New York Test Scores Plummet, But Here's Why You Shouldn't Panic

The Common Core Standards have caused a stir, dividing educators and American families as their effectiveness has remained uncertain. But after the standards' first year of implementation, New York State test scores are finally giving the two sides some data to fight about.

The Common Core is a national movement adopted by 46 states to replace current education standards that quite frankly aren’t working. Only 43% of college-bound students in 2012 met the minimum requirements for college readiness according to College Board, a number that gets worse for low-income students. The Common Core seeks to get students ready by teaching them topics from a critical-thinking approach instead of the rote, step-by-step style of learning that most Americans grew up with. This shift is scary for many parents, especially when their students are partaking in benchmark tests and getting miserable scores. But before parents organize themselves into boycotting the testing regimen, they need to understand that standards need time to adjust, and dips in test scores are a natural byproduct of change.

The intentions behind boycotting Common Core are good ones. Parents of course want to protect their children from the scrutiny of failure and ensure they receive a quality education. But the Common Core goes well beyond a one-time test that parents can have their children opt out of. These assessments are necessary for educators and school districts to make formative decisions about the instruction being given inside the classroom. Imagine running a business and never testing your product for its effectiveness. The same approach is true for education. Maintaining a balance between educating the child as a critical thinker and testing to ensure students have mastered the content is crucial to the improvement of American education.

While the test scores from New York appear worrisome on the surface, they’re actually quite indicative of what's happening in other cities across the U.S. Baltimore, for example, is in the middle of a multi-year transition to the Common Core. Test scores showed declines for math and little change for reading. Since implementation of the fully aligned curriculum was optional to schools, the scores showed mixed results across the city. Boycotting Common Core testing would not only be a massive waste of money, it wouldn’t give the system the time it needs to work out all the kinks. The transition to full implementation is expected to make for poor test scores in the short run, but setbacks are a natural part of striving for improvement.  

We’re at a turning point in American education, and the fact is we cannot continue to repeat the same broken model and expect different results. While parents should always advocate for their child’s education, boycotting the testing will only hurt students. Time will tell if the Common Core standards are right for American schools, but until then we’re going to have to accept some bumps in the road.