EDU 6989: Conflicting Debates of the Common Core State Standards Initiative

E1 – Exemplify professionally-informed, growth-centered practice.


Teacher candidates develop reflective, collaborative, professional growth-centered practices through regularly evaluating the effects of his/her teaching through feedback and reflection.

When evaluating the debate on national standards testing many are confronted with the question, can the value of public education be based on the result of these assessments? Does the outcome of a standardized test provide a justifiable cause to provide or decline funds to a school that does not reach desired results? Administrators and teachers are pressed by their districts to do what they can to bring students up to high levels of achievement. Common Core State Standards have been produced to present guidelines to redesign and/or update curriculum, classes are being added or deleted to compensate for time challenges, and the media is presenting further controversy that may prompt many parents and students to opt out of these exams. While there are arguments for and against the Common Core State Standards Initiative being implemented in schools, the final question is, are these assessment scores fair to the schools, districts, states, and more importantly to the students?

Our schools have continuously growing and changing diverse populations of students with varying abilities. In a given grade level, one student may show strengths in the science and mathematic curriculum where another may show strengths in other areas such as literacy or the arts. Other student populations, such as those with cognitive and physical disabilities, may experience trials with even taking standardized exams. Teachers may find various methods to increase student motivation in any given subject by diversifying instruction, creating intriguing hands-on activities and practice exercises, presenting cooperative learning activities to learn and solve problems with other diverse thinkers, and by utilizing many other teaching models in order to deliver knowledge to a wide range of learners. While the best teachers can provide instruction to meet the needs of various learners, there may be some students that need more individualized attention and others that simply cannot meet the expectations of a standardized exam.

Furthermore, when measuring the success rates of schools on standardized assessments, there are many factors that can tie into the reduction or increase of the annual yearly progress (AYP). In order to make the AYP, 95% of the student population must take the exams. Students whose parents opt them out of taking an exam may also significantly increase the reduction of the AYP. Therein lies one aspect of the results being inaccurate, if the student received a low score on the exam, that result is a better outcome for the AYP results than the resulting zero from not taking the exam. According to Evans (2008), “schools that receive subsidies under the ESEA Title I program for disadvantaged children and that repeatedly fall short of their AYP targets are subject to an escalating series of corrective measures” (p.13). While these schools may foresee mandatory restructuring, student withdrawal from standardized exams is a repercussion that may be unavoidable.

There are proposed negative consequences of standardized testing regardless of those that benefit from the results. For example, a school may meet the requirements of the initiative. They will continue to receive subsidies where applicable and will not be subdued to corrective measures from the government based on these results. High achievements may be gained in a variety of ways and student populations may be adjusted to reflect this scenario. Curriculum may also be designed to heavily focus on areas of achievement, thereby disregarding subjects that may be of interest or of value to students within the school population. Teachers and administrators may work increased hours to provide instruction to populations that require significant support, leading to teacher burnout or poor morale. Students may miss out on key components of some curriculum in order to meet the time expectations available to cover all content requirements of a given school year.

Moreover, perhaps the government should provide compensation to schools that have student populations that are struggling. An increase in funds could help serve these populations and increase salaries or provide more staff to benefit the school. In the case scenario of a school being compensated for students receiving low scores on standardized assessments, this could also result in negative consequences. Expectations of the faculty and students may fall, as financial support may be more readily available to the school. Students could even be led to fail in order to provide more finances for a struggling school or educational program. There lies the question again, how does standardization provide outcomes that better serve our students?

While there are many emerging problems with the Common Core State Standards Initiative, there are positives to consider. Adoption of a common core curriculum facilitates that many schools are issuing a consistency in learning or a set of guidelines for teachers to utilize when designing their instruction. While many would argue against this being a positive reform to education, there may be some good results that come from this. This may serve as a benefit to students who are forced to frequently change schools, such as dependents of military personnel. Standards also may increase expectations of teachers and students by facilitating teachers try to push students to reach academic goals that weren’t currently in place. The standards may also provide districts, schools, and teachers some flexibility to design creative lessons to meet those objectives. Perhaps the outlines of these objectives provides new and emerging teachers with a resource to design curriculum; this may also help those teachers changing grade levels or approaching new subjects an outline to design instruction for a new learning environment.

Drawing some sort of conclusion to this back and forth debate, one can observe the field of education as a constantly evolving organism. The many controversial aspects of this field can only resolve in one agreeable scenario: teachers must withhold the expertise to remain flexible in the field of education. Most people in our society will have an opinion as to what is an appropriate education based on their own experiences and knowledge. It is probably agreeable by many that standardized testing is not an entirely fair way to assess educational achievement; this is already clear by the continuously emerging controversy of the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). What is clear is until another measure of achievement emerges, teachers will continue to need patience and perseverance in order to instill their own philosophies of what appropriate pedagogy is in order to try to achieve what is best for their students. It will be interesting to see what changes emerge from this era of disagreement.

Reference:

Evans, D. (2008). Taking sides: Clashing views in teaching and educational practice (3rd ed.). Boston: McGraw Hill Higher Education.

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