With the countdown until the 2015 Common Core tests underway, some school teachers are taking a stronger stance in objecting to the federally mandated tests. Teachers speaking out against the Common Core tests often are subject to retaliation from administrators, which can ultimately lead to termination of employment. This week, a few brave New York teachers decided to make a public statement against the Common Core, in spite of the daunting threat to their livelihood.
This week on Wednesday, Jia Lee, a fifth-grade special education teacher at the Earth School in New York City gave testimony to the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee.
“Last year, I decided that I am obligated and accountable to my students and families, and that is why, as a conscientious objector, I will not administer tests that reduce my students to a single metric and will continue to take this position until the role of standardized assessments are put in their proper place.”
Lee said that over half of the parents at her school refused to let their children take the Common Core tests. She also said that other New York schools had a similar ratio of parents opting their children out of the federal tests. You can check out the clip right here:
As powerful as her testimony was, Lee wasn’t the only New York teacher to speak up this week. Jennifer Rickert a sixth grade teacher with more than two decades of experience in the classroom has made her voice heard this week as well. While she teaches several hours away from New York City in the Catskills, she is requesting reassignment during the Common Core testing window. In this excerpt from her testimony, Rickert gives specific examples of how the test pushes far beyond the cognitive development of the students that she teaches:
My students are 11- and 12-years-old. They are at the cognitive level that Jean Piaget, revered cognitive theorist, characterized as “concrete-operational,” meaning they can think logically about concrete events but have difficulty understanding abstract or hypothetical situations. Yet in the guide, it states that students will “evaluate intricate arguments.”
In addition, “students will need to make hard choices between fully correct and plausible, but incorrect answers that are designed specifically to determine whether students have comprehended the entire passage.” This is not developmentally appropriate for my students, and I find it cruel and harmful to suggest that it is. I do not believe in knowingly setting my students up for failure. I cannot remain silent for one more day without speaking up for my students.
The reading passages on the 2015 Common Core test will be “authentic passages.” Well, that sounds great until you consider 11-year-old reading passages from texts like “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn” and “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer,” which include “controversial ideas and language some may find provocative.” This is not okay with me. The students I work with every day are still children. It is not my business to subject them to “provocative language” in sixth grade. In addition, 11-year-old children do not have the capacity to understand these themes. They do not have a context for these time periods in history until they have had more exposure to New York State and United States history. The majority of students do not receive this exposure until they are in Grades 7 and 8.
The guide also indicates that students will be reading difficulty levels, or Lexiles, as high as 1185, which is the level eleventh-grade students are required to understand. When children read, if the difficulty level significantly exceeds their instructional level, the lack of fluency causes a dramatic breakdown in comprehension.
Clearly, this is a set-up for the kids to fail. As students learn, they make sense out of new information through schema. Schemata are cognitive frameworks to which they can add to, or modify, as they learn new information. One could compare the requirement for children to understand these passages to expecting them to master algebra before establishing number sense; there is no foundation to build knowledge upon.
You can see the entire clip here:
By standing up for their students in refusing to administer the Common Core test, these teachers personify integrity in education. They are putting their entire careers on the line, putting themselves at risk for near-certain reprisal from administrators and educational bureaucrats. Will teachers from other states begin to stand up and speak out as these educators in New York have?
With serious questions arising about how Common Core is data mining our children, southern states and even the city of Chicago are preparing to back out on the federal K-12 standards in education. This is an issue for moderates, liberals and conservatives. Here at Take Back Your Classrooms, we will give you a nonpartisan perspective on this educational crisis and hopefully a way out as well. If enough of us make noise, at the right time, to the right people, then I believe that we can force our lawmakers to remove this cancer from our children’s lives. Join us, and let’s take back our classrooms!