Goodbye MSP, hello Common Core

As a parent with a student who is currently in the middle of yearly standardized testing, I am not sorry to see that this will be the last time he takes the Measurements of Student Progress (MSP) exams for language arts and math.

In 2015, these two portions of standardized testing will be replaced with the Common Core Standards.

Since the inception of the MSP, I have felt that far too much of the focus was on teaching to the test and how best to acquire a certain level of student results within the parameters of the test itself.

The Common Core Standards are not the perfect solution to standardized testing. Right now the funding mechanics needed to ensure that the materials required to meet the fundamental, across the board curriculum changes is slow to develop or in some cases, non-existent.

As a parent, I have had to separate what I know and am continuing to learn about Common Core into two categories. I see the emphasis on critical thinking and communication skills both verbal and written to be a big step in the right direction for education. While students need to be educated on how to find the correct answers to problems, the ability to understand why the answer is correct and communicate that understanding is critical to them applying what they have learned to real world applications.

The other side of me disapproves of the “national” origins of the standards as well as the tie back to testing companies and assessment experts that profit from it.

I have always supported the ability of local district control to engage in and implement flexibility within basic education standards. Certain regions of the country or even individual areas within each state understand what is needed by the economic conditions they face and/or surrounding employers desire for certain skill sets better than anyone at the federal level does.

Our own legislators in Olympia have failed miserably within this past decade on education. They have failed the profession of educators in some of the worst possible ways as the state continues to cling to an antiquated school calendar based on agricultural conditions that no longer exist.  Subsequently, this calendar of required “days” and or education “hours” is abused and twisted by the state within an extremely convoluted funding systems that requires districts to fund additional administration staff members, that never set foot in a classroom, just to process, understand, navigate and remain in compliance with all of its layers.

Common Core is here to stay  whether we agree with it or not. It is going to affect an entire generation of students, including my own.  Maybe, just maybe it will be the catalyst for Olympia to start implementing the education funding reform it needs.

Complaints from lawmakers that the court decision on McCleary (which said it is the paramount duty of the state to provide “ample” support for basic education) did not tell them where to find the money or fears that the legislature would become the bad guy if new taxes were implemented to fund education, comes off as straight up, self-preservationist avoidance. Making it worse is that the priority for political parties and elected members remains exclusively focused on just making it through the next election cycle.

The ability to find and raise a gross and disturbing pile of money for election campaigns never seems to translate into a petition that the money they are willing to give could and should be invested directly into the problems. Through any number of possible vehicles, that money could solve real issues instead of being put into the political war chests of the supposed problem solvers who have not really solved much of anything.


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