EDITORIAL: Common Core: An old solution to an old problem

It sounds sensible. So sensible, in fact, that we’ve in theory been doing just that for years.

In addition to testing mandated by No Child Left Behind at the elementary and middle school levels for about a decade now, New York already has a battery of standardized testing in high school: the Regents.

Since 2005, the Board of Regents responded to concerns about student readiness by ratcheting up the Regents requirements. Now, all students must earn at least a 65 on their Regents exams to graduate. A Regents Diploma with Advanced Designation is also available to students who excel.

The result?

“Although we have raised expectations for what students must know and be able to do upon graduation, student performance has not risen sufficiently to meet those expectations,” wrote Ken Slentz, deputy commissioner in the Office of P-12 Education, in a memo to district superintendents and principals.

When it comes to testing, the approach to address student underperformance has been to adjust the standards – and it would also seem this strategy has been largely ineffective. The minds behind education in this country have seemingly been so preoccupied with testing as a way to measure the breadth of the learning problem that they never considered the way to close it might be through a different mechanism.

It can be said with certainty a sizable chunk of a student’s primary education is now concerned with preparing to fill in bubbles with a No. 2 pencil. Not many of today’s leading universities or high-tech employers will hold regurgitation ability above critical thinking, though.

Spending hours deciphering the structure of a standardized test might be a good formative exercise, but it should be a complement to a good educational environment, not the basis of it.

By its own admission, the Education Department’s demands for better performance from students on their Regents exams has not resulted in a better education for graduating seniors. We wonder exactly how the Common Core Standards will succeed where the Regents has failed.

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