Changes Put Common Core to the Test

Christine Politte, Web Editor

The Common Core standards have caused a great deal of controversy in recent years, but at U. City, the debate has been largely theoretical. Next year, however, students will begin to see real changes in end-of-year testing.

Common Core is meant to create consistent academic standards for students nationwide. While some parents have protested the standards, they are being implemented in 45 states, according to the Common Core website.

To meet the standards, revisions are being made not just to curriculums but also to standardized testing. Some states are using additional tests, but Missouri is among several states opting to instead revise existing End of Course exams (EOCs), according to Ms. Hill, 11th grade principal.
“As far as the EOC exams, they’re going to be more rigorous than in the past,” she said. Some of the exams will also include “performance events,” she said, which require students to apply knowledge to real-world problems.

Additionally, Hill said, fewer EOCs will be required by the state, so students won’t necessarily have to take the tests for courses such as Geometry and U.S. History. It is uncertain whether the district will opt to test in these fields anyway, but the state won’t pay for it, said Hill.

Beginning next year, at the same time as the EOC changes, the state will also begin requiring juniors to take the ACT, which will be aligned to the Common Core standards. This may seem like a big departure from the norm, Hill said, but it won’t be much of an adjustment for U. City.

“We have always tested all of our kids,” she said, except now the state will pay for the test instead of the district. “It reinforces our focus on the ACT, that we need to prep our students for the exam.”

Students and teachers have mixed feelings about the changes. Ms. Hackmeyer, English Dept. Instructional Team Leader, likes the standards but is concerned about their implementation.

“I think Common Core is a good set of expectations but will be difficult and time-consuming to implement,” she said. “Students in lower grades will be much better prepared for the expectations in high school, but students in upper grades will experience a gap.”

To minimize this gap, the English department began adjusting to the Common Core standards more than two years ago, Hackmeyer said. However, the curriculum must still be overhauled, which is a long and sometimes frustrating process for teachers.

“I think we’re going to really have to examine what we spend time on in the classroom,” she said.
Although the school is aligning all the core curriculums with the standards and working to provide students with the resources necessary to make the transition, Hackmeyer emphasized that the results depend on students’ attitudes.

“Until all of our students take the tests seriously and put forth their best efforts, it will not show their ability accurately,” she said. As teachers, she said, “we have to meet the kids where they are.”

For their part, students have mixed feelings about the changes.

“The EOCs really don’t bother me,” said Tave Hollins, sophomore. “It’s the ACT — I don’t think I’m fully prepared for that step yet, nor do I think anyone else will be.”

Hannah Fuller, freshman, is also concerned.

“I think it would put more pressure on the student,” she said. She is concerned that students taking EOCs for the first time might be scared off by the more rigorous testing.

Additionally, Fuller said, the increased emphasis on the ACT might be a problem for students who prefer the SAT or need it for their choice of college.

“I think kids should be able to choose,” she said.

Hollins thinks the outcome will ultimately be positive.

“It will take people a while to get there,” she said, “but it will push them to get better and to realize they can’t slack like they used to.”