Cracking the Common Core

New York’s students will start taking new standardized tests this year in the name of improving performance. So why are kids expected to fail?

— Later this month, students across the state will sharpen their pencils and sweat out more difficult standardized tests driven by a national goal to increase student achievement and readiness. That the tests will take place is certain. The debate, however, is just heating up.

Students in third to eighth grade will face English language arts and math tests adhering to Common Core Standards, national standards that were developed by looking at what students should achieve to be prepared for college. There will be more complex and advanced questions that will measure students at higher performance standards and likely result in lower test scores.

Editor's note

This is the first of a two-part series on the implantation of the Common Core Learning Standards. Next week, read about what the Common Core changes mean at the classroom level.

The state in 2011 mandated the new standards for this year. Ken Slentz, deputy commissioner of the Department of Education’s Office of P-12 Education, sent a memo in March to superintendents about the implementation of the new standards.

“New York State, for the first time, will be reporting student grade-level expectations against a trajectory of college- and career-readiness as measured by tests fully reflective of the Common Core and, as a result, the number of students who score at or above grade level expectations will likely decrease,” Slentz said in the memo. “The number of students meeting or exceeding Common Core grade-level expectations should not necessarily be interpreted as a decline in student learning or as a decline in educator performance.”

Big goals, low expectations

The memo references the state of Kentucky’s decline in student performance in the first year. Voorheesville Central School District Superintendent Teresa Thayer Snyder said the number of students meeting proficiency there dropped 30 percent. Kentucky was the first state to implement the new standards.

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