Many parents across the state were startled at how high the failing rates were under the new Common Core standard, but Dr. Merryl Tisch, Chancellor of the New York State Board of Regents, urged moving the discussion away from test scores at City and State’s “On Education” forum yesterday in Manhattan. To illustrate, with some dramatic effect, how relatively insignificant the test scores were at this time, Tisch made a prediction that she likened to Babe Ruth’s called shot home run to centerfield in Game 3 of the 1932 World Series.
Dr. Merryl Tisch (center) speaks at City & State’s “On Education” forum with State Sen. John Flanagan (l) and James Merriman (r), CEO of the New York City Charter School Center
“If we as a public continue to define success in the schools just on test scores… probably the next mayor is going to be successful because the test scores, as with any new tests the first year, it all goes down and then incrementally starts to increase,” Tisch said. “A year from now… I promise you test scores are going up. If you’re going to judge that as success, I would say you’re short-changing the system.”
New York raced to become the second state after Kentucky to be an early implementer of the Common Core standard in a nationwide attempt to bridge the economic and educational gap between the United States and other nations.
Michael Mulgrew, President of the United Federation of Teachers, called Common Core a “good idea” and stated that it “needs to happen for us as a country” after No Child Left Behind “lowered [state’s] standards as to what was appropriate for a child to learn.”
Joining Mulgrew and Tisch in the panel discussion, which was co-sponsored by Copia, were James Merriman, the CEO of the New York City Charter School Center, Okhee Lee, a professor in the Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development at New York University, State Sen. James Flanagan, the chair of the Senate education committee, and Dr. Joan M. Lucariello, the Univesity Dean of Education at the City University of New York. All of the panelists agreed that the Common Core was fundamentally a valuable standard to adopt, and shared the sentiment that there was simply too much emphasis being placed on test scores and not enough on the curricula used to teach children and the environment in which they are taught.
Mulgrew blamed politics for the condition the education system is in and its test-heavy mentality, claiming the state wanted to get ahead and “people wanted to rush out and act like they’re getting things done.” As a result, the roll-out of the Common Core was rockier than it should have been had the state allocated more time to phase in its implementation.
“Do not convolute the tests and what’s going on now with the idea of what Common Core is supposed to do. If we do it correctly in the end it will benefit our country and all the children inside of it,” Mulgrew said.
Tisch stressed that the Common Core will be an essential component of the education system going forward as part of New York’s “drive to higher standards” and that proper implementation will take time.
“We need to reach out to parents so that they understand the expectations of Common Core,” Tisch said. “We need to do a great job communicating why these new test scores that we’ve just seen are not an indicator that there’s been no learning or teaching going on.”
Discussing innovative ways to improve the education system beyond the Common Core, Dr. Lucariello spoke of how teachers are being better prepared through residency training, a method akin to the way doctors are trained, while Mulgrew hailed the Brooklyn Generation School, which he pointed out was currently in session, for its flexible schedule that alternates between six weeks of lessons and two-week vacations to combat the “brain drain” caused by lengthy summer breaks.
Technology was also an area discussed where many schools are lagging behind because of financial constraints, a gap Tisch believes must be remedied by introducing more tablets and computers into the classroom.
“You know, if five years from now, we are still opening up test booklets, we will know that New York State has decided not to be competitive in the 21st century economy,” Tisch said.
Professor Lee highlighted the changing demographics of students as something to be aware of in the coming years, stating that the mentality regarding English Language Learners and the way they are viewed needs to change.
“When we think of ELLs and students with their special needs, we think of them as a deficit instead of thinking of them speaking another language as a resource,” Lee said.
According to Mulgrew, putting politics aside, and instead concentrating on the advances in education that are substantiated by research is imperative to the success of the system.
“You put [politics and education] together and usually it’s games that happen and children who will suffer because of it,” Mulgrew said.