Professional Experience and Personal Reflections
by Lisa Bowstead, Founder

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Is the new NY State 
Common Core Test Biased? 
March 11, 2013

As NYC schools scramble in futility to prepare students in 2 months (when they had 3 years to prepare -- but that's another issue) for the first round of standardized testing for grades 3 through 8 under "the new Common Core Curriculum," I anticipate a very significant correlation between student scores and the predominant socio-economic influences of their communities.

My first-hand experience is that schools in working-class and/or recent immigrant communities have historically provided (per parental pressures) more traditional curricula, which emphasize accuracy without explanation and de-prioritize a fluency in the underlying concepts. Meanwhile, schools in the more affluent, trendy and/or progressive neighborhoods (which also tend to be more "white" than other neighborhoods) are more likely to spend their days discussing concepts, thinking creatively and exploring ideas, and in doing this, putting less emphasis on getting the "right" answer.

The basic shift in "the new Common Core test" is that it requires students to think creatively in complex contexts, and then be able to explain their answers using concrete, conceptual  details. These skills are less likely to have been taught in the areas of NYC that have a strong community preference for "traditional" educational practices.

I anticipate that the results of NY State's new test will indicate a very strong socio-economic bias within NYC, but it is VERY IMPORTANT to remember that differences in curricula -- and not necessarily those in student achievement -- will play a significant factor in these results.

As an academic, I am looking forward to seeing how this all shakes out. 

As a parent, an educator and a citizen of the city, I am saddened that we have put our children into such a precarious situation.