Recently, I created two sets of math test prep task cards, one for grade 3 and one for grade 4. I designed the cards to align with Common Core Standards, which, quite honestly, was not an easy task. My understanding is that the Common Core Standards should be more than just checking off skills – students need to have a deep understanding of the concepts and be able to apply them to real-life situations. So, I tried to design my questions with that in mind. The result was two very challenging sets of cards. I have spent the last few days working on grade 5, but I have decided to stop working on it as I am now conflicted about what I am actually creating and how it is contributing to a possibly broken system.
I have never been happy with the amount and importance of standardized tests in our country, so I was already a little uneasy about creating test prep cards (I started creating them because a principal requested them, and I knew they would sell well). Then I read this article in the Washington Post. The article is written by New York principal Carol Burris, who at first embraced Common Core but is now upset because the standards themselves are being driven by testing, and teachers are being evaluated by those tests. Further, often the content of the tests is far above grade level, setting both student and teacher up for failure. She notes that children now spend time prepping for tests that could be spent in meaningful learning activities.
Toward the end of the article, Burris paraphrases school reformer Michael Fullan saying:
Fullan told us that the present reforms are led by the wrong drivers of change — individual accountability of teachers, linked to test scores and punishment, cannot be successful in transforming schools. He told us that the Common Core standards will fall of their own weight because standards and assessments, rather than curriculum and instruction are driving the Common Core. He explained that the right driver of school change is capacity building. Data should be used as a strategy for improvement, not for accountability purposes. The Common Core is a powerful tool, but it is being implemented using the wrong drivers.
Whether Common Core will fall or not, I have no idea, but I am clear that the system is not in the best interest of our children, and I don’t want to contribute to it. I know that test prep materials help teachers, which is why I made them in the first place…but ultimately, are these materials helping our children? Please understand that I am not in anyway blaming teachers. I know that your kids have to pass those tests and that often your jobs depend on it. But, mine doesn’t.
Please read the article, which is called, “Principal: ‘I was naive about Common Core.’“ and share your thoughts. Agree? Disagree? Am I overreacting, or is this something you experience in your own district? I look forward to your comments.