Students must be taught new standards before being tested

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The new Common Core standards were tested in New York state, although teachers had not been given the curriculum and students had not been taught the material. Common Core is the latest in a series of philosophies designed to raise the knowledge of students and their ability to function in our modern hi-tech world and be prepared for college.

It is interesting that the same districts in New York City that did well on the old tests did well on these new tests. Queens Districts 25 and 26 scored high and always have. The problem is that all scores went down because the new ways of reading and writing and the new, more demanding vocabulary had not been taught yet. Honors classes always taught this material.

An article in a local newspaper told of PS 122, in Astoria, whose students scored high on the new tests. The school had been doing poorly the previous year and had been slated for changes. The article did not explain what the administration and teachers did to make the scores get high, but it was probably something not permitted.

I do not know what they did, but they saved their school and jobs. The city Department of Education has strict rules on how a teacher should teach. Scripts tell what should be done every minute. If not followed, a teacher can get in trouble. Whatever they did, it probably was not permitted and they may get in trouble for doing something “independent.”

During the summer, I was down in Maryland and talked to a third-grade teacher who said she went online and learned what their Common Core tests were going to be on and prepared the students. When I told her about the things going on in the New York City schools, she said she “could never teach in such an atmosphere.”

The morale of city teachers is low. Teachers do not dare do anything different or they will be singled out by some administrators and written up. Did you know that creativity is discouraged? Several years ago, the school system prepared a script that each elementary school teacher has to follow when teaching each subject each day. They cannot deviate from the script. Even if the students do not understand the material, the teachers have to continue with the script.

And with four months left in the current administration, the DOE wants to close schools, co-locate schools and create charter schools.

Charter schools are looked upon as a panacea for neighborhoods where students do poorly, but they are just a cash cow for the education industry. Creating charter schools is a multimillion-dollar industry with private corporations, individuals and consulting firms making a fortune.

Some communities see charter schools as a way to get a semi-private school for their children paid for with public money. The charter schools have high grades because they discourage dysfunctional, English as a Second Language and special education students from attending.

Only recently have some charter schools started saying that they have some low-functioning students, but the number is far fewer than in regular public schools. Private schools can put out any disruptive or problematic student.

Teachers have been blamed for the problems. The manta is, “Get rid of bad teachers.” But what is a bad teacher? How will you evaluate a teacher’s ability? Can the new principals, who attended a 90-day program, have the knowledge?

Since a principal will be fired, they have no tenure, so if a school does poorly, some will use teachers as scapegoats. Some principals even try to get special education teachers to get their children to score higher on tests. Some of these students, but not all, just cannot do well on tests.

Can all students subject to random shootings, pressure from gangs or drug or alcohol use pass the Common Core?

Posted 12:00 am, September 14, 2013
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Reader feedback

Diane from Bronx says:
Dear Mr. Harris,

I teach in the Bronx and have to say that it was shocking to actually read an article that spoke the truth about implementation of the Common Core Standards. Many of the standards are not even in place, and yet, teachers are being evaluated to see if they are meeting them. What? How?

Our school is one that is closing. It was truly disgraceful what they did to students AND teachers in our school. Once they decided to close the school they seemed to fill it with low performing students. We got several students who are 12:1:1 (meaning they should be in a class size of 12 with one teacher and a paraprofessional to assist). Some of those students did not know how to read or write when they came to us. So, of course, their performance tests would not have high scores. You have a student reading at a Pre-K or 1st Grade Level taking high school exams.

They are now mainstreaming these same students! They sit in class profoundly lost and confused. Honor students can be in the same classroom with students who are reading at a 1st-3rd Grade Level! This is not fair for either group of students.

Special Ed Teachers are now independently teaching classes with up to 34 students, some are General Education and others Special Ed. Often, the Special Ed Teacher does not have any assistance in those classrooms. This is totally out of compliance. Yet, these same teachers are evaluated AND rated for their instruction in those classrooms and how the students perform on tests.

We had a student who was in 11th Grade and did not know how to read a sentence! He is doing well now, but it was not an easy journey for him. Our teachers worked with him on a one-on-one basis in their "free time" and then got him into reading and tutoring programs. A counselor helped this young man apply for an internship program and he now works for a tech company. But, he was motivated. Many students have given up on the educational system.

Our school trained students to become hairdressers, barbers, EMTs. Students who put forth the effort learned skills that got them jobs when they graduated. It shouldn't all be about passing a Regents Exam, it needs to be about preparing students for THEIR future, based on what their own capabilities and interests are. Some students are not destined to become doctors or teachers, but that doesn't mean they cannot learn a viable skill.

Once a school has been slated to close, you are quite correct, there is a witch hunt. Teachers become the targets, especially if they are now at the top of the pay scale (after decades of hard work).

What concerns me more than the impact on the teachers, though, is what they are doing to the students and their lives. Teachers have long been aware that the way to have students become more successful in the classroom is to have fewer students in the class. The more one-on-one attention a student gets, the better they are able to do academically, AND socially, it seems. Instead, they are forcing Special Ed students into larger General Ed classes and both groups are suffering for it.

I found your article to be interesting, accurate and informative for people in and outside the educational system. Thank you for your honesty. Teachers are really tired of being "scapegoats." We truly work hard and care about the students.

Hopefully, some day, our students and the teachers will be able to blow this politically-based smoke screen out to sea. The air will clear, and we will finally be asked for our input as to how to improve the educational system. Believe me, we have some interesting ideas on that!!

This is, of course, just my opinion. (It does seem to be a shared on though.)


A very discouraged teacher
Sept. 14, 2013, 3 pm
Desmond Armoh from Ghana{Jema W/R} says:
This is logical proposal,but going through thoroughly,there are shortages which need to be put am suggesting that all government cut across should put great effort so that educational needs of each child would be met.since all child are equal.
Sept. 15, 2013, 4:59 am

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