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Letter: Common Core not improving education

A student takes a sample SAT test during

A student takes a sample SAT test during prep class in Newton, Mass. (March 3, 2005) Credit: Getty Images

I taught for many years; taught to the test. Now I have two middle school boys who are taking these tests ["Dozens opt out in test boycott," News, April 17].

I was considering letting my sons opt out of the state tests, but decided to let them take them. My eighth-grader was very stressed at the end of the test, not because he felt it was too hard. He was the very last student to finish, as he took it very seriously, and his classmates were staring at him. In his head, if he doesn't do well, he will have failed his teacher, and the teacher could lose his or her job.

Are these tests so worth our children's valuable learning time and their self-esteem?

Jill Marie Delano, Bethpage

Raising standards and challenging students always sounds good, but Common Core's bad rap is deserved ["Common Core tests have a bad rap," Opinion, April 18]. It oozes distrust of teachers and stifles their creativity, bogging them down in mountains of paperwork.

It is not even a coherent core. As Education Commissioner John B. King Jr. explained in a talk to the state teachers convention, they sacrifice breadth for "depth." He assumes, for example, that a reading selection chosen in Albany will equally motivate well-off suburban, poor upstate rural, and urban students to think critically.

He deliberately negates the judgment of teachers with years of experience who know their students and what moves them.

Arnold Wishnia, Setauket

Columnist Anne Michaud gets an incomplete picture of the Common Core when she learns about it from New York State education officials rather than the teachers responsible for rolling out the new standards.

Is it true that the Common Core emphasizes writing across content areas? Yes, but there is already plenty of writing going on in classes other than English. Think of the essays, reports and document-based analysis necessary in any successful social studies class or the research papers and projects assigned in science classes. The Common Core takes this to a ridiculous extreme. My colleagues who teach classes in art or music must now include essays or math assignments in their curriculum.

Are the Common Core standards more rigorous? Well, that depends on how you look at them. The most recent correspondence we've received from the state education commissioner's office suggests moving "The Scarlet Letter" from 11th grade to ninth grade. Putting aside the question of whether adultery, illegitimacy and self-flagellation are themes suitable for 13- and 14-year-olds, the novel has a Lexile level of 1,400, which would traditionally make it academically appropriate for students in 11th and 12th grades.

How does the state get around that? Well, it turns out you don't have to teach the whole book. The Common Core allows you to teach excerpts; in fact, we have been informed that next year we will probably teach only three major novels or plays, in stark contrast to the six or seven we teach now. Wouldn't you rather your child read all of "The Scarlet Letter" in 11th grade and really appreciate and understand it?

Jane Weinkrantz, Centerport

Editor's note: The writer is a high school English teacher.