NEW YORK—The shift to the more challenging Common Core Standards in New York City schools is upsetting the city’s teachers union, who supports the standards but says the shift could be happening too quickly.
Common Core Standards are newly created to boost student learning and college and career readiness by including more challenging and nuanced content in classrooms and on tests.
In English language arts, for example, six shifts for students include reading as much nonfiction as fiction, discussing reading using evidence, and writing nonfiction using evidence.
While bringing stricter standards to students, teachers, and principals, education officials may be rushing things, according to the teachers union, formally known as the United Federation of Teachers (UFT).
UFT president Michael Mulgrew said the union supports the new standards but the standards are not a curriculum and that no curriculum based on the newer standards has been given to teachers.
“So this spring it is my great concern that there will be thousands—millions—of students across this state who will be tested on a curriculum that was never supplied to their teachers,” Mulgrew said at an education reform hearing Tuesday. “This is a storm that is headed right at us.”
Teachers won’t be able to prepare students for tests based on Common Core Standards, Mulgrew added.
John King, state education commissioner, later told reporters that this is the way things have always been done, with states laying out standards, and districts—principals in New York City—creating curriculums.
The difference this time is that the state Education Department is developing its own curriculum.
Districts and schools are not mandated to use it, but it appears New York City will.
The state’s curriculum will be fully implemented by winter next year if all goes according to plan.
Meanwhile, some districts and schools already have curriculums that are closely aligned with Common Core Standards, King said.
“I have visited schools in New York City that are very invested in the Common Core and have put a lot of professional development time into creating Common Core materials and training teachers,” King said. “There are other schools that are nowhere near as well prepared.”
First drafts of curriculums for some subject areas, such as English language arts for grades P through 5, are already available online on the state Education Department website. But, final curriculums won’t be ready until after students take the first Common Core aligned tests in spring 2013.“The teachers have had the support, they’ve had the professional development,” Dennis Walcott, New York City schools chancellor, said outside the hearing Tuesday. “We’re working with the state very closely and teachers have been training around Common Core.”
Student test scores will likely drop on the upcoming tests because of the increased difficulty, Walcott said.
A presentation earlier this year from the city’s Department of Education shows two examples of new Common Core-based questions versus the previous version. The new version doesn’t use multiple-choice questions, instead outlining information and asking for evidence-based answers to questions and a short essay.
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