of Regents in January 2011 and implemented at the beginning of the 2012–13 academic year, make curricular expectations uniform for every student across the state.

A bill was introduced Feb. 28 in the New York State Assembly to delay the use of Common Core–aligned testing to evaluate teacher performance or prevent a student from moving to the next grade. The legislation includes a provision that Common Core–aligned examinations should not appear on students’ permanent records or transcripts. A number of states, including New Hampshire, Illinois, Colorado and Massachusetts, are debating similar bills.

What does the Common Core mean for students and teachers?

Under the CCLS guidelines, which are geared exclusively toward English and math, K-12 teachers are required to expose their classrooms to more specific texts like Shakespeare and America’s founding documents, as well as more standardized methods for teaching math principles. English teachers will be given sample reading materials that represent the expected proficiency levels their students should achieve by the end of the school year, according to the Common Core Standards Initiative’s website. Within those guidelines, educators retain the right to select the specific books and literature they teach.

Under the CCLS, standardized testing can be used to determine whether or not a student advances to the next grade level, according to the legislators behind the Feb. 28 bill that would change that provision. Teachers may feel the impact of the new standards because Common Core–aligned exams would be used to evaluate their performance.

Why do people want to revise the Common Core Learning Standards?

In 2013, fewer than one in three students in New York State passed the Common Core–aligned math and English tests, the state Education Department said.

In response, Gov. Andrew Cuomo established a Common Core implementation panel, composed of national experts, as well as parents, educators, legislators, businesses and community leaders from across the state. The panel will make recommendations to improve implementation of Common Core standards in New York state. Cuomo has urged educators to wait until the panel presents its results before making any changes. But, anxiety is building because another round of school testing is scheduled for April. Cuomo has publically said he supports keeping student test scores as part of teacher evaluations.

Under the current standards, non-native English speakers are expected to take the same Common Core–based English Language Arts exams as all other students. But, in February, a subcommittee of the state Board of Regents recommended non-native speakers be administered special language-acquisition tests instead. The subcommittee also called on the state to change the CCLS wording so that students who place into level “2,” which is considered below proficiency for their grade, on a state test are not considered to have failed.

Individual student information could be collected under the Common Core standards and distributed to data management companies like inBloom through an online portal, according to the New York State Education Department. Some parents are pushing to have their children opt out of the portal program, which was originally set to launch in September.

Some teachers characterize the new core curriculums as placing too much emphasis on text-based learning and failing to recognize other forms of education, including hands-on learning or place-based studies, where students work to solve real-world problems in their school’s community.

Who is behind the Common Core?

The National Governor’s Association Center for Best Practices and Council of Chief State School Officers oversaw the development of the CCLS by a group of teachers, school administrators and content developers. The effort was state-led but had nationwide support, including backing from the ACT and College Board. The initiative is independent from the federal government, which will not be a part of the implementation process, the Common Core State Standards Initiative said. Each state chooses whether or not to adopt the Common Core. To date, 45 states have adopted the standards, according to the initiative’s website.

Earlier, on Feb. 10, the New York State Education Department announced the Class of 2022 would be the first to face the tougher graduation requirements under the Common Core. According to the New York State Board of Regents, however, it is important to keep assessing 3–8 grade students in ELA and math because of obligations under the federal Race to the Top program. Though the federal government is not behind the Common Core requirements, New York’s commitment to testing helped win nearly $700 million in federal funds that could be in jeopardy if those tests are not implemented, according to Republican State Senator Lee Zeldin’s office.

The CCLS were based on scholarly research, skills required for students entering college and studies of high-performing states and countries, according to the Common Core State Standards Initiative. English and math became the focus because the CCSSO and NGA said these disciplines build skills in other subject areas like science and history. Both groups stress there will be an ongoing, state-led development process to continue to improve standards and different states will share best practices with one another. The ultimate goal is improved consistency in education and equal opportunities for students regardless of their socioeconomic backgrounds.