Parents express opposition to Common Core: Standardized film establishes opposition to Core initiative and testing

Sabina Unni, Staff Writer

If you follow comedian Louis C.K. on Twitter, you know how much he hates the current state of education.  A typical tweet will say, “My kids used to love math. Now it makes them cry.  Thanks standardized testing and Common Core!” Louis C.K. isn’t on a one-man crusade against tests; he’s actually backed up by a larger movement against the Common Core, with significant support from educational professionals such as Diane Ravitch.

The Common Core State Standards Initiative, known as the Common Core for short, is an educational endeavor to establish uniform guidelines and expectations on subject matter knowledge and college-readiness for K-12 students.  The vast majority of states comply with the Common Core in order to receive federal government monetary grants for their public schools.

Beyond Louis C.K. there is substantial controversy surrounding the topic.Standardized, the film, is a carefully made documentary that lays out the key issues of increased reliance on test prep in detail. In combination, it unravels the mysteries that surround the mixed motives of standardized testing, including profitable business ventures. It features interviews from educational professionals, teachers, excerpts from news programs, and presidential speeches.

Many of the Common Core complaints date back to its origins during the Reagan administration.  A larger focus on educational policy began then, as President Reagan reported on the state of American education.  He stated the problems American schools faced and provided recommendations on how to fix these problems. The report was challenged because it held many teachers and schools responsible for the problems articulated. Debate surrounding education reform continued under the Bush administration with impassioned reactions to the No Child Left Behind program.  The Federal administration began assessing Annual Yearly Progress for each student through standardized tests and called for a dramatic increase in these exams.

President Obama’s recent Race to the Top Program inextricably ties test scores to teachers’ evaluations.  The goal of this program is to ensure that 100% of students score well on tests.  The dispute and discontent lies in the fact that annual performance ratings track students’ performances on tests throughout their educational careers, and links these tests to their teachers.

Not everyone does well on standardized tests though, for a variety of reasons. In certain cases, socioeconomic status has been proven to have an effect on test scores.  Some students have difficulty taking tests, despite the abilities that teachers have to communicate information.  In addition, some kids can simply have bad days. This results in a variety of test scores, which may yield negative ratings for teachers for unnecessary reasons.

Many theories have arisen as to why the number of standardized tests has increased, but the primary belief is that this restructuring is an attempt to privatize public education.  As schools are deemed failures, the federal government closes schools; an overreach of the federal government into local control, which branches in school districts.

Opponents of the Common Core cite two major reasons: it stifles genuine curiosity and learning, and it does not equip students for life.  Due to the consequences of low ratings and the potential for being deemed a failing school, many teachers have been instructed by administration to emphasize tests and test preparation rather than promoting open-ended exploration and analytical skills.  In conjunction with this, public education has been centered around the mantra of “college and career readiness,” rather than teaching students how to become more ready for life.

“I’m opposed to it (Common Core) because the message of teacher evaluation has been disproven by numerous studies… it shows that trying to evaluate a teacher based on tests scores doesn’t work… in my mind, the goal of going to high school is because I want the schools to make kids into lifelong learners,” said Port Washington parent Ms. Allison White.

According to Fordham professor Mark Naison, the effect of Common Core on students has also been overwhelmingly negative. He stated that, “…excessive testing is squeezing the life out of public education. We now are looking at students in terms of their “college and career readiness” instead of letting them do the thing that children do naturally, play, explore, experiment and collaborate with their peers. Everything that makes school enjoyable is being squeezed out by the testing and we have created a conflict of interest between teachers and students that is good for no one because we are not rating teachers on the basis of student test scores.”

Students have a vital role in the response to educational reform. Many throughout the country have been walking out of standardized testing.

“Unfortunately, the only way to stop this and return to educational sanity is to refuse the tests,” said Naison. “I hope more and more students and families do this until the testing is sharply reduced and we go back to trying to bring joy and creativity back into our schools.”