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Qns students tackle Common Core tests

City Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott addresses questions from the audience at an education town hall meeting. Photo by Joe Anuta
TimesLedger Newspapers

As students in Queens and across the city last week began taking the state’s new, tougher English and math exams, parents and teachers expressed concerns that their students would be graded on tests for which they were not adequately prepared.

Students in Grades 3-8 last week sat down for the first time to take tests reflecting New York’s adoption of the Common Core standards designed to raise the bar in classrooms across the country.

The standards aim to expand the scope of literacy across disciplines and teach advanced math concepts. All but four states have adopted them and New York is one of the first to administer tests incorporating the new concepts, although neither the city nor the state has provided a comprehensive curriculum to educators.

Last year, the state Education Department put out a request for proposals for curriculum modules aligned to the Common Core, but so far only a few exemplary modules have been made available, and the state Education Department does not expect the full set of modules to be available until March.

In an attempt to assist schools, the city Department of Education has provided a Common Core fellowship for educators to help in the transition, but not every school has a fellow.

“When is the DOE going to provide proper training?” PS 201 teacher Vanessa Velez asked city Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott at a town hall meeting last week.

Walcott pointed to the curriculum timetable and said the DOE will consider all the extraneous circumstances when grading the tests.

He said he understood the pressures they put on students, but contended the new standards are essential.

“I really empathize with the increased anxiety,” he said. “This starts a new baseline. This starts the first year for the more rigorous testing, and I support it.”

Results from the tests will come out in July, and next year high school students will begin taking Regents exams reflecting the new standards. The full math curriculum for ninth-grade is scheduled to be available by the end of the summer.

Woodside parent Marge Kolb said that while she thought it was foolhardy the way the tests have been rolled out, it is important to consider the new standards and the exams independent of each other.

“The testing and the curriculum are two different things. We still need to separate Common Core from the exams,” she said, adding it is ultimately up to education officials to decide what to take away from this year’s tests. “Time will tell.”

Reach reporter Rich Bockmann by e-mail at rbockmann@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4574.

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