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Dear Carol,

We are finishing our English Language Arts (ELA) testing this week. I am so proud of our students and teachers. They have been positive and focused during the testing. We have not had one student opt out. Teachers are confident in our students’ performance and students feel their daily instruction has prepared them well. We are moving into our math assessments for the next few weeks and I will let you know how that goes.

Our state has been deep in discussion regarding the new assessments. In response to concerns about test validity, state leaders have agreed to a full review of the assessments before the results are used for teacher evaluations or school grades. New limits to ensure that we do not spend more than 5% of our instructional time on state testing have been established and the use of test results in educator evaluations has been reduced from 50% to 33%.

Related: Schools on U.S. military installations are adopting Common Core — but don’t call it that

Carol, I have been following the opt-out movement in your state. The Washington Post indicated as many as 14% of the students in the state New York have opted out of testing.

“I support the Common Core because it challenges our students to think. My teachers support the Common Core because they have seen its positive impact on the performance of our students regardless of their socioeconomic background.”

The objections voiced are in protest to high stakes testing, the loss of instructional time, and against using the test results to evaluate teachers. But where is the evidence that Common Core is responsible for all this?

I have pulled a couple of the Common Core ELA anchor standards for the purpose of our conversation.

  • Read closely to determine what the text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it; cite specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions drawn from the text.
  • Interpret words and phrases as they are used in a text, including determining technical, connotative, and figurative meanings, and analyze how specific word choices shape meaning or tone.
  • Integrate and evaluate content presented in diverse media and formats, including visually and quantitatively, as well as in words.

Recently, I had a discussion about Common Core with several university level educational leaders who expressed the need for students to be better prepared for college: to read and write in a more academic manner, to make logical inferences, and to cite specific evidence from the text to support their conclusions. Their statements validated our decision to adopt the Common Core standards in our schools.

Related: Are the Common Core tests turning out to be a big success or a resounding failure?

We have worked hard to make sure our community understands the Florida standards by providing tools and training for our teachers, students, and parents. For example, schools in our state hold Parent Math Nights, where students show their parents how they are learning math. This allows parents to see Common Core in action and transforms them into partners and supporters of the standards.

The Florida Association of School Administrators launched an app called A.V.E. for Success that shares information about the Florida standards through videos, power points, note sheets, and other resources. It provides parents and students with the same tools that teachers use, strengthening the home-school connection.

I read with sadness the part in your letter about the two students lamenting, “I don’t think this test really measures if I am smart.” The tests students are taking today are designed to determine if students can think critically. If students are led to believe that tests are there to validate their intelligence, they have been misinformed. We do not need to design assessments to help students feel good about themselves. We need our assessments to show us if our students can solve problems, describe how they solved the problem, analyze information from a variety of mediums and apply what they have learned from their analysis.

Related: Gone but not forgotten? Common Core lingers after Oklahoma’s repeal

Our students need to be prepared for the world that they are going to live in, not the one that we live in today. We need to ensure that all students are ready for college and a career. I support the Common Core because it challenges our students to think. My teachers support the Common Core because they have seen its positive impact on the performance of our students regardless of their socioeconomic background. The standards teach our students not to stop at the answer, but to continue to explain and justify it. It gives meaning to learning by giving students an opportunity to personalize their comprehension.

While we feel confident about the direction we have taken with Florida standards, we anxiously await the results of the state tests. It is nothing new to have course standards; however, the political climate that has surrounded the tests has polarized our profession.

As the opt-out fever continues in your state, I wonder about the impact this movement will have for the future of assessments. Where will the line be drawn on what will be assessed and what will not be assessed?


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