By Kitty Kelly Epstein
The Common Core, like many U.S. education reforms, sounded good when it was first discussed. It was explained that children across the country would have a more or less common set of critical thinking lessons to learn.
However, the reality is turning out to be negative.
The tests are profits driven and promote racial disparities: The biggest problem is that the Common Core is linked to a whole new set of standardized tests that Pearson, a $9 billion for-profit company is being paid to create.
An even bigger worry about the tests is the fact that every standardized test ever developed in the U.S. has resulted in a disproportionately negative impact on Latinos and African-Americans. Standardized tests enhance, rather than reduce, both the racial wealth gap and the education gap.
Seventy percent of New York students were considered “Not Proficient” on pilot Common Core tests: Most states have said they will use the Common Core. New York got a head start. The State of New York reports the following on the pilot tests it administered in 2013: 70 percent of all students did not meet what is considered “proficiency,” and 84 percent of African-American students did not meet what is considered “proficiency”
This is an example from the New York Common Core standard for third graders:
“ Use tiling to show in a concrete case that the area of a rectangle with whole number side lengths a and b+c is the sum of a*c and b*c. Use area models to represent the distributive property in mathematical reasoning. (NYS Common Core 3 MD 7.C)
“Recognize area as additive. Find areas of rectilinear figures by decomposing them into non-overlapping rectangles and adding the areas of the non-overlapping parts, applying this technique to solve real world problems. ((NYS Common Core 3MD 7. D).”
The combination of reading, computation, vocabulary, manipulation, and reasoning skills required to solve such problems could be a good long-term goal for elementary students, but requiring all students to be able to answer standardized test questions based on this standard at the age of eight with little preparation represents the sort of “gotcha” mentality that has characterized education policy-making in the U.S. for several decades.
The rollout of the test has sparked strong opposition in New York: The 60,000 member New York State teachers union has withdrawn support for the Common Core as it is currently being implemented.
State Senator George Latimer of the New York called for a delay in the rollout of Common Core, likening the current process to “steaming across the Atlantic when there are icebergs in the water.”
Says Latimer, in a Jan. 8 news column, “ I believe that the outcry against specific aspects of the Common Core — the lack of preparation, privacy of student data, and over-reliance on testing — is an opportunity for us to respond to consumer feedback and adjust to the market.”
Humans do not learn from constant failure. We learn from nurturing, support, encouragement, opportunities for joyful learning, loving critique, and ultimate success.
The high U.S. dropout rate is indicative of the fact that millions of young people will take themselves away from discouraging environments as soon as they are able.
Andin case you think the whole world has gone crazy, the U.S. is the only country in the world that tests students every year or pays such a huge portion of its education budget to for-profit testing firms.
Kitty Kelly Epstein, PhD is the author of “A Different View of Urban Schools: Civil Rights, Critical Race Theory,” and “Unexplored Realities” (2012) and is host of “Education Today,” a radio show on KPFA – FM 94.1.