At an Albany middle school, angry parents told New York Commissioner of Education John King what they thought of the new Common Core standards, writes Marc Tucker on Ed Week‘s Top Performers blog.
Kathryn Biel described her fourth-grade son’s response when he came home from Forts Ferry Elementary School in the North Colonie school district. “New York State thinks we’re stupid. We did not pass the test,” Biel said recounting his frustration and loss of self-esteem. Deirdre Kelly, whose children attend Albany School of Humanities, said she is opting her children out of the testing and will urge other parents to take the same action. “It hurts them. They go home feeling bad,” said Kathy Neuffer, a teacher at Greenville Central School District in Greene County. “The new curriculum is not enjoyable,” said Reeve Churchill, age 13, an eighth-grade student at Myers Middle School.
U.S. parents and students expect school to be easy and fun, writes Tucker. “We are reaping what we’ve sown.”
Over the last 20 years or so, the reading grade level of upper division high school textbooks has fallen from 11th and 12th grade to 8th and 9th grade. We have seen widespread grade inflation in our high schools. When our children get to college they can expect more of the same. At many, perhaps most institutions, B+ is, in effect, the lowest passing grade, and, in many institutions, college administrators effectively prevent college instructors from giving grades lower than that except in rare cases. The record shows that our colleges are providing fewer and fewer hours of instruction with every passing year and students are spending less and less time studying. But they still get the same degrees.
. . . Consistently given higher and higher grades for ever-more-mediocre work, our students have an inflated sense of their academic prowess.
“It feels a lot like the housing market before the market crashed and brought on the Great Recession,” writes Tucker.
In Asia, especially in Korea, parents push their children to work hard in school, he writes. Standards are rising. Students expect they’ll need to work hard to get ahead.
The Common Core is our best chance to face reality, Tucker concludes.
Responding to the challenge is going to require both students and teachers to work a lot harder. It may not be fun. Maybe New York State does not think you are so smart because you have not demonstrated that you know and can do what millions of kids in other countries know and can do at your age. Maybe it’s time to do something about that instead of reflexively doing what we have always done—lowering the standards, once again.