Since its inception in 2010, the Common Core Standards Initiative has met with scrutiny and disdain from parents and educators across the country.
The system of standardized tests and its connection to teacher evaluation has been labeled such a failure that the headline of a December 2015 NewYork Daily News article on changes to the program dubbed it “Common Corpse.”
In New York State, the latest alteration has eliminated the name Common Core from state education department vocabulary. From now on, the program will be known as “Next Generation Learning Standards.”
On the North Fork, where more than 55 percent of students refused to take the tests this school year, school administrators say changes need to cut deeper than a rebranding initiative.
“It needs to be more than just a change of name, that’s pretty obvious,” said Southold and Greenport Superintendent David Gamberg. “If it was just that, we would have changed the name three years ago and be OK.”
Mr. Gamberg said the growing test refusal rates in schools across the North Fork — where opt-out rates are higher than the Long Island average — shows that area residents do not believe in the system.
“It’s an indication that something is systemically wrong in the way we assess children with the goal of improving education,” he said. “It also reflects a continued lack of trust that these practices are an effective set of tools that teachers and schools should use to promote better outcomes for individual students, and school systems as a whole.”
Beginning in the fall of 2015, after an extended period of public feedback, the exams were shortened and a four-year moratorium was placed on using student test scores a component of teacher evaluations.
State Sen. Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson) said that, moving forward, legislators have given up on the idea that the tests have “any use” in evaluating teacher performance.
“The fact is that people would like to see, not just that it’s pushed off, but that that component is eliminated entirely,” the senator said.
Retiring Riverhead Superintendent Nancy Carney said she’s optimistic about some program changes now being discussed, including those related to students with disabilities and and non-native English speakers.
‘I’m hopeful that it’s going to go forward in a better direction.’
“I think those are going to be positive changes going forward,” Ms. Carney said. “As I’ve said multiple times, the state tests are a small piece of student assessment. I’m hopeful, as I always am, that it’s going to go forward in a better direction.”
Mattituck-Cutchogue Superintendent Anne Smith said future changes should also include giving local school districts control over teacher evaluation, elimination of the idea that state funding should be tied to test participation and creating a system of assessments for all students — not just those at certain grade levels .
“Families are feeling that it’s a political issue and we really don’t want that in our schools,” she said.
Mr. Gamberg said he’d like to see assessments tie into classroom instruction — with peer evaluation controlled at the local level.
“So there’s a real application of learning and you’re saying, ‘Did you provide evidence that showed that you’re performing at a standard that’s this level? If not, here’s where you need to go to improve,’” he said. “That may not sound plausible, but I think that’s the direction we need to head toward — more of that.”