“Test scores plummet.” Those were the headlines about the “seismic” drop in scores following the latest state exams. Apocalypse! Administrators went on the defensive; teachers, whose morale is already abysmally low, were girding to take another hit; angry and confused parents were demanding answers; and concerned students were fearful that their academic futures could be adversely affected.
Should we be surprised? Not in the least. This outcome was predicted last spring.
Personally speaking, I’m on board with the Common Core Curriculum. Yes, it needs some tweaking. But adopting higher standards is certainly something we must aspire to in order to remain competitive in the global economy. I’m willing to buy into the more rigorous demands. But so soon? We’ve clearly put the cart before the horse. This is all too much, too soon.
Simply put, there was inadequate preparation for this spring’s assessments.
First, the new Common Core is radically different from the current course of study. Were curricula at all grades and in all subjects revamped to reflect what would be studied?
Second, were all teachers given in-service training to equip them to implement these changes?
Third, time and time again, I’ve maintained that planning is the key component of superior instruction. Did teachers have time to prepare new lesson plans to reflect the Common Core?
Fourth, even if the curricula had been updated and teachers given time to modify lesson plans, were new books and materials ordered in conjunction with these changes?
And, fifth, were students sufficiently prepared not only for the new subject matter, but also for the marathon battery of tests?
The answer to all these questions is no. Good testing is a good thing; it provides necessary feedback about teaching and learning. Yes, there are valid criticisms about the time spent preparing for the tests, and teachers “teaching to the test.” But let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater. Appropriate assessments help us pinpoint weaknesses that need to be addressed.
This, however, was not good testing.