Here is a copy of a letter I submitted to the New York Times. It wasn’t published.
To the Editor,
Regarding Invitation to a Dialogue: The Art of Teaching (4/30/13), I agree that unorthodox teachers can potentially make the greatest impact in classrooms. However, the national Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and their corresponding high-stakes testing program pose a roadblock to this. I initially supported the CCSS because of their flexibility in terms of curriculum. The standards list the skills and core concepts that students need to master without telling teachers how to teach them. Theoretically, teachers can select their own materials and can design their own curriculum while using the CCSS as a roadmap. However, the reality is far different. In New York City, schools face pressure from the Department of Education (DOE) to adopt the DOE’s recommended curriculum: scripted programs for English Language Arts (ELA) and math. One such program –ReadyGen – is published by Pearson, the makers of the New York State ELA and math assessments. Even the most well-meaning principals and teachers find their personalized craft compromised by their own fears that if they don’t use the DOE’s curriculum and test prep materials (see http://www.engageny.org) there will be dire consequences. They worry that Quality Reviews will be conducted for schools having to justify the use of their own curriculum instead of the DOE’s recommended programs, and that teacher evaluations will suffer.