Soul searching in NY: Will common sense win?

In New York, the percentage of students in grades 3 to 8 who passed the statewide “Common Core” English test in 2015 was 31.3%, about the same as in other states. In math, it was 38.1%, a little better.

However, in New York 220,000 students “opted out” of taking the test in May. 220,000 students is about 20% of all students who should have taken the English exams. That is the highest percentage of students in any state refusing to take the Common Core-aligned tests.  In some school districts the opt-out students were as high as 60% of the total. With so many parents voting against these tests by stilling their children’s number 2 pencils, what is next in New York for the controversial tests?

  • The governor of New York, who has been a firm backer of the tests, is about to announce that teachers’ job evaluations will not depend on test results.
  • Scores needed to “pass” these tests might be lowered. Before the Common Core-aligned tests began in NY in 2013, students needed a grade of 65% to pass high school English courses. The grade has been raised to 79% for students taking the test in 2022 (originally in 2017) but education officials are rethinking that.
  • Teaching-for-the-test strategies might change. One New York City school has eliminated music and art for its algebra students so that there can be two teachers in algebra classes, one to teach the whole group and another to teach pockets of students needing more help. That school’s test results are higher than other schools’ results. Other schools are thinking of hiring specialist teachers for English and math in elementary grades rather than having one teacher teach all subjects.

US literacy rank among other high ranking countries.It is unlikely that the tests will be scrapped completely despite nationwide opposition to the tests. Politicians and educators know US students are not up to snuff when it comes to language and math skills. International tests results on the latest PISA reading tests (Program for International Student Assessment) show the US ranks 24th out of 65 countries, with Asian countries dominating the high scores.

Stay tuned.

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