Common Core Causing Problems in Connecticut

Feelings towards Common Core are starting to sour at the New Haven Public Schools in Connecticut. From the tests to lack of computer access for poorer students, the teachers have found many problems with the program.

A community conversation took place on January 8 with Central Connecticut State University Assistant Professor of Teacher Education Jacob Werblow, district Deputy Superintendent Imma Canelli, district language arts teacher Carolyn Streets, and district math coach Patricia Abdur-Rahman on a panel.

In October, the school district decided to use the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) test instead of its old state tests. None of the panelists like it:

“Our kids are capable of more,” Canelli said.

She said the standards require a student to master one area before moving on to the next, and particularly in language arts, will make students “critical thinkers.”

“So the standards are higher, so what our job is is to take the students from where they are, to get them to that point,” Canelli said. “If the students have not mastered addition and subtraction, we can’t move them to multiplication and division.”

Abdur-Rahman teaches at Truman, which is a low-performing school where many children do not have access to a computer at home. The district has about 400 homeless kids.

“We have kids that already couldn’t meet the standards before,” Abdur-Rahman said. “So now you’ve raised the standards to a higher level, so teachers feel that they are pressured to teach this amount of work, to teach kids information that they might not necessarily be ready to learn.”

Practice tests are sent home but are useless unless the children own a computer. If they do not have a computer, they do not have the necessary skills to take an electronic test.

“With this whole testing thing, I don’t know where it came from,” she said. “I think it’s all political, I honestly believe it. I think there’s an attack on public education. I do believe that with this Common Core, because it wasn’t written by educators, it was written by politicians and private business.

“A lot of this is set up so people can fail, so they can say, ‘Oh look where you are! You can’t do this, you failed. We have to come in and do something else,’” she said.

Connecticut has been one of the more Common Core-friendly states. On January 6, the state offered $1 million to one of four companies to promote it in the state. The state even set aside $14.6 million to transition, even though none of the standards have been tested.

Abdur-Rahman admitted she has not felt any pushback from parents, but she said many parents are not even aware of what is happening in the schools. However, Robert Rader, executive director of the Connecticut Association of Boards of Education, told CT News Junkie that informing the public would be a priority:

Anticipating that student scores on the new Common Core assessments will drop, Rader added that the board of education and other stakeholder groups will be ensuring that the public understands what Common Core is about.

One parent stood up at the conference and expressed displeasure about being left out of the implementation process. Werblow told the parents they could opt out their kids, but said they were told to discourage parents from taking that road.

He said the state Department of Education in December released information to school districts on how to discourage a parent from opting out but that fundamentally, parents hold the right in their child’s education. The opt-out movement has traditionally gained speed in places such as New York and Seattle as a result of parent- and educator-led protests. Last school year, about 8,000 New York parents opted their children out of PARCC, according to Jesse Turner, director of the Central Connecticut State University Literacy Center.

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