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Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Why Are We Sticking with Common Core?

From LOHUD - The Journal News

By Lisa Eggert Litvin
July 20, 2016

Experts warned that far too much emphasis would be placed on these subjects, and would crowd out the essential components of what young learners need for healthy development.


Governor Cuomo's Common Core Task Force's Final Report couldn't be clearer: The Common Core ("CC") standards are beyond what many young learners are able to achieve — and the standards' inflexibility is failing children with special needs and English language learners. These issues are so problematic that the Task Force recommends scrapping the CC standards and replacing them with new standards.

The findings aren't surprising. Experts have warned for years of the problems of CC and the serious harm these standards could bring. As far back as 2010, the Early Childhood Health and Education Professionals issued a Joint Statement, expressing "grave concerns" about how the early childhood literacy and math requirements are too advanced.

They warned that far too much emphasis would be placed on these subjects, and would crowd out the essential components of what young learners need for healthy development: play-based learning coupled with social and emotional education.

The Task Force confirmed the truth of these experts' fears, noting, for example, that while CC requires that kindergartners read "with purpose and understanding ... early education experts agree that children's brains develop at different rates and not every student will be able to read by the end of kindergarten."

The Task Force further criticized the CC standards for lacking a social and emotional learning component. And the Task Force confirmed that children with special needs or limited English skills are falling behind, for no fault of their own.

As a result, children's love for learning is dissipating rather than growing. Parents report that their children don't want to go to school, that they feel like failures if they can't read, that there's no time for play or choice, and that the children are exhausted — in kindergarten. Children lose confidence and feel insecure, all because they aren't reaching standards that, for many, simply cannot be reached at their stage of development, or because of their challenges.

Yet despite what children are feeling, despite the detailed findings of the Task Force, despite the loss of learning that is occurring, CC is slated to remain in effect well into the future. Specifically, the transition to replacement standards outlined by the Task Force will take several years, until fall 2019 at the earliest — with CC staying in place in the interim.

This makes no sense. Instead, the CC standards should be put on hold, and already existing, well regarded non-CC standards should instead be used in the interim — just as is being done in other states.

Just last spring, Michigan announced that it is dropping CC and considering adopting Massachusetts's pre-CC standards, which have a proven track record of success. NY should be having the same conversation. Let's either re-adopt our old NY standards in the interim, or consider the Massachusetts standards, or finish NY's "Lost Standards," (an early draft of new standards put on hold when CC was adopted).

Should the state want to keep the best of CC, then it could even consider some band-aid fixes to the current CC standards to address children in grades K-2, children with special needs, and English language learners. It could even turn out that a set of interim standards, especially those already tested, if working well could be adopted long term for NY.

There is no good reason to keep the current version of CC in place, with the risks it poses for our youngest and most vulnerable students. We have good options readily available, and it is incumbent on us to insure that these children have every opportunity to succeed, without being held to standards that many of them simply cannot, and need not, attain.

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The writer is president emeritus of the Hastings-on-Hudson PTSA and co-chair of the New York Suburban Consortium for Public Education.

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