The loudest of the complaints is based on New York’s decision not to wait for those new Common Core exams, which are expected to make their debut in 2015, but to begin testing students on the new standards last year. Teachers said they had not been fully trained in the new curriculums, and had not received new textbooks and teaching materials; many still did not have them in the fall. As the tests changed, the scores plummeted: Less than a third of the state’s students passed.
Teachers also said that pupils who were already struggling, particularly those who speak limited English, were facing greater challenges. Nonnative speakers are having a harder time in math because the new curriculums require greater use of word problems.
At a recent study group for teachers at P.S. 36 in the Bronx, Kathleen Rusiecki, who teaches first-grade special education, described one task in her curriculum: Draw a picture of the word nobody.
“It doesn’t even make sense,” she said.
In general we believe that the teachers have the best sense of what their students need and what approaches will work. The fact that so many teachers have serious issues with these standards is an early sign that something is off.Perhaps the program could be fixed with tinkering, but this still wouldn’t fix what we see as the larger problem with federal, one-size-fits-all programs like this: The country is too large and heterogenous, and DC policymakers are too far removed from the practice of teaching, to design a program that makes sense everywhere. We should be giving more autonomy to teachers and local administrators, not less.