Its common knowledge that the New York State flawed roll out of the "Common Core" standards has resulted in some very dismal 2013 test scores for grades 3 to 8. Its obvious to many educators that the State's attempt to repair a plane while in flight has ended up crash landing, even if the NYSED doesn't want to admit it. Now the "Common Core" standards are being introduced to the high schools. However, for classes that end with a Regents the inclusion of "Common Core" material is problematical since many of the Regents have not been modified for the "Common Core" and the curriculum associated with these Regents remains unchanged.
Since I am a Science teacher, let's see the problems associated with the implementation of the "Common Core" materials into the existing curriculum. First, a majority of schools, under pressure to save money and limit the amount of teachers they need to hire, have reduced the number of days for Science instruction from a 5-1 schedule (five days of instruction plus one lab) to a 4-1 schedule (four days of instruction and one lab). The result is that the students have almost a month less of instruction days and the teachers find themselves under time pressure to finish the curriculum by the end of the school year. Where once, Science teachers had almost a month to review for the Regents, just finishing the curriculum is a small victory. Anecdotal evidence has shown that schools that went to the 4-1 schedule resulted in a significantly lower Regents passing rate. This is primarily due to the DOE's misguided "fair student funding" program that encourages principals to hire fewer teachers with their budget in mind.
Second, the Regents have remained essentially "unchanged" and the Science teachers must cover the multiple units and topics that show up on the Regents. If Science teachers are pressured to include the more detailed "Common Core" standards into their teaching of the subject, the units and topics will take longer to teach and add to the time pressure these Science teachers already have in the 4-1 schedule. The result would be that some teachers will skip topics in a unit in the hopes that the Regents doesn't have too many questions on the topics that the teacher skipped. In other words, its like "robbing Peter to pay Paul" and to me this is not allowing for masterly of the subject by the students.
Finally, principals have found out that neither the DOE or UFT cares or bothered to crack down on schools using teachers not certified in the content specialty that is required by State Education Law. Look at PS 106, there was apparently no Special Education Teacher for the Special Education students and nobody seemed to care or do anything about it. How about Queens Vocational and Richmond Hill, amoung many others, who uses non-certified teachers in that content specialty to teach Earth Science? Can you image asking these teachers to include more rigorous and in-depth instruction in a subject that they are barely able to understand themselves? In quite a few cases these teachers are only one step ahead of the students they are teaching the course to.
For "Common Core" to successfully be incorporated into a high school Regents curriculum, the following issues must be resolved.
- Eliminate the "fair student funding formula" and allow principals to hire the appropriate amount of teachers for their school.
- Go back to the 5-1 Science schedule like the rest of the State.
- All teachers need to be certified in the content specilty that they are teaching in.
- The Regents must be radically changed by including less units and topics to accommodate the "Common Core" standards.