I read with discouragement your front-page article on March 30, “Maine students piloting new tests based on Common Core” — 46 column inches dedicated to the so-called Smarter Balanced tests to be given in Maine under the Common Core rubric, the current model of a one-size-fits-all approach to education. All that newsprint was not focused on whether these tests really give us accurate and useful information for each of our students, but rather on whether our schools will even be able to administer the tests.

You did note that these pilot tests “don’t count,” but you ignored the reality that to the people being tested, these tests will never count. As a just-retired high school teacher, I can assure you that students — and all people past a certain age — care whether something they are asked to do matters. At least the SAT matters to a subset of our high school students — it’s been a free chance for an otherwise expensive test.

But your reporter got to the heart of the matter when she noted that these pilot results won’t count “for school accountability or the letter grades for schools,” with the clear implication that someday they will and that that’s their real purpose. And judging the schools based upon tests irrelevant to the test-takers is foolish and harmful to the student and the schools.

Common Core supporters say, “Read the standards. They’re good.” But they’re not good. For high school math, Common Core is inadequate for those students who really need math, and irrelevant for those who have any other aspirations. Ask the next legislator you meet for the graph of y equals the cube root of x, and then ask for an explanation why it differs from the graph of the square root of x.

Jim PerkinsWayne

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