Just how bad are the new Common Core tests? Two New York educators offer a frightening in-depth look

Glenn has spoken for some time about how the fight against Common Core is a cause that can unite the left and the right, and it seems as though that logic is beginning to prove true.

A recent Washington Post article entitled “A disturbing look at Common Core tests in New York” makes a case study out of New York state where parents and teachers who were over promised are now finding themselves underwhelmed by the impact of the Common Core standards. Earlier this year, NY Governor Andrew Cuomo (D) amended the state’s teacher and principal evaluations to protect educators from their students’ low scores on Common Core-based exams.

The Post highlights work by Carol Burris and John Murphy. Murphy is a former English teacher and assistant principal at South Side High School in New York. Burris is principal of the school and has been highlighting the “flawed implementation” of the Common Core standards.

Right off the bat, Burris and Murphy make their position on the issue clear:

Congratulations to the New York State Education Department. Officials there have solved the college remediation problem. Their Common Core graduation tests are so “rigorous” and have a new passing score (for students graduating in 2022) set so high that only about 1 in 4 students will graduate high school. And the elite 25 percent who make it won’t be going to community college, so the colleges with highest remediation rates can close.

The article proceeds to take a look at two of New York state’s Regents exams “in order to better understand the continuing march of New York’s reformist lemmings right over the cliff of reason.”

Ouch.

Burris and Murphy first take a look at the June 2014 Common Core Algebra Regents, which was administered primarily to eighth and ninth grade students. The authors highlight question 12 as evidence of how the Common Core standards have maimed the wording of exams:

In the past, the question would have been phrased: “Given the roots -6 and 5, which of the following would be the correct equation?” Students are then given four choices.

Here is the Common Core phrasing: “Keith determines the zeros of the function f(x) to be -6 and 5. What could be Keith’s function?”

This is but one example of a question that was made unnecessarily complicated and wordy in order to give the illusion of a ‘real world’ problem that requires deep thinking.

You can see the entire Common Core Algebra Regents HERE.

Because of the way the test is scored (a topic Murphy and Burris explain thoroughly in the article), a large number of students will fail. As a result those students will then “take the Common Core Algebra course and the test over and over again, rather than move on to Geometry and Advanced Algebra, which would better prepare them for college.” The authors refer to this phenomenon as “a glass ceiling” created by “overly complicated problems in the name of the Common Core.”

The article also takes a look at the June 2014 Common Core English Regents, which Murphy and Burris describe as “even worse” than the math exam. The test has been changed to more similarly model the Advanced Placement Language exam and requires students to read and write more in less time than previous versions of the exams. As the article explains:

[T]he reading requirement on the new exam has almost tripled; the January 2014 ELA Regents exam contained readings that totaled 2,200 words, compared to the Common Core’s 6,200. What’s more, the readings themselves are more difficult in terms of vocabulary, main idea or theme, and syntax–so students have less time to spend on each question, and significantly less time to spend on the writing.

Furthermore, the authors do not believe the exam provides an better indication of college preparedness than the former format did:

We were promised that the test would be an indication of who was and was not college and career ready; the test has no validity in this regard. In fact, we are hearing reports of students taking both the Common Core and the traditional English Regents this month, passing the Common Core Regents and failing the traditional exam. When guessing gets you to pass, a test measures close to nothing.

Check out the June 2014 Common Core English Regents HERE.

Ultimately, Burris and Murphy are not chastising the idea of more rigorous standards. In fact, they seem to support the concept. They do, however, take issue with the various claims that were made while Common Core was being forced through in many states:

Can New York’s students meet more challenging standards? Of course they can. But you must have reasonable standards, take the time to build capacity, and then create assessments that allow students to show what they know, not make tests so difficult few can demonstrate their learning. New York is the canary in the Common Core mine. New York parents, as well as parents in other states, should take the time to look at these tests and decide for themselves if they are reasonable assessments on which to base all students’ diplomas. Is the Common Core and its tests the path to college readiness? We think not.

Read the entire Washington Post report HERE.