August 2015

Ik1AqEj4_400x400For as long as tests have been given, students have been dreaming up ways to get out of them. But parents usually saw through excuses and prevailed to keep kids in classrooms on exam day.

Not anymore.

As another school year begins, parents in pockets across the country, from Seattle to Long Island, are protesting what they see as excessive standardized testing. They are refusing to let their children take mandated statewide tests — an action in which anger has overtaken good judgment.

Granted, the tests required by the federal No Child Left Behind law aren’t ideal. In many places, a focus on test-prep has shortchanged more effective ways of teaching. But like them or not, the tests are the most objective measures of student progress and school performance. They shouldn’t be dumped by individual parents in political protest.

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shutterstock_106380011Former teacher Lisette Partelow is tired of hearing that the Common Core Standards inhibit teacher creativity and recently put pen to paper to let people know “it’s simply not true.”

In a recent piece in US News, Partelow explained how the standards were designed to allow for flexibility and creativity in the classroom. She shared several examples to demonstrate that the standards do not define what teachers should teach or how students should learn, rather, they focus on what students need to know. Take, for instance, the Common Core math standards, which are “less concerned that students master a single prescribed approach to getting the right answer” and instead emphasize students’ understanding that there are multiple ways to solve a problem correctly.

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major-marks

Photo source: TigerSwan

Maj. Gen. James “Spider” Marks is the former commanding general of the U.S. Army Intelligence Center.

It might be strange to hear a retired Army guy commend the new system of standardized tests given to students from elementary to high school, but if there’s one thing military personnel know well, it’s how to measure achievement and progress.

Everything that an individual does, a unit does, even the Defense Department does is measured against a known and accepted standard. That is how we determine readiness and operational success. If our standards are off, the consequences of mission failure can be very serious.

So we take great care in developing our standards, take the time to ensure that everyone who will be assessed understands the benchmarks, and then devote effort to after-action reports to learn more about our strengths and our weaknesses.

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Photo By Helen H. Richardson/The Denver Post.

Photo By Helen H. Richardson/The Denver Post.

Crystal Gallegos, a Pueblo educator, recently wrote an op-ed for the Denver Post expressing her support for Colorado’s new academic standards. In her opinion piece, Gallegos explains how, until recently, students’ education was largely dictated by where they lived.

This is changing thanks to the Colorado Academic Standards, which set higher expectations for students “while ensuring that where a family lives, their income, or their race or ethnicity won’t determine the quality of education a child receives.” She explains how higher standards are essential to closing achievement gaps and making sure more Colorado students graduate prepared for college and career. This means that all Colorado students, from Dolores to Fort Collins, have opportunities to excel and reach their full potential. This also means that Colorado businesses in every corner of the state have access to the homegrown workforce they need.

As Gallegos says, the Colorado Academic Standards “represent a major step forward for education in our state.” By raising the bar and setting higher expectations, we can continue to drive improvements in student achievement and secure a stronger future for Colorado.

To read Crystal’s op-ed, click here.

 

In a new video from Real Learning for Real Life, Aurora teacher, Cassie Harrelson, explains Colorado’s new math standards and the benefits for teachers and students.

appleJoanie Funderburk is in her 25th year as a math educator. She has represented Colorado on several committees with PARCC and has been an active member of the Colorado PARCC Educator Leader Cadre since Colorado became a PARCC state in 2012.

As the students of Colorado take the first round of the new state tests for math and English, many debates surrounding testing, and these tests in particular, are heating up.

As a math educator for over 25 years, including more than 19 in Colorado, I hear comments and critiques of the tests that demonstrate fear and confusion around PARCC, the testing consortium at the core of Colorado’s new assessments.

I have had the opportunity to participate in several phases of the creation of the PARCC math tests, and each time, I learned more about the test, the expectations for students, and ways that teachers could support students in being prepared for the test. These experiences gave me confidence in these tests. I hope that by explaining my reasons for this confidence, I might help alleviate some of the stress teachers, parents, and students may be feeling.

Just days after Colorado became a PARCC state in August of 2012, I traveled with about 25 other Colorado educators to Chicago to the first convening of the PARCC Educator Leader Cadre. This group met approximately twice a year, and at each convening we had the chance to ask questions, give input, and provide feedback to shape what was important to each of our states. (more…)