The Debate Over Common Core Education Standards and Testing

Encore: April 10, 2014

Clara Hemphill, founding editor of, and José Vilson, a math teacher at Inwood Intermediate School 52, discuss the Common Core educational standards with MetroFocus host Rafael Pi Roman.

On April 1, students across New York in third through eighth grades began the English Language Arts portion of the Common Core exams. According to its own website, the Common Core state standards are “a set of clear college- and career-ready standards for kindergarten through 12th grade in English language arts/literacy and mathematics.” The standards were developed by governors and state education commissioners across the country and are now being used by 44 states.

But the standards have faced a lot of controversy ever since being introduced in 2010. Critics say the standards are flawed and that the rollout was rushed. At a speech on April 1 to announce an on-time state budget, Governor Andrew Cuomo said that the Common Core-aligned tests for third to eighth grade students would not show on their transcripts through 2018.

“The question wasn’t ‘Is Common Core the right direction?’ The question was ‘Are we moving too quickly?'” Cuomo said. “Are the students prepared, were the teachers prepared to now have Common Core testing and that grade goes on the…permanent transcript?”

Clara Hemphill, founding editor of, recently wrote an op-ed in The New York Times asking parents to have their children take the test to keep their options open for middle and high school. But as she told MetroFocus host Rafael Pi Roman, there are also issues that need to be addressed with the way the standards have been taught to schools and teachers.

“I think most of us agree that third graders should know how to multiply, for example. I think most of us want our kids to be able to read thoughtfully and write carefully and to speak clearly. These are things that are in the Common Core standards,” Hemphill said. “The problem is, what textbooks do you buy to go along with the standards? What tests do you go to see whether kids have met the standards? And that’s where the city and state have completely fallen down.”

In his op-ed in The New York Times, José Vilson, a New York City math teacher, wrote that parents should have the right to opt out of the exams and that standardized tests shouldn’t be the only metric to judge student performance.

“I believe it will force in one way, shape, or form, states and cities and governances to really consider multiple ways of assessing their children,” he told MetroFocus‘ Rafael Pi Roman. “We can’t simply focus on testing culture in order to get the results that we want. We can’t always focus on international benchmarks and global competitiveness. It has to be about collaboration and trying to make students more about learning and less about testing.”

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