Assistant Managing Editor
As many high school students know, recent changes in education have brought a slew of new standardized tests to public school students in New York State. Although many Jamesville-DeWitt High School students have experienced the wrath of the Regents or APPR Examinations, this year’s freshmen will experience a new type of mandatory testing- the Common Core. More formally known as the Common Core State Standards Initiative, the test is a government program designed to evaluate the abilities of students at the completion of their English and Mathematics courses. This June, J-DHS will administer its first Common Core test to the 2013-2014 algebra students.
“(The exam) is being mandated for next year, but the curriculum was released for this year. Usually at J-D, when we need to adapt to things, we like to be leaders in the community,” says algebra teacher Jay Lang. Accordingly, this year’s algebra students will take both the Common Core Regents and the traditional Regents as end of the year assessments. However, only the higher of the two scores will be counted as a grade. “They’ll be able to take the higher of the two scores, so for the students, it’s a nice way to ease into things,” says Mr. Lang. “If you don’t do well and aren’t happy with your score, then you have a chance to do better on the second one,” says freshman and algebra student Alexandra Street. “The extra test gives you another opportunity to get a good grade, which I like,” agrees freshman algebra student Edward Huynh. Despite the flexibility in grading, Algebra students have varying responses to having to take the Common Core. “I don’t really like that we have to take two tests. It’s pretty annoying,” says Street. “It’s weird because we don’t really know what to expect on it and neither do the teachers,” says freshman and algebra student Rania Kassis.
Throughout the year, students and teachers alike have been preparing for the new Common Core exam. “We’ve been working on preparing for this course well over a year before it began. As soon as the state started releasing curriculum materials, we started looking into them and planning, attending workshops, and meeting as a department,” says Mr. Lang.
Students have also been studying for the test, particularly through the use of their green review books. “It’s kind of hard, because I don’t remember everything, but the green book definitely helps,” says freshman Sophia Plug. “We’re not learning any new material at this point in the year, just preparing for the test and working in our review books,” says Street. “I’ve been doing my homework in the green review book to prepare,” says Huynh.
So how will the Common Core differ from the Regents? “Good question,” jokes Mr. Lang. “As far as the exam goes, it’s the same format, with multiple choice and some open response, but the kinds of questions they’ll be asking are with the new curriculum. I’ve actually been a little disappointed that a new format wasn’t chosen, because the material is so much different,” says Mr. Lang. “I feel like the Common Core is going to use material from previous grades, instead of just being based off of class this year,” says Huynh. “I think it will be much more difficult,” aggrees Plug. “Some teachers say it will be hard, but some teachers say it will be easy. It really depends because no one knows what to expect,” says Kassis. “The Common Core is a lot more wordy, and they try to make questions a lot harder than they are. I think the Regents will be more straight-forward,” says Street.
Ultimately, the Common Core will be a new experience for all. But a dedicated group of students and teachers? There’s nothing common about that.