The dismal performance of New York City public school students in the Common Core Standards test has unleashed sharp criticism against Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s education policy, says Nayaba Arinde in a report in the Amsterdam News.
The test scores released by the Department of Education (DOE) have “stunned teachers, parents and education activists.” The numbers, according to Arinde, are “dire.”
Only 55 percent of all students grades three through eight meet or exceed the standard in English. In math, only 64.8 achieved the percentage needed to pass the examination. That’s a 20 and 30 percent drop since last year.
Only 46.1 percent of New York’s Black students passed or surpassed the passing grade on the math examination with 37.2 percent in English. Scores citywide had dropped almost by two-thirds from 2012.
Arinde says Bloomberg has always asked New Yorkers to judge his record and his legacy by what he does with the public school system and its 1.1 million students.
Well, test scores have plummeted, observers note, and his frantic push to create and co-locate charter schools is only outdone by his controversial move to close schools all over the city.
Parents have been questioning the test from the beginning and many refused to accept the results when their high-scoring children “failed” the state’s standardized tests.
Educator Caleef Cousar believes that the test scores do not reflect the students’ abilities. Rather it shows how and what the students are being taught. Change the Stakes, a group of parents and educators working to address the effect of high-stakes testing, says that the controversial testing system “must be replaced by valid forms of student, teacher and school assessment.” Cousar wants an end to what he calls “experimentation and pseudo-revamping of public school education.”
“Our children are the victims of this bureaucratic chess game where businessmen and profit-centered individuals—who are not educators—figure out the best way to make money out of children. They want to make the maximum federal dollar per child and link their educational experiments to Race to the Top initiative, which may work out well for these suits, but our children are left floundering, being taught to take tests only and learn little or nothing else. We want full transparency, and we want to put an end to the detrimental state testing initiatives that focus on standardized tests.”
Change the Stakes rejects Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott’s assertion that the lower scores should be attributed to tougher standards. It insists that the tests were “horribly flawed.”
“After initially dismissing calls for the tests to be open to public scrutiny, education officials now say they plan to release selected questions. But this token gesture toward transparency is unlikely to allay concerns about the quality of this year’s tests. Nor will it quell the growing movement of parents and educators fighting to end the use of standardized tests for high-stakes purposes.”
Frustration among teachers, parents and students is exacerbated further by the NYS Education Department’s refusal to make the questions public. Education experts also reject the notion that teacher promotions be based solely on the results of these tests. Some experts blame the DOE’s focus on preparing the students to take the tests for the pupils and teachers’ struggle with the new standards.
Retired math and Black history professor Sam Anderson blasted, “These Common Core centered exams claim to be about critical thinking. Yet, the curriculum and pedagogy of New York City teachers has been not about developing critical thinking skills. For the past 25 to 30 years, it’s been about developing test-taking skills. Hence, when the Common Core exams contain a bit of critical thinking kinds of questions, our children and most of their teachers don’t have the intellectual tools to answer them.”
Anderson added that in the compiling of the Common Core curriculum and its implementation, “Parents were left out of the loop. If they knew anything about this Common Core switcheroo—and 99 percent did not know—all they were supposed to do was go online and read about the wonders of the Common Core and trust Arne Duncan and Dennis BloomCott to bring out the brilliance in their sons and daughters.”
In a separate article in the Queens Chronicle, Domenick Rafter says that Queens representative on the DOE’s Panel for Educational Policy, Dmytro Fedkowskyj, is equally disappointed with the test scores. However, he doesn’t blame the teachers.
“It’s disheartening to hear this news; the DOE has spent millions on testing and school report cards only to find out now that they didn’t really live up to the public standard touted by the mayor,” he said. “I believe our principals and teachers did and do a great job. They followed the rules and did what they were told, it’s not their fault.”
Arthur Goldstein, the United Federation of Teachers’ chapter leader at Francis Lewis High School, believes the teachers are being scapegoated. He says the system was set up to fail because it was implemented without being tested to see if it works.
“The thing you need to look at is if there is any validity to the structure of Common Core,” Goldstein said. “You’d think people running education systems believe in science, and that means experimenting and see if it works. There is no research, no practice, nothing to suggest there’s any validity to Common Core. Something like this needed to be phased in gradually to see if it can work.”