Student test scores on New York state exams plummeted this year following the state’s adoption of the Common Core national standards.
According to the New York Times, in New York City, 26 percent of students in third through eighth grade passed the state English exam, and only 30 percent passed the math test, compared to 47 percent and 60 percent, respectively, last year.
The Times indicates that city and state officials were expecting the significant drop in scores. Nevertheless, educators and parents reportedly expressed shock when the test results were released.
Chrystina Russell, principal of Global Technology Preparatory in East Harlem, said she was unsure what to say to parents. At her middle school, seven percent of students were rated proficient in English and 10 percent in math on the new tests, while, last year, the proportion passing were 33 percent and 46 percent, respectively.
“Now we’re going to come out and tell everybody that they’ve accomplished nothing this year and we’ve been pedaling backward?” Russell said. “It’s depressing.”
Students in other areas of New York State also showed a decline in test scores. This year, 31 percent of students passed the new exams in both reading and math, compared with 55 percent in reading and 65 percent in math last year.
The Times reports that the exam results show large achievement gaps between black and Hispanic students and white students. In math, 15 percent of black students and 19 percent of Hispanic students passed the test, while 50 percent of white students and 61 percent of Asian students passed.
In response to the grim news of the test results, the Times reports:
Despite the drop in scores, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg appeared on Wednesday at a news conference just as he had in years when results were rosier. He rejected criticisms of the tests, calling the results “very good news” and chiding the news media for focusing on the decline. He said black and Hispanic students, who make up two-thirds of the student population, had made progress that was not reflected in the scores.
“We have to make sure that we give our kids constantly the opportunity to move towards the major leagues,” Mr. Bloomberg said.
The results have prompted some critics to claim that the tests are simply too difficult and that they set unrealistic goals.
According to the Times, Diane Ravitch, an education historian, said, “We’re now demanding that most students are A students, and that’s ridiculous. It will feed into a sense that the tests are not even legitimate measures.”
The Obama administration has been highly supportive of Common Core and its alleged “rigorous academic standards” that it believes will raise the bar for students to be better prepared for college and career readiness. The Obama Department of Education has used its “Race to the Top” competitive grant program to lure states to adopt the K-12 Common Core standards. In addition, the Obama administration has suggested that adoption of the Common Core standards could be a qualification for states hoping to obtain future Title I funding for their low-income schools.
However, conservative organizations such as The Heritage Foundation and the Heartland Institute have objected to the federal overreach into education, arguing that, whether states opt out of Common Core or not, the standards are already being used to write the table of contents for textbooks in math and English, a situation that creates pressure for states to adopt the standards.
In addition, the GED and college entrance exams, such as the SAT and ACT, are now being revised to align with the Common Core standards, once again adding pressure to states that choose not to adopt them.
Indiana is the latest state to withdraw from the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC), its national Common Core testing coalition. In July, Georgia and Oklahoma also withdrew from the tests. PARCC now has only 17 state participants in its coalition, and, thus, may be in jeopardy since it requires 15 state members in order to keep its federal grants that provide all of its operating funds. The other national testing coalition, Smarter Balanced, has 24 participants.