Students speak out on the Common Core

Melissa Ancheta said that her intense academic load of four Advanced Placement classes last year prepared her well for the Smarter Balanced assessments.
Particularly in her English language arts and composition class, she had ample opportunities to practice argumentative writing, which involves finding sources and evidence to support arguments and coming up with thesis statements – skills required by the test.
But Ancheta said she worried that other classmates may not have received the same level of preparation.
As editor of the Argolog, her school newspaper, she interviewed teachers and students about their views on the Common Core standards, finding out how teachers are instructing differently and what changes students are noticing.
“This is all a new experience for us,” said Ancheta, who is also co-president of the Academic Decathlon team. She said the interviews she conducted in doing her reporting for the paper suggested teachers still needed more time to understand the standards and integrate them in to their teaching. Reactions from students were mixed – with some acknowledging that the new strategies had improved their academic skills, and others thinking that it had actually made things worse.
“In terms of seeing Common Core implemented in my math class, it isn’t effective because I still don’t understand math, and there’s more pressure to understand it which just makes me stress and that’s counterproductive,” said junior Aida Dorantes.
Regarding the Smarter Balanced assessments, Ancheta said she found the math portion of the test to be more difficult than the English section, as it included several questions on algebra and geometry, subjects she completed in the 8th and 9th grades.
In addition, she said, the new assessment were more difficult than the previous California Standards Tests she had taken previously.
“I felt like the other standardized tests focused on common sense (knowledge),” Melissa said, rather than assessing what she had learned in class.
“I believe, over the years, the teachers will get better at (teaching Common Core standards). So far, I haven’t heard much discontent from students taught by the Common Core standards,” Ancheta said.

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