Freshmen Nervously Anticipate New Common Core Test

Madison Fernandez, ‘17

“32-12 equals what? 12+3=15. 15+5=20. 20+10=30. 30+2=32. 3+5+10+2=20. 32-12=20.” — Excerpt from “Sunday Opinion: College Students Learn Common Core Math.” Is it an issue when college students can’t wrap their brains around why something as simple as subtraction has to be difficult for “no reason”?

Between finals and Regents examinations, BHSEC students have tests in mind as we reach the end of the school year. This year, there is a sense of franticness among the freshmen when it comes to the “new” Regent: Common Core Algebra. These Common Core tests are aligned with college- and career-ready standards set by state education leaders in 48 states. New York is one of the few states that has decided to implement these standards at this time. Controversy surrounding the Common Core is mainly due to the fact that the standards are set extremely high in comparison to previous standardized tests. Seen as more of a mystery than a test, many students feel confused due to a lack of information. This only makes the test more burdensome, because the students don’t know what to expect. Students’ main concern is lack of preparation: where is the comfort in taking a test when the test-takers don’t know what is going to be asked of them?

BHSEC teachers suspect that the Common Core Algebra test will focus on concepts covered in class, but the applications may be different. Many teachers feel that students are prepared to take the test, and students do have access to practice tests, but the test has not been a primary focus in math classes. Still, teachers say that there is overlap between the regular curriculum of math class this year and what is expected to be on the test.

Although students have gotten more comfortable with their math abilities, they are still concerned. Emmett Stone, one of the freshmen taking the test this year, shared his concerns: “In middle school, we were taught to the test…in high school, we are not taught to the test, nor are we taught to do useful math – we are taught to think.”

While some practice tests have been put online within the past few weeks, many students still don’t know about these materials. It is of little help if people don’t know about them, besides the fact that they were posted less than a month before the test.

Another source of confusion in the grade was whether some students actually had to take the test or not. A majority of the grade thought that they didn’t have to take the Common Core if they took the Integrated Algebra Regent last year, while others thought that they had to take both the Common Core and Integrated Algebra. It was clarified that the Common Core test is replacing the Integrated Algebra Regent, but none of this information was communicated clearly to the students. Many students are angered because they did take the Integrated Algebra Regent last year – although they recognize that BHSEC’s algebra classes are different from their middle school classes, they find it repetitive to have to take another state test in the same subject.

Most middle school classes spent the majority of the year focused on the Regent and taught according to the test, so many students are accustomed to prep over a long period of time, not just a one- or two- class review. Jonathan Lui, another freshman taking the test, stated, “I’m just upset that I have to waste a lot of time studying for another exam after I took the Regents last year. I find it pointless for the state to require another exam that is basically another version of the Algebra regents.”

Both students and teachers seem to be in the shadows when it comes to knowing what is on the Common Core test. With procedures that can be seen as “overcomplicated,” the test seems more stressful than usual. Between those worries and frustrations about work from last year put towards the prior test being “wasted,” the Common Core test has a look of disapproval from the freshmen this year. As time goes on, and if this test is still administered after all of its bad and somewhat controversial press, hopefully both students and teachers will become more aware of what the test entails, making the students more confident when taking it.

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