Preparing for the Common Core

Source: NYTimes, Aug 2013

Last year Kentucky became the first state to give new math and reading tests based on the Common Core, and as in New York, the levels of students deemed proficient fell sharply compared with a year earlier.

Supporters of the new standards say critics are too impatient.

“It’s going to take time, and it’s going to take a lot of work,” said David Driscoll, former commissioner of education in Massachusetts, where the state raised its own standards in the late 1990s and faced a falloff in state test scores before seeing them steadily climb. Today, Massachusetts leads the country in scores on exams administered by the federal Department of Education and ranks close to some countries frequently cited as world leaders in academic performance.

Some critics say the new standards are simply unrealistic. “We’re using a very inappropriate standard that’s way too high,” said Diane Ravitch, an education historian who served as an official in President George W. Bush’s Education Department but has since become an outspoken critic of many education initiatives. “I think there are a lot of kids who are being told that if they don’t go to college that it will ruin their life,” she said. “But maybe they don’t need to go to college.”

By contrast, Kristal Doolin, a middle school English teacher in Corbin, Ky., a rural area in the southeast corner of the state, said teachers should expect more of their students.

“I feel like if we lower our expectations, they will follow what we model,” said Ms. Doolin, who was selected Kentucky Teacher of the Year for 2013. “If you teach the way we’ve taught for years and years, basically we’re robbing our kids of the future.”

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