The common core rests on a view of teaching as complex decision making, as opposed to something more routine or drill-based.... It requires instructional strategies on teachers’ parts that enable students to explore concepts and discuss them with each other, to question and respectfully challenge classmates’ assertions. So I see the common core as a fertile and rich opportunity for really important professional learning by teachers, because—I don’t know now how to say this nicely—well, not all teachers have been prepared to teach in this way. I see that as one of the enormous challenges facing the common core rollout.
Tests should be used for high-stakes decisions about individual mastery only after implementing changes in teaching and curriculum that ensure that students have been taught the knowledge and skills on which they will be tested.
New standards have given birth to new curriculum and teaching practices. And the bar has been raised. Some of the outcry about "teaching to the test" merely reflects dissatisfaction with the common core and its implementation. "Teaching to the test" really means "I don't like this whole standards - curriculum - testing" change.
Some schools have engaged in bad test prep, including excessive drilling, rote learning, and item testing. A few have even resorted to cheating. These are bad practices that deserve to be criticized.
And some districts with fewer resources, poorer residents, and huge achievement gaps have made the tough choice to prioritize raising students up to proficiency, rather than advancing all students. While I think this is a sub-optimal decision, I understand why it was made. Next post: "Teaching to the Test - Part 3"