No. 7 Top News Story: Common Core testing — and the fallout

CARRIE MILLER PHOTO | Education commissioner John King and state Board of Regents Meryl Tisch listening to a parade of speakers at Tuesday night's forum.
CARRIE MILLER FILE PHOTO | Education commissioner John King and state Board of Regents Meryl Tisch listening to a parade of speakers at recent forum.

This year marked the first time New York public school students took state assessments based on new curriculum known as Common Core.

The Common Core State Standards is designed to raise academic achievements inside the classroom and help prepare students for college and careers in the 21st century, state officials have said. The nationwide initiative primarily requires instructors to teach more non-fiction and rigorous math to students at a younger age.

While state officials have claimed implementation of Common Core aims to better prepare students for the future, many parents and educators have criticized the move because they believe teachers are being forced to abandon true learning for what is known as “teaching to the test.”

The results of the new assessments are also expected to be tied to the APPR plan, which stands for Annual Professional Performance Review. This teacher evaluation requirement originated in 2010 after New York was awarded a grant of nearly $700 million under the federal Race to the Top program. For individual school districts to qualify for part of the grant, the state required each to implement its own APPR program this year.

In August, the state Department of Education released the results of math and English Language Arts assessments that students in grades 3 through 8 took in April. Those scores were significantly lower compared to the previous school year, which state and school officials had predicted.

Statistics statewide for New York schools in which students took the assessments showed 69 percent failed to meet proficiency levels in math and 68.9 percent in ELA. School districts in Suffolk County generally fared better than the state overall, with 66.8 percent failing math and 63.7 percent failing ELA.

After scores were released, local districts passed resolutions calling on state and federal officials to overhaul the current method of standardized testing tied to teacher evaluations.

Editor’s note: We’re counting down the top 10 news stories of 2013. Check back every day until Jan. 1 to follow along.