Common sense about Common Core

Now they must also implement policies that may or may not make sense, such as creating high school academies, retaining third-graders who don’t pass reading tests, remediating seniors who have not passed four graduation examinations and avoiding state takeover of schools that fail according to the state’s report card.

Even more time and money must be devoted to policies that make no sense, such as firing teachers using primitive bubble-in tests and unreliable statistical models, meeting the state’s A-F grading measures that are unfair to poor schools and the hurried implementation of the new Common Core curriculum.

Educators must obey two contradictory sets of mandates. Their jobs are in jeopardy and their students’ high school diplomas are at risk if schools don’t focus completely on rote instruction, basic skills and primitive test prep as they rush through a skin-deep curriculum.

This year, Oklahoma City Public Schools have their hands full with hundreds of seniors still needing to pass four graduation exams.

Starting next year, however, students must pass Common Core tests that are far tougher than anything we’ve ever encountered. Those assessments are designed to be confusing. Their intent is to use complicated sentence and paragraph structures to misdirect students so they must think anew.

These mixed messages are devastating. So, Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, proposes a commonsense compromise with a moratorium for high-stakes Common Core testing.

She supports Common Core’s potential to “transform the very DNA of teaching and learning to move away from rote memorization and endless test-prep, and toward problem-solving, critical thinking, and teamwork.” Higher standards will lead “to a revolution in teaching and learning. Or will they end up in the overflowing dustbin of abandoned reforms?”

A moratorium on high-stakes Common Core assessments needs not be permanent. It would be cruel to students, however, to heedlessly rush ahead.

OKCPS must not copy the vicious New York experiment in which students were subjected to Common Core testing before educators were equipped for teaching the new material. Parents complain that anxious children dread school and cannot sleep at night.

Before requiring students to learn differently, adults must think anew. Let’s delay the punitive components of Common Core as we work together to teach its higher standards. If we take this step, then perhaps we will show the same realism in tackling our many other challenges.

Thompson blogs regularly on national education issues at The Huffington Post and other online sites.

John Thompson

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