Amanda Ripley

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Testing America’s Patience

29th Apr 2013 posted in Education

American students, teachers and parents are sick of tests and rightly so. For years, they’ve been bombarded with ridiculous, dumbed-down tests that waste class time and demoralize everyone.

Now some are taking their rage out on the Common Core, a new set of voluntary, rigorous standards designed by educators around the country.

That is a mistake, understandable as it may be. And it’s one that could grow into a tragedy over the next year if things continue as they are.

Here’s what we know for sure: The U.S. urgently needs more rigorous standards aligned to international benchmarks. That is what the Common Core does. I have traveled to the most impressive school systems in the world, and their standards look a lot like the Common Core.

But to sell this idea to a wary public, the proponents of the Common Core need to make a deal: In exchange for subjecting students and teachers to new tests, ones which will be harder (since that is what happens when things get, er, harder), they need to give something up. Cancel other tests. Reduce the total number of testing days by half.

And please, for the love of God, insist that the new Common Core tests are actually smarter. There must be essays, and they must be graded by humans. Enough is enough. Abandon the insulting tests and spend the money on meaningful ones. Or you will see more and more kids and parents refusing to take even smarter tests, more teachers gaming the system or just quitting their jobs, and politicians will eventually buckle under the pressure and give up on the Common Core—the most meaningful step towards rigor taken by the United States in decades.