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Teachers - The Greatest Common-Core Casualty?

By Matthew Lynch — February 17, 2014 3 min read
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Common Core has certainly changed the K-12 classroom scene in its short implementation and perhaps the group that has suffered the most during the transition period is teachers. In many cases, educators are being asked to accomplish the impossible: prepare students for new test standards without the right training or curriculum to get there.

Governor Cuomo of New York addressed the State Board of Regents last week to criticize legislation that would provide too much leeway (in his opinion) to teachers when it comes to standardized testing accountability. When Cuomo first took office, he set his sights on raising the bar for teaching standards in the state. He successfully implemented higher accountability measures based on evaluations and stricter firing standards for the teachers who continuously performed poorly. He fought to make standardized test results a larger portion of a teacher’s overall grade each year and won. As it stands now, standardized test scores make up 20 percent of a teacher’s evaluation in New York.

Last week he passionately spoke out against a proposal that called for a two-year moratorium on the use of standardized test scores in teacher evaluations, in light of the new Common Core requirements. Teachers behind the proposal argued that not all of the materials to properly teach children according to the new standards have reached classrooms yet - let alone been properly understood and implemented by instructors. Last school year, test scores in New York dropped drastically when standardized tests were rewritten to match Common Core standards. Cuomo felt that any moves to undercut his legislation were a slap in the face and represented regression in the state.

In the end, the Board decided that teachers would have amnesty for two years against low standardized test student performance related to new Common Core measures. It was also determined that schools could have another five years to fully roll out Common Core initiatives. In both cases, I think the right decision was made.

The switch to Common Core standards is a transitional period for teachers, administrators and students. Like any new teaching initiative, Common Core needs some testing of its own and tweaking. In the meantime, should teachers be evaluated or punished? It seems that until all teachers are on the same page with what they should be teaching in their classrooms, it should not be reflected in their job evaluations. There is also a real-world aspect to Common Core measures that simply cannot be realized until these requirements are actually being attempted in actual classrooms and not simply part of a lofty education reform document.

Many teachers’ unions will tell you that all of the constraints placed on performance (like Common Core or standardized testing) are actually hurting the learning process and making it so schools can “game” the system without actually boosting student achievement. On the other hand, pro-accountability politicians and legislators (like Governor Cuomo) feel that placing pressure on teachers to perform according to pre-determined metrics is just part of the job and lends itself well to the bigger business of education.

I know that teaching is not the only profession where workers must “get by” on the resources they receive, but the consequences have the widest ripple effect. A fired teacher impacts more than the educator alone - it effects the entire school community. A good teacher is also not just one who guides students to the right answers on a test; for many students, these authority figures stand as role models and counselors in life. How can any of that be measured on a blanket, widespread test?

Do you think that teachers will be able to reach Common Core requirements quickly? And should they be punished if not?

The opinions expressed in Education Futures: Emerging Trends in K-12 are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.

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