This week, New York City English and math teachers have 23 days and 30 days (respectively) until The Big Test. The state subjects 3rd through 8th graders to half a school day of testing procedures for three straight days to see whether or not students (and teachers) have met the objectives laid out in the deluge of Common Core related materials interspersed throughout the year. A concerted effort on the part of our local, city, and state representatives have sent one message loud of clear: The Common Core is not going away.
As it turns out, neither are the voices of the teachers in the classroom.
The problem is that, even with the teachers that Student Achievement Partners dedicates one slide to in their presentations, they still forgot that teacher voice doesn’t just matter in the standards, but the whole transition. For instance, in baseball, no official would ask for a drastic rule change in the middle of the season, save for a call for instant replay on homeruns, for instance. The game’s integrity depends largely on seeing a full season play out with rules in place, then tweaking the rules during the offseason when everyone has a chance to learn the rules.
Yet in education, the mandates almost get changed on the fly. This summer, a group of math teachers at my school dedicated three weeks of our summers to planning out our curricula and unit maps, moving to a more comprehensive model that aligned us both with “Common Core” and the rest of the departments. After starting on exponents and scientific notation for two months, the testing program that comes out in November basically told us we wasted our time doing that, and instead to focus on all types of linear relationships.
Most of this feels like trying to hit a ball with the lights out in the stadium. Unless you’re in a well-lit metropolis, you’re out of luck.
Now, with 30 days left, the state has essentially asked us to cover a large set of topics in a short amount of time, the antithesis of their proffered principles since the beginning of this. The growing sentiment with teachers is that, while we’d like to have higher standards, more rigor, and all the wonderful things associated with assuring a quality education for all of our children, we shouldn’t do it if it means we can’t do it to fidelity.
In other words, whether officials like it or not, we have a voice in this, and they better respect it. If not, they should expect to strike out looking, no runners on base.