SBA = Smarter Balanced Assessment
CCSS = Common Core State Standards
NCLB = No Child Left Behind
The CCSS and SBA have led to a huge uproar in many New York State school districts. Many parents had their kids opt out of testing, fearing the tests put too much stress on children.
Here’s what one parent had to say:
My daughter is going into 4th grade so she took them this past year. Man what stress. I can’t imagine being that stressed about anything when I was 8! In my town too there was quite an uproar during the testing time. My wife and I would never have had her not take it. I’m an OT in a school, my wife is a speech therapist in a high school, mot of my family are teachers. I believe that it’s just not a good message to send to have your child not take it.
Here’s what one teacher had to say:
The Common Core State Standards are simply a set of standards that outline what should be taught as students progress through their pre-college career. From what I gather, most educators (like myself) don’t have a problem with the new standards, beyond the typical resistance to change you’d find in any organization. Teachers must invest tons of time rewriting curriculum and lesson plans to be aligned with CCSS. This isn’t something everyone wants to do. Also, there is a growing number of educators in the circles I run with who are of the mindset that CCSS is going to be replaced or repealed eventually, so why bother?
In truth, I think a lot of people, educators included, can get behind a universal set of standards, and that’s why they were written. Teachers just want to know that the rewrites aren’t going to happen every few years.
As for the standards themselves, as a high school math teacher I personally wish the math standards focused less on process and more on mathematical thinking. There already is a lot of reference to the use of computer-algebra-systems in the standards, but the future of mathematics is clearly moving away from the traditional computations toward the computer-based maths model.
The thing that so many are opposed to is the testing developed based on the standards. This testing is often referred to as the Smarter Balanced Assessment. While related, I think the best discussions come about when people are able to distinguish between the two (CCSS and SBA).
I have found that criticism of SBA is actually more a criticism of the heavy emphasis on testing that the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) laws have promoted. Teachers generally hate the pressure of high-stakes testing, and are quick critics of the process, the pressure, the outcomes, and the conclusions of these tests. I believe it’s the teacher’s job to focus on teaching the curriculum the best way possible and not be distracted by testing of any kind, so I don’t really have a problem with the testing. I kind of remember always being tested as a kid (we did the CTBS and ITBS when I was young). To me it’s just a part of the process for students. The issue teachers should have is with the administrators who overreact to everything and pass pressure down to their teachers ineffectively, instead of leading them to improved teaching.
The way I view it, there are a lot of ineffective teachers out there. Administrators are responsible for the development or elimination of these teachers. Unfortunately there are a lot of ineffective administrators as well. The NCLB laws can help eliminate those administrators. The benefits of this should be obvious, although admittedly there can be a lot of pain as entrenched administrators fight to keep their jobs as the ineffective ones will resort to all kinds of tactics to improve test scores. Teachers should, imo, support the laws and work to improve their own teaching. A true teacher can lead from the classroom and help their school beyond the walls of their own classroom, imo. This should be their focus.
It’s just so much easier to complain. I mean if the dumb NCLB laws were to go away, we wouldn’t have to do any of that, now would we?
And another educator:
These kids have three days straight of the ELA test and three days straight of the Math test. These kids are stressed because it is a lot of information and if you don’t do well you go into an AIS class. Kids are embarrassed to be seen leaving our AIS classroom.
The stress students feel is because they are worried about the outcomes. The outcomes they fear (AIS classes) are not federally mandated, but are the product of weak administrators passing the fear along to the students. Is it possible to create a positive, winning attitude about tests? Absolutely. But that takes a disciplined, fearless leadership, which is obviously missing in many school districts.
Also, these AIS classes are a joke. You have like 10-15 kids that all have different teachers and are all working on different material at the same time so you can’t really do a lesson with them. It’s basically a study hall. You just have them take out their math work and work on that. Then you have to deal with, “I don’t have homework, I can’t find my work, I did it already, etc.”. Now you have to have them get out their folders and do computer work. If you have 10 kids then they get about 4 minutes of my time each to help them out on the best days. On the worst days you are dealing with kids having temper tantrums, kids crying, kids upset, etc. so you get about 2 minutes a piece.
Here is the problem. It is very simple. These rules, laws, etc. are made up by non-educators. We never get any input. They may listen to us but we aren’t heard. Then you have your local administrators want you to think their hands are tied, that all your problems are the result of the stupid laws they have to follow. They spend more time persuading parents that it’s not the administration’s fault than they do trying to make things better for the kids.
The national laws, the CCSS do not mandate when anything is to be taught. Educators have the freedom within CCSS to create their own curriculum – they are just supposed to use the CCSS as the underlying guide for that curriculum. Also, educators have the freedom to adjust within the year the amount of time spent on units and the order of the units. But the administrators throw more restrictions down and then blame the national law instead of their own incompetence.