Two years after full rollout of Common Core, concerns about testing, workload remain

Aug 27, 2015 by

Erika Strauss Chavarria teaches high school Spanish, a subject that does not appear on the standardized tests her students take each school year.

Nonetheless, she still deals with the effects of the Common Core-mandated tests, which leave both students and teachers “exhausted and stressed,” said Chavarria, a teacher at Wilde Lake High School in Howard County.

Last school year was the first year students were required to take the Partnership Assessment Readiness for College and Careers, commonly known as the PARCC test. The computer-based test, part of the Common Core State Standards, was piloted during the 2013-2014 school year.

The tests are saving the state money—state education superintendent Lillian Lowery said last month the state Education Department saved more than $2.5 million compared to previous standardized tests .

But they’ve drawn criticism from teachers like Chavarria, who complained an over-emphasis on testing will lead to a generation of robotic test-takers who only know how to fill in the answer bubbles on standardized tests.

“From the start of winter break until the end of school, there’s testing going on,” Chavarria said. “On any given week, I might have half of my class missing, which means I can’t really start any new material.”

“Our administration, their hands are tied.”

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Erin Montgomery, a spokeswoman for Gov. Larry Hogan, said the governor shares the concerns of many Maryland parents, and is reviewing the issue.

“The multi-state PARCC consortium, of which Maryland is a member, recently announced that it will reduce the amount of student testing time — a definite step in the right direction,” she said.

Michael J. Petrilli, president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, a D.C.-based educational policy think tank, said Common Core will continue to play a role in the 2016 presidential election, particularly among GOP candidates.

Yet he doesn’t see the standards going anywhere just yet, noting that more than 40 states have opted to hold onto them.

Petrilli, a supporter of Common Core, says the national standards replaced individual state standards that were, in many cases, vague and poorly written.

“It’s an interesting time right now,” Petrilli said. “What we’re going to see in the next couple of months is we’re going to see these test results come back … and most people expect those test results to be pretty low.”

Too much testing?

A survey conducted in May by GBA Strategies on behalf of the Maryland State Education Association, the state teachers’ union, polled 600 voters on what their top concerns were about K-12 education in the state. A heavy focus on standardized testing topped the list, with two-thirds of respondents saying too much time is spent on such tests.

Molly Mee, a professor of education at Towson University and parent of a seventh grader in Anne Arundel County, wonders whether the PARCC tests were adequately piloted before they were introduced and questioned the financial motivations of Pearson, the company administering the tests.

She opted to have her son sit out the PARCC tests last year.

“My biggest concern about Common Core is the standards are formed by people who are not really educators,” Mee said. “Standards are not a bad thing. But are they the right standards, and is it right to make it a national standard?”

Elementary school teacher Amanda Sosnin said the PARCC tests mean five days of testing, for an hour and a half each day.

“It’s just a lot of time out of the classroom,” said Sosnin, a fourth grade teacher in Baltimore County.

She’s also had problems with her fourth graders running into questions on the math test that hadn’t been covered in class, even though Sosnin said she followed the curriculum.

Two years in, Sosnin said the Common Core curriculum is still like “driving down a road that has not been paved yet.”

For example, the language arts curriculum in Baltimore County Public Schools has been revised three times since the controversial state standards were rolled out at the start of the 2013-2014 school year.

“I don’t think it’s calmed down at all,” she said.

Not everyone feels that way.

Like Petrilli, Reginald Avery, the president of the PTA Council of Howard County, doesn’t see Common Core disappearing any time soon. When it was first introduced, there was a good deal of anxiety and infighting, which has somewhat dissipated, he said.

 

Source: Two years after full rollout of Common Core, concerns about testing, workload remain – ABC2News.com

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