I have talked before about the bitter medicine that is the Common Core Standards and the pain we have to go through to make gains. Well today that pain will be acutely felt by schools and districts, and in the coming weeks, hundreds of thousands of students and families as the state prepares to release results from the first set of tests linked to the common core curriculum, first to schools and then to families.
These scores will be significantly lower, and we can expect a parade of confused parents, disappointed students and discouraged teachers. The results will be a painful accounting for the educational fraud that has been perpetrated on kids and families for years. And as we step on the scale and honestly see where we are, we should be disappointed. But it should be a call to action, and not a retreat into denial as we have seen in in other states, through attempts at legislative repeal or encouraging families to “opt out” of testing.
These tests are more challenging, not just in making student memorize more facts, but in really asking them to think through the questions, and reason their way to answers based on evidence. And they should be more challenging because we need to ask more of our students, and better prepare them if they are going to be successful and self-directed.
If you don’t believe me, look at the numbers of students who are required to take remedial classes after graduating high school and being admitted to the California State University system –68%, or those deemed college ready based on their SAT scores- a mere 41% of test takers. And as someone who works with schools it was a consistent shock to see how far behind many students are when they start 5th or 9th grade, and while I am not a huge fan of retaining kids in the same grade, you just did scratch your heads about how this kid, who struggles to read “Hop on Pop”, made it to the 5th grade.
So if high school graduation is the measure of college readiness, we have failed so far, and the results of the latest tests will be cold water on the faces of kids who (wrongly) were told that they were on track, and their families. We can really react to this through two paths—we can run from the truth—opting out kids, or lowering standards. Or confront our failures as adults to provide the supports and quality schools that all children deserve.
We have been in denial for too long about the quality of education that students (and particularly, disadvantaged students) are receiving. And I hope we can cope with this bitter pill, without spitting it out and subjecting another generation of students to a condescending game where we tell them everything is all right for 12 years of schooling, only for them to graduate burdened by our inaction, struggling to catch, up and left holding the bag for our cowardice.