Common Core and Test Scores

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Standardized test (dieselbug2007/flickr)

Merryl Tisch, chancellor of the New York State Board of Regents, talks about the shockingly low standardized test scores for the new Common Core focus and how those scores should be interpreted.

This new push to Common Core will change the paradigm of testing. For a decade testing has been driving instruction and curriculum...this obsession with "drill and kill" has been driving what kids are exposed to in the classroom and how classroom time is used. If we start to focus on critical thinking and the development of critical thinking, I believe that instruction and curriculum and best practice will drive the test. That is a paradigm shift, and that is why we are taking this on. -- Merryl Tisch

Comments [38]

Brian thank you for this segment. There is so much to say...I don't know where to start!

First, I find it ironic that Tisch cites Massachusetts as the "gold standard". Brian did you know before this segment that Mass actually rejected the Common Core curriculum as inadequate and will not be participating? Did you know that NYS adopted the Common Core BEFORE it was released...basically buying a product sight-unseen?

OF COURSE, all children should graduate from HS "college or career" ready. However, there is nothing to indicate that extensive standardized testing, administered year after year, does anything to enhance student learning. So, my first question would be...why do we need to test so frequently? Why not just test at benchmark years? Could it be because Pearson stands to make so much money from this increased testing? Who in NYS is going to benefit from Pearson donations...we've got to follow the money!

Brian we need to follow the money on the Common Core and it's mandatory testing component. There are just 2 or 3 corporations who are going to be selling these products to us, at whopping profits. THAT is the real story here...we are about to privatize education, removing all local control and even national control...handing the reigns of our educational system to Pearson, inBloom and PARCC. THAT is the story!

Aug. 16 2013 12:14 PM

Was Ms. Tisch in the classroom to observe first hand where the stress was coming from? I think not!. Was Ms. Tisch in the homes to observe first hand where the stress was coming from? I think not! Ms. Tisch is very far removed from reality and therefore, should be replaced. I think Ms. Tisch has her own agenda and is not listening to the people of NY when they are trying to tell her these testing atrocities need to stop. What a shame!

Aug. 16 2013 09:39 AM
high school teacher

Just try telling your supervisor that standards are just that and not curriculum.

Any teacher paying attention to their higher-ups knows that the standards essentially equal the law. Language saying that lessons must "align with" or be in "accord with" or "support" the standards essentially means that the Common Core is the law. Follow orders on carrying out the standards or risk a negative evaluation.

Aug. 15 2013 08:36 PM

For any NY state parents interested in opting out or just wish to discuss testing issues with other parents, go to,,, and On Facebook: Coalition for Justice in Education and Re-Thinking Testing Mid-Hudson Region.

Aug. 15 2013 07:28 PM
Neil Friedman from Brooklyn NY

I was disturbed by Chancellor Tisch's responses to the teacher who spoke about the impact testing was having on his students. Either she was patronizing him or she really didn't understand his point at all. . .She speculates that over time has everyone will become accustomed to the tests and every one will feel more comfortable with them. This is absurd and shows her obvious lack of concern for the sensibilities of our teachers and the children and their families.
Testing has it's place but there are many other, less stress inducing ways to do evaluations and assessments. Testing is just less time consuming and more cost effective over time and more profitable for the companies that produce them and whose Boards of Directors have the ear of the Chancellor.

Aug. 15 2013 06:47 PM
Susan Smith from Westchester County

DId she seriously blame adults (teachers?) for the children getting upset?
That takes a lot of nerve!!

By the way, the state test score is worth 20% of the evaluation for all teachers teaching 3rd - 8th grade! If the regents has changed that formula for the 2012-2013 school year my district has not been informed and if the 2013-2014 measure will be growth in state test scores we have not been informed.

Aug. 15 2013 03:44 PM
rb in NY

Anyone who repeats the lie that the CCLStandards are not curriculum has not read the Standards; this is especially true of the Mathematics Standards.

Aug. 15 2013 03:40 PM
Richard from Levittown

It seems to me that great challenges in curriculum development in pre-k through 12 schools is to face the question: How do we understand the science of how children learn and how that is translated in a school curriculum. Having spent more than 50 years in public and private education as a classroom teacher, administrator, and university professor, and having witnessed thousands of educational reforms, I see that many of those reforms disappeared because insufficient attention was given to how children learn, the impact of cultural school diversity, the relationship between organizational factors (i.e., life in bureaucracies), the ideal curriculum v. the taught /learned curriculum, and the connection between brain research and its clinical applications (i.e., what can actually be taught effectively in a school setting).
The newly emerging testing patterns, rooted in national legislation such as NCLB, focus on teacher/student accountability outcomes, it is driving the current shift to Common Core and its evaluation by a testing process. The best forecast we can make is that school outcomes will change in a positive direction, if and when, we can understand and adequately implement the current findings in brain/learning research as that applies to individuals, and groups of children, as they move through the twelve years of the structure/culture of schools.

Aug. 15 2013 11:30 AM

I also want to hear about the "cut scores." Were they determined (4 being highest, 1 the lowest) after scores around the state came in? Is the "proficient" rating equal to the NAEP's "proficient" rating, which experts say is equivalent to an "A"? Parents deserve much more transparency from the State Education Department. It is disgraceful that we find out our children's individual scores starting August 26. Our schools pay out of their own budgets to implement the testing program, which is equivalent to a mass experiment across the state. Parents across NY state, via CECs, school boards, and other means, are coming together to ask questions about the New York state regimen, and we are entitled to more answers. For residents and parents who are interested, please go to

Aug. 15 2013 11:24 AM
dba from nyc

Since these scores will ultimately be tied to teacher evaluation with Danielson, then most teachers would have been judged ineffective on the testing component of the evaluation. So let's say we get a pass this year. What will happen next year when test scores -- I am certain -- will not increase? Will all of these students' teachers be fired when they get 2 consecutive ineffectives as required by the evaluation? And why didn't the students of all of Bloomberg's new schools, with young energetic teachers who replaced the old "deadwoods" who were pushed out when schools were closed, perform better throughout all these years he's controlled the schools? The main problem underlying this "reform" movement is that these "reformers", including King and Tisch have no classroom teaching experience and wouldn't last 5 minutes in a typical high needs school.

Aug. 15 2013 11:20 AM
Gene from NYC

Even if a student manages to stay in school after his/her parent dies early of a tobacco-related disease--Tisch will make sure they _still_ won't get educated.

After all, the more de-classed, uneducated people out there--whether through loss of a parent/breadwinner or just plain poor quality of education--the more customers for Loews/Lorillard.

Aug. 15 2013 11:15 AM
Rocco P. Hill from NYC

Brian thanks for holding her to that Diane Ravitch question. It is absurd that, as the Chancellor of the NYS Board of Regents, Tisch "will never comment on anything that Diane says!"

On Twitter it came up that she is married to James Tisch, CEO of Loews & Lorillard -- the same people that convinced us that tobacco was healthy 50 years ago, and are now trying to convince us that fracking is safe and that NYS is the "Saudi Arabia of natural gas."

Three questions that I wish were asked:
1. Why are some states pulling out of CCSS?
2. What happens to NYS when RttT money runs out?
3. Is it true that parents are split down the middle on the entire premise of the testing associated with Common Core?

Aug. 15 2013 11:03 AM
dba from nyc

Deep analysis and citing evidence from the text is what good teachers have been teaching all along. When tests lead to too many high or low scores, then the tests are flawed. The Common Core Standards are good, but they are in overkill mode. As a teacher, I have read through them all, and they could definitely have been streamlined to avoid the excessive and redundant verbiage that they now comprise. Poor performance by low income students will persist because this kind of deep analysis requires exposure to rich literacy experiences and language development prior to entering school in kindergarten, and also requires reading outside of school. But most kids today do not read outside of schools. So, I predict that in a few years, when test scores remain dismal, the standards will either be modified or abandoned altogether in favor of some new solution to socio-economic factors that teachers cannot control.

Aug. 15 2013 11:02 AM
R Henderson from Tennessee

Chancellor Tisch is absolutely "on the mark" as she stated that NY High School graduates should be at an education level upon graduation from high school to pursue a career, or pursue a college education. The NY high school graduate then has viable options at a critical stage in life. Otherwise, the individual takes what is handed out...marginal employment, living standards...a lottery of life's rocky road.

It is worth noting to the citizens of New York, "graduating" is not the same thing as having possession of an education. Completing the "common core" is some assurance that an educated individual prevails.

Aug. 15 2013 10:59 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

High schools should specialize in such skills as cooking, hamburger flipping, and expertise in video game playing, computer programming, robot building, and should play down reading, writing and complicated math. I mean, kids should obviously be able to read a recipe in order to bake or cook something. But kids should be primarily taught how to make things in high school using their hands as well as minds. Those who actually like reading and writing and mathematics and science should be separated out into "academic" tracks to become writers or teachers or scientists, etc.

Aug. 15 2013 10:51 AM

As a college teacher, I absolutely disagree with Tisch that tests will help make my students more ready for plenty of reasons.

But, even more fundamentally than that, doesn't she just SOUND like a total phony speaking a party line?

Aug. 15 2013 10:48 AM

I remember when they instituted statewide proficiency exams in my home state in high school. The test was idiotic, and for reasons I can't understand, I was found NOT PROFICIENT in the English test.
It made little sense. I was an Honors student, and my best grades were in English classes. I don't believe in testing. Half the time it is BS.

Aug. 15 2013 10:45 AM
Jennifer from Westchester

Has Ms. Tisch read over the NY State workbook materials herself? They are frought w/errors an questionable answers. These kids are not being taught the humanities anymore-very poor history, politics, social studies, arts etc....and a bunch of math and grammar drills. I think the regents are in bed w/the testing companies and their very lucrative constant changing of the curriculum and the materials the schools keep having to buy or else funds will be cut. Ms. Tisch-the kids are suffering from your politics. You are insensitive.

Aug. 15 2013 10:45 AM

Regarding the need for remedial instruction in preparation for college: Is there support for an extra year of high school to better prepare students for the rigors of college-level critical thinking?

This education needs to be free, not payed by the student.

Aug. 15 2013 10:44 AM
Jon from Queens

I would recommend to the Chancellor that she not continually speak in the subjunctive.

Aug. 15 2013 10:43 AM
gene from NYC

Yes, Joan, she seems to have learned a lot of PR techniques from her tobacco baron husband, James S. Tisch (Loews/Lorillard)

That anyone from this accursed family should be in charge of students is astonishing. But I guess money buys anything--including Central Park's CHILDREN'S ZOO(!)

Aug. 15 2013 10:42 AM
brooklyn mom from Brooklyn

Students are struggling in college - Do you know about the 8 year study?

They found that students in schools with a rich and deep curriculum who were exempted from the standardized tests did better in college. Why not try this bold step?

Finland - no tests!

How on earth can you expect this system to result in better teaching and curriculum. Logic tells us that it will just result in more test prep.

Standards and standardization are not the same thing.

Aug. 15 2013 10:42 AM
Bob from Huntington

This is not a "higher standard," as your guest maintains, this is a different standard that comports with the desires of industry leaders and their political allies to create a population of workers more attuned to their needs. So kiss
social studies and history good bye. We don't need a population of disgruntled workers capable of discerning where the political and economic developments of the last 40 years have placed them--less well off than their parents and grandparents.

A recently retired teacher writes here about the deficiencies of students educated entirely under Bush and Obama education policies:

Aug. 15 2013 10:39 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

This fiasco is due to the single-track mind of the Liberals that is brutally trying to force their elitist view of life and its purpose on these hapless kids. Most kids don't want to read and write all day. They want to DO, to PLAY, to do things and not just read and write ad nauseum, non-stop.
Now I loved reading, and read voraciously, and was a successful test taker, all the way up to Full Regents Scholarship. It meant nothing in the long run.
Your liberal guest once again assumes that unless one is being molded as an Academic Man (like the Soviet Man in the old USSR), that man or woman is a failure. If you are not going to college, you are human waste. This has to stop!

Aug. 15 2013 10:39 AM
john from office

I hate these segments.

The teachers fill the board with propaganda, the parents call in about the "stress" their kids are under and the guest talks like a mommy-teacher robot, spewing words like a power point presentation.

It comes down to we keep trying to reinvent the wheel and the kids suffer.

Aug. 15 2013 10:39 AM
JHC from NYC

In the last 5 minutes, Dr. Tisch has said "The drop in test scores should not be read as a drop in educator performance." Also, "This is the first year these tests are being used to gauge educator performance." (Paraphrases, but accurate ones.) Which is correct?

Aug. 15 2013 10:38 AM

I am a big supporter of the Commom Core standards, and I am not fundamentally against standardized testing. but the actual test questions this year were terrible, at least on the ELA, which I scored. Many of the questions were too vague to be a valid measure. We need better tests!

Aug. 15 2013 10:34 AM
ivan obregon from nyc

"Common Core State Standards

Standards Are Not a Curriculum
The Core Knowledge Foundation supports the Common Core State Standards Initiative and is committed to helping ensure their successful implementation in schools nationwide. The standards represent “a not-to-be missed opportunity for the nation to begin catching up in verbal achievement,” noted E. D. Hirsch, Jr., the founder of the Core Knowledge Foundation.

Adopted by nearly every state in the U.S., the Common Core Standard for English Language Arts & LIteracy note that “building knowledge systematically in English language arts is like giving children various pieces of a puzzle in each grade that, over time, will form one big picture.” The standards emphasize the importance of students reading texts across disciplines and building a foundation of knowledge that will give them the background to be better readers in all content areas. By stressing that “students can only gain this foundation when the curriculum is intentionally and coherently structured to develop rich content knowledge within and across grades,” the standards echo and support the work of the Core Knowledge Foundation.

It is important to note that the terms "standards" and "curriculum" are often—and erroneously—used as synonyms for one another. Standards define what children should know and be able to do at the end of each grade. A curriculum, like the Core Knowledge Sequence, describes what children need to learn to meet those standards.

The Common Core State Standards leave curriculum decisions to the states, but the message is clear: Successful implementation of the new standards depends on a coherent, specific, and content-rich curriculum."


Aug. 15 2013 10:34 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

All of this folly is due to the destruction of the Comprehensive High School system by the liberals back in the early 1960s, who destroyed the three-track curriculum system (academic/vocational/commercial) because it was deemed racist and anti-Black, because it appeared to shift minorities away from the Academic track and into Vocational and Commercial tracks. It was then called "tracking" and presumed a bias against students of color.

And so high school was re-purposed to be almost totally one track: college prep. EVeryone is supposed to go to college. College, or "higher education," is the proffered solution to racism, poverty, and all the ills that plague humanity. Utter nonsense.

The only way out is to bring the school system back to where it belongs, that is to be a place that prepares children for the world of work, and only a quarter of them for "higher education."

Aug. 15 2013 10:33 AM
Joan from Brooklyn

Listen to this woman - the pained concern, the reassurances, the platitudes. To paraphrase Mel Brooks - they (she and her ilk) need to save their phoney, baloney jobs.

Aug. 15 2013 10:33 AM
Emily Hodge from West Milford, NJ

I have a question for Dr. Tisch about the new teacher evaluation plans that will judge teachers' performance, in part, on test scores. I am curious about how she sees these evaluation plans interacting with the Common Core assessments (e.g., if students are "failing" the Common Core assessment in large numbers, how can teachers be fairly evaluated, especially during this time of transition?)

Aug. 15 2013 10:30 AM
H.S. Bass from Brooklyn

Can you please clarify what the controversy is behind these exams? Is it that they are tougher or because they are being used to measure the quality of the educators?

Why is a tougher curriculum a problem if it highlights for the student their weaknesses?

Aug. 15 2013 10:29 AM
Larry from Brooklyn

I have heard this issue discussed on WNYC many times. However, one thing I have not heard is the fact that having these scores now provides a new baseline in performance with a new instrument that will allow us to determine whether the new curriculum (common core) improves student learning. If it was done after the new core was implemented, we would not know whether it does anything!

Of course, if these current scores are used for any purpose other than this, that would be a shame.

Aug. 15 2013 10:29 AM

Please ask Ms. Tisch which companies (Pearson, etc.) are contracted with regard to these tests, what exactly they are contracted to do, and HOW MUCH they are each being paid by the city and state of NY.

Aug. 15 2013 10:28 AM
Opt Out Parent from Brooklyn, NY

The scores are low because our elected officials want to see failure. This provides a playing field for school closure, firing teachers, breaking the union and privatizing schools. It's very convenient to do this on the backs of our children, whose education is clearly not the priority of our leaders. For if their children attended our public schools, you would see a very different behavior. As a matter of fact, private schools that educate our leaders' children do NOT take these tests and are NOT judged by such standards. Why don't parents opt their children out of these destructive tests as an act of conscious resistance, to a set of policies that are clearly harmful to children, teachers and schools? If you can see through the smoke and mirrors, you will realize these tests are driven by power and money, not by the love and concern of our children, their education and the public school system. For information:

Aug. 15 2013 10:21 AM
parent from parent voices NY from Brooklyn

This is from the engage NY website -

1st graders are supposed to demonstrate all 81 of these skills.

What research tells us that what we are asking students to read, write and do at a certain age is appropriate and or will lead to college readiness?

My child's school's scores dropped 30%, but historically our kids do end up in college. Crazy making is what happens when people in power tell the people that the reality they know to be true is not true. How will you address the crazy feelings students and parents will feel upon receipt of these results? And how can you feel so confident about this new reality created by the cut scores.

Domain 4 Materials

This Tell It Again! Read-Aloud Anthology for Early World Civilizations contains background information and resources that the teacher will need to implement Domain 4, including an alignment chart for the domain to the Common Core State Standards; an introduction to the domain including necessary background information for teachers, a list of domain components, a core vocabulary list for the domain, and planning aids and resources; 16 lessons including objectives, read-alouds, discussion questions, and extension activities; a Pausing Point; a domain review; a domain assessment; culminating activities; and teacher resources. By the end of this domain, students will be able to:

Locate the area known as Mesopotamia on a world map or globe and identify it as part of Asia;
Explain the importance of the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers and the use of canals to support farming and the development of the city of Babylon;
Describe the city of Babylon and the Hanging Gardens;
Identify cuneiform as the system of writing used in Mesopotamia;
Explain why a written language is important to the development of a civilization;
Explain the significance of the Code of Hammurabi;
Explain why rules and laws are important to the development of a civilization;
Explain the ways in which a leader is important to the development of a civilization;
Explain the significance of gods/goddesses, ziggurats, temples, and priests in Mesopotamia;
Describe key components of a civilization;
Identify Mesopotamia as the “Cradle of Civilization”;
Describe how a civilization evolves and changes over time;
Locate Egypt on a world map or globe and identify it as a part of Africa;
Explain the importance of the Nile River and how its floods were important for farming;
Identify hieroglyphics as the system of writing used in ancient Egypt;
Explain the significance of gods/goddesses in ancient Egypt;
Identify pyramids and explain their significance in ancient Egypt;
Describe how the pyramids were built;

Aug. 15 2013 09:46 AM
Fred Smith

Please ask Chancellor Tisch why she didn't call for an investigation of the discredited 2009 tests produced by CTB/McGraw-Hill (and the preposterously high scores that year) but, instead, continued to use CTB in 2010 and 2011 and has rushed us forward to the next reform.

More importantly, why has the State Education Department made it so difficult for interested parties to get simple and technical information about the tests--in essence avoiding transparency--that would shed light on the makeup and quality of the exams (for example: providing detailed information about how the test items were field tested, what the difficulty levels of the items administered in April were). Providing this kind of data would not require researchers to see the actual items.

What is she doing to repay the public's trust in its educational leaders? What actions has she taken to ensure that proposed Truth-in-Testing legislation has teeth and will be enacted in the next session of the legislature?

Aug. 15 2013 08:48 AM
Michele Hamilton

The main purpose of these tests is to reinforce the increasingly unequal class system we now have in the U.S. Test results show that the achievement gap has INCREASED. These tests weren't more "rigorous", they were impossible - age inappropriate and much too long so that many children did not have time to finish. Now these children will believe that have failed, adding to their demoralization. Please ask Ms. Tisch about the arbitrary cut scores imposed by Commissioner King.

Aug. 15 2013 07:33 AM

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