Common Core

Press Conference Remarks by Wes Jolly

Press Conference + State Board of Education Remarks – February 12, 2014

The Classical Academy – Director of Academic Services (Wesley Jolly)

Topic: Testing implementation and methodology and its impact on charters and other schools.  The dramatic shift to computerized testing for all grades wreaks havoc on our ability to test in a reasonable time frame — and therefore has a much greater impact on contact time footprint with our students.


Good (morning/afternoon) – my name is Wes Jolly, and I serve as the Director of Academic Services at The Classical Academy public charter school in Colorado Springs – the largest charter school in the state of Colorado with approximately 3,500 students. It is a distinct pleasure to be able to address you today as an educator concerned about the impending impact of Common Core implementation upon schools within Colorado. First let me be clear, our charter school does not fear standards or testing – and we have proven that fact in the results our schools have achieved during our 17-year existence. We do not view this issue in political terms but rather in the terms of what is best for our children. My goal today is to cover the highlights in just one area of significance – the testing methodology and its impact on our schools.

 

Technology and pedagogical concerns are major elements of our opposition to the implementation methodology of Common Core. The costs for charter schools especially will be substantial when considering hardware, professional development, maintenance, and future upgrades. Such unfunded costs will be a significant burden to our schools and will funnel money from the educational choices we deem locally appropriate.

We have significant concerns regarding testing implementation, especially, in the lower elementary grades. The mandated technology use for assessments will cause a significant departure pedagogically for classically oriented schools. Lyndsey Layton writing for the Washington Post notes - of the major shifts taking place in American classrooms as a result of Common Core standards, one-little-noticed but sweeping change is the fact that children as early as kindergarten are learning to use a keyboard. Educators around the country are rushing to teach typing to children who have barely mastered printing by hand. Those requirements are sending tremors through the nation’s elementary schools.

 

We believe students should be tested in the same manner in which they are instructed – for most elementary schools that involves pencil and paper testing, not computerized assessments. Pushing technology earlier, even into kindergarten, is not developmentally appropriate in our opinion. Yes, technology is a significant influence in our world today but that does not mean we need to start keyboarding so young – there is enough time to prepare students for such skills later, at a more developmentally appropriate age.

The impact on instructional time of the new assessment regimen is also of significant concern. While the overall average testing time per grade level is fairly consistent between the old and new testing criteria, the computer assessment methodology will dramatically impact scheduling. Grade levels will not be able to all test on the same day as in the past and the staggered grade level testing schedules required will significantly impact those blended-grade level classes. Overall, the time away from normal classroom instruction will be of greater impact than indicated by the total testing hours due to the constraints caused by the technology piece. Adjustments are being made in schools – to account for the increased testing time needed from March to May of the school year. Is this the way that we want to proceed just for the convenience of computerization – which many are starting to realize will not have the quick turn-around on results as has been projected?

 

Ultimately, it is our belief that content standards at a national level will drive conformity, instead of innovation, and mediocrity instead of excellence. We as a state can do better. Common Core’s implementation and assessment strategy ultimately will prove detrimental to the goals we should be pursuing as a state, and we therefore, urge our elected officials to alter the path upon which are journeying – the future of our kids depends upon it.

Thank you for listening to our concerns today regarding Common Core and the implications for the children of our state.

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