by Julie Cavanagh, special education teacher and ChapterLeader at Public School 15 in Red Hook, Brooklyn, and MORE candidate for President of the UFT. Originally printed in The New York Daily News on August 15, 2014.
Four years ago, a group tied to testing and publishing companies, and bankrolled with Bill and Melinda Gates’ money, brought us the Common Core Learning Standards.
Cash-strapped states that wanted to win federal Race to the Top dollars had to adopt the standards, and more than 40 states, including New York, did so.
Last year, our students were assessed for the first time according to the new standards. State Education Department officials predicted a steep drop, and scores plummeted. This year, small gains were predicted, and that’s what happened, to the astonishment of no one.
Predictions are easy to make when you define what constitutes proficiency.
There will be an attempt from all factions to spin the results: The state will say the reform agenda is working, the city will argue the scores show the need for pre-K, and charter schools will claim they show their importance as high-quality alternatives.
Let’s get off the hamster wheel.
The truth is, these tests were designed to create a narrative of failure, and the trends are not so different from those we saw on the old tests: we are failing our children with special needs, our English language learners, our children who live in poverty, and a disproportionate number of black and Latino pupils.
It is no surprise that the results mirror the struggles and deep flaws in our society. Of course, the goal was never to actually fix our schools — there are no profits in doing that. There are no profits in providing small class sizes, experienced educators and services like counseling, tutoring and family support — proven reforms that would benefit all students.
Instead, the focus is on unproven standards and the tests that supposedly measure our student’s competency — written by the very people who profit from their use.