Being a student in New York City is no easy feat, but being a high school student takes the cake. The stakes are raised the very moment you enter the middle school phase, as you’re introduced to an entirely foreign obstacle, Common Core standards. It doesn’t take long to figure out that these tests aren’t your typical run-of-the-mill state exams. In the case of some students theCommon Core’s reinforced emphasis on the major four subjects is much appreciated, but in the case of others whose strengths rest in subjects that aren’t supported by Common Core, the experience can prove to be miserable.
And as your school’s academic agenda is refitted to include Common Core standards, suddenly you find yourself sitting in a test room instead of a classroom for an entire school year. Meanwhile, teachers are forced to go out of their way and allot time to reviewing Common Core material to their already busy schedules. The inclusion of Common Core can be strenuous for both the teacher and student, as well as for parents, who finds their households invaded with heavier loads of homework, endless piles of notes and sleepless nights.
In a recent announcement, Mayor Bill de Blasio celebrated a 1 percent increase in math proficiency and a 2 percent in English-as-a-second-language proficiency as a landmark achievement that only proved the value of New York City’s adoption of Common Core standards under his administration. And while white and Asian students enjoyed a substantial increase in proficiency in both subjects, the persistence of the racial gap showed when it came to the less-remarkable increase made by Hispanic and African-American students. The mayor and city schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña gave even less coverage on the rising opt-out movement that gained much traction in the state, with more than 20 percent of students opting out of taking tests based on Common Core standards, explaining away the issue by saying that just 2 percent of students opted out in the city.
As a student whose school accepts Common Core standards, I can sympathize with the grievances listed by supporters of the opt-out movement, but at the same time I can understand de Blasio’s motivations for supporting the program. Less easy to digest is the fact that much of the school year is dedicated either to adopting Common Core standards or to reviewing Common Core material. In my experience Common Core standards reduce the role of teachers to mere puppets, spewing random lessons directly from a book that they’ve never used or seen before. And of course, while some students learn to adjust to the new material, others fail miserably, in that they are forced into a position where struggling often times risks being left behind. A confused student suddenly becomes a lost cause, as the issue of passing as many students as possible clouds the judgement of many teachers.
Last year I happened to be that confused student, and I was forced to watch on the sidelines as my peers engaged in what could only be called a crude interpretation of Darwin’s “Survival of the Fittest.” And like me, many New York students were reminded time and time again of the city’s No Child Left Behind doctrine, and yet I continued to struggle throughout the school year, sinking deeper and deeper into the abyss, until I found myself staring at my Common Core geometry.
But I still support the Mayor’s stance on citywide education; I only ask that his administration take into consideration the possibility of modifying its implementation of Common Core standards, so that I too may get the most out of its application.
Still the question remains: Why are parents and students still opposed to Common Core standards? And because it is a question that is being asked the mayor shouldn’t neglect the significance of the opt-out movement. From my viewpoint, a compromise is achievable. A healthy balance between Common Core standards and liberal standards could not only benefit the city but the state as well.
Perhaps even more intriguing is how de Blasio and Fariña would address the matter if the number of students opting out of Common Core exams in New York City should come to resemble the state’s current numbers.