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New York test scores hint at hard road ahead for Common Core

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“It’s a complicated issue, transitioning from one set of tests and standards to another … and people are spinning these results” based on their political agenda surrounding education, says Patrick McGuinn, a political science professor at Drew University in Madison, N.J.

In the middle, a number of groups are preaching patience with the Common Core but are worried that states will move ahead with the reforms without giving educators the resources needed to succeed.

“The low scores will be used by some as an excuse to throw out the Common Core or denigrate public education; those are the wrong lessons,” said Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, a national union, in a statement. But teachers need “a system that provides the resources and supports – the curriculum, the professional development, the time, and the extra help kids need to achieve the deeper knowledge and understanding embedded in the Common Core.”

The Center on Education Policy at The George Washington University recently surveyed 40 states about the Common Core. It found that state leaders are forging ahead with remarkable agreement that “the Common Core will do a better job of preparing students,” says Executive Director Maria Ferguson. But “people are really nervous about resources.”

School districts need the technology and teacher training to support new computer-based tests, which will automatically offer harder questions to more advanced students and easier questions to struggling students. The idea is to help teachers understand which skills students have mastered, but for it to be effective, teachers will have to learn how to diagnose student learning and make adjustments during the school year. Thirty-four of the 40 states surveyed said it was challenging to find adequate resources for all of the necessary Common Core implementation activities.

Researchers say the public should brace for several years where scores will look worse before they look better, perhaps expecting to see strong positive results from the new standards 10 years down the road, Ms. Ferguson says.

Kentucky hasn’t had to wait that long to see some encouraging signs.

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