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Don’t Go Full Speed Ahead Into the Unknown with Common Core

CEA Executive Director Mark Waxenberg today appeared on a WNPR program that touched on education reform issues from teacher evaluation to Common Core. Photo by Chion Wolf/WNPR.

“Good teaching is not measured by a student test score. That is the road we are going down and it should be abandoned.” That was one of the many emphatic comments CEA Executive Director Mark Waxenberg made this morning while appearing on WNPR’s “Where We Live” radio program.

Waxenberg called for a “course correct” when it comes to Common Core. “We need an examination of the appropriateness of the standards,” he said.

Wallingford Superintendent Salvatore Menzo, also a guest on the show, cautioned against an assembly line model where all teachers are expected to look the same. He said all teachers aren’t the same, and they shouldn’t be, “since our students are not the same.”

AFT-Connecticut First Vice-President Steve McKeever said that defining what makes a good teacher is hard to put into a formula. “A good teacher is one who makes students enjoy coming to class, who students are comfortable talking to about any concerns they may have.” He said that he doesn’t think a matrix can measure all of those aspects of teaching.

Waxenberg raised concerns about the grade level appropriateness of questions on the new Common Core aligned Smarter Balanced (SBAC) tests that most Connecticut students will begin taking this spring. Waxenberg said that a question that has appeared for eighth graders on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) exam is on the fifth grade SBAC test. He also questioned the reasonableness and computer dependency of the SBAC test.

CEA last week released a statement to reporters on the Common Core State Standards. Read it here.

“We need to make sure we don’t go full speed ahead into the unknown,” Waxenberg said. “We need to take information from this first application of the test, learn from it, and listen to the voices of stakeholders — including teachers.”

State Commissioner of Education Stefan Pryor said he expects that the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium will involve many teachers in an upcoming standards setting process connected with the new SBAC test.

In a letter last week signed by Governor Malloy, Lt. Governor Wyman, Senate President Williams, and House Speaker Sharkey, the state leaders called for the establishment of a Common Core State Standards working group to include educators from across the state to make recommendations on Common Core implementation.

The sequence in which material is introduced to students has changed with the Common Core, according to Pryor. He said that the Common Core does “present some of the skill building we’ve done in later grades in earlier grades, but the reverse is happening too.” He added, “the question is whether the sequencing is the best.”

Pryor said that the state is today making live a set of free resources to assist with the implementation of Common Core at

Pryor said that with different curricula and instructional techniques educators can aim for the same high, college- and career-ready standards for all students — helping to close the achievement gap.

Waxenberg said, “During the early years, we know that low-income children don’t perform as well as children from more affluent families.” He said that the state needs to invest more money at the front end — for high-quality early childhood education.

“The achievement gap needs to be narrowed,” Waxenberg added. “I’m afraid, as things stand right now, that the achievement gap is going to be expanded by Common Core. I hope I’m wrong.”

Listen to complete audio of today’s show here.

  1. Let us be more bold and say it: “The emperor has no clothes.” No confidence Pryor and lets reject common core. Lets call it as it really is: a ploy by big tech, charter companies and testing companies to pry-open the 500+ Billion dollar public school market.

    February 4, 2014
  2. kim patella #

    Thanks for all you do, Mark! CEA is an amazing organization; so proud to be part of it.

    February 4, 2014
    • Linda #

      From the Pryor CT SDE website to support our teachers:
      Connecticut teachers should be aware that this curriculum unit is specifically designed for New York Public Schools. While the curriculum is available at the site listed, materials used in the lesson may be limited. Teacher notes and preparation materials are extensive and will require familiarity to be used effectively.

      February 4, 2014
  3. Linda #

    So Pyror’s offer to CT teachers is the hijacked lessons and units from New York State/engageny, which is the site NY has had active since last summer?
    Is this the “webinar” he promised last week? Basically, a cut and paste website.

    February 4, 2014

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