Before Schools Test Kids on the Common Core, Shouldn't They, Uh, Teach It?


What if an administrator could hand a six-inch, several-hundred-page binder to a teacher and completely change the way education happens in America? New York state clearly expects this to happen by linking its high-stakes student evaluations to tests based on the Common Core, a new set of national education standards. The only problem? The state is making these changes before they’ve given the teachers, schools, and administrators time to adjust and learn how best to implement Common Core standards.

Randi Weingarten, the president of the American Federation of Teachers, has actually praised the Common Core standards as an important next step in the evolution of American teaching, but she has warned policymakers from New York and other states that linking high-stakes testing prematurely to the Common Core may be a major mistake. She urges districts to plan first for implementation, encourage teacher buy-in, and train faculty before linking the new standards to testing and teacher evaluations. She tells us, “These standards, which hold such potential to create deeper learning, are instead creating a serious backlash—as officials seek to make them count before they make them work.”

Common Core, a curriculum program supported by 45 states, the District of Columbia, and several territories, has been hailed as the solution to the United States' slip in global education rankings. Common Core, designed to give cohesive teaching guidelines to educators, parents, districts, and administrators, has slowly been trickling into schools and districts one benchmark at a time. 

According to the Common Core website, almost every state that has adopted it plans for full implementation in the 2013-4 school year. This time frame gives, on average, three years between adoption and implementation with the hope that districts will have completed the needed professional development, implementation, and community buy-in to switch completely from their old standards to the new ones.

How, then, is it a reasonable thing for teachers or even those who have developed Common Core and hope to see it succeed in schools to tie evaluations to it before it is even fully carried out in the schools? It takes time to adjust to new ideas, training to do it well, and guidance to bring it into the classroom. Before we are able to evaluate the Common Core, teachers must know how to successfully use it and students need to have been taught the material they are being tested on.