Community Weighs in on Common Core Standards

Though critics in New York say the new standards cause too much anxiety and stress for students, some teachers say they do a better job of equipping them for college than traditional teaching methods.

Despite disagreement from some parents and students, some teachers respond that it may be frustrating, but

Common Core was imagined as a set of academic standards in math and language arts that would be set for K-12 students as conceived by the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) and the National Governors Association (NGA) at the Annual Policy Forum in Columbus, Ohio in 2010. They released the final draft of Common Core Standards that June, and four years later, 43 states had adopted them.

New York was the second state to adopt Common Core, as of July 2010, and was fully implemented in 2013. A 2014 nationwide poll by Education Next found that 53% of the public, including parents and students, supported Common Core and 26% opposed it. However, parents, teachers, and students had trouble adapting to the change from the traditional teaching style, which didn’t require teachers to use modules to instruct students and was otherwise less prescriptive.

Meanwhile, states such as Texas, Alaska, and South Carolina resisted adopting Common Core, arguing that the nation was moving too quickly to adopt it and fearing that states wouldn’t be able to pay for the change. Former Texas Education Commissioner, Robert Scott stated that the common standards movement amounted to a “desire for a federal takeover of public education.”

The change left many students frustrated and stressed causing concerns among teachers and parents. Lisa Burke, a mother of three children in Nassau County on Long Island, doesn’t like Common Core.

Two of her children—Ian, an eighth grader, in advanced classes and Gabriella, a fourth grader in special education—were transitioned into Common Core standards and she finds that both are irritated with the school work. She said her district told her she was the first parent in the district to opt her kids out of state tests under the new standards.

She believes that communities are too different and that certain children will not be taught the same as those in privileged communities.

“Kids from Hempstead are not going to receive the same education level compared to kids from Garden City, for multiple reasons such as resources,” she said.

A similar frustration is experienced by the group of students in New York that were the first to take the high school Common Core Regents Exams in both mathematics and language arts. The classes took the traditional and Common Core Regents which were offered so that students that had been in high school for more than four years had a fair chance at passing the exams as they took the higher score.

This ability was taken away, however, in the 2015-2016 school year and it was the school’s choice if they would give out both the traditional and Common Core or just Common Core standards.

Gabrielle Simpkins, a high school senior at Sacred Heart Academy, dislikes the Common Core as well due to her belief that it makes school children think in a very specific way, especially in the area of math, where there are usually multiple ways to arrive at the same answer. This caused her to wonder “how can that help society?”

Many students protested and opted out of the exams in April 2015. According to PBS Newshour, superintendents in New York reported that more than 60% of students refused to sit for exams.

Louis Ohle, a math teacher of sixteen years, said he had to go back and observe teachers of lower grades because the state of New York hadn’t provided teachers with the full curriculum ahead of time. It was as though Ohle learned Common Core for the first time along with his students.

While Ohle doesn’t agree with Common Core, he prefers to say that he is “dealing with it” due to the fact he can not do much to change things. While he was teaching the new curriculum in the 2013-2014 school year he said students were confused after being forced to learn new things that were built off of topics that they were weak in or were being forced to learn a previous topic in a completely different way.

But despite students reporting that they were stressed out and taking hours to do homework, even in first and second-grade classes, Ohle said Common Core was having a positive effect. Ohle stated that the state standards are “more about the why and how than the what” and that despite their frustration, students were becoming better-prepared for their Regents exams.

Commissioner MaryEllen Elia stated in December 2015 that the Education Department was going to being reviewing the standardized tests after listening to over 10,000 parents, teachers, and community members suggesting that adjustments were needed.

In November 2016, educators requested for the state education board to delay early childhood learning standards due to the belief that children with different learning factors having standards so early may be questionable. However, after committees comprised of teachers, administrators, parents and higher education representatives reviewed the exams, it was determined that there would be no changes to the standardized exams for grades third to eighth grade up until the year 2018.

While the Common Core is not perfect, within 2016, the number of students that scored at a proficient statewide level increased by 6.6% in ELA and 1% in Math from the last year. Ohle thinks this means the standards are working.

“Students will rise to challenges when the bar is raised,” he said.