This spring, students across New York State will sit down to much more difficult standardized tests, based on new, national learning standards. What makes it even more difficult is that their teachers don't yet have the new curriculum to help them get ready. NY1's Lindsey Christ filed the following report.
Educators say it's putting the cart before the horse. In this case, it's the test before the lessons.
"This spring, it is my great concern that there will be thousands, millions of students across this state will be tested on a curriculum that was never supplied to their teachers," said Michael Mulgrew, the president of the United Federation of Teachers.
Third through eighth-grade standardized tests this year will be brand new, with questions requiring deeper thinking and analysis that are up to two grade levels more difficult. That's because the New York State Department of Education decided to start basing the tests on the new national learning standards, called the Common Core.
The standards say what students should be learning in English and math at each grade level in order to graduate ready for college. And since the standards were first released two years ago, textbook publishers, school districts and schools have been scrambling to write a brand new course of study.
"We've been working really hard around Common Core," said Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott. "We've been, really, light years ahead of the rest of the state in terms of the implementation of Common Core but at the same time, we're ready for the new curriculum to be put in place as well."
When will that be?
"I don't know," Walcott said. "I'll let you know."
The State Education Department said it writes the tests and then school districts have always had to write the curriculum. But this time, the state decided to help out by offering to provide a free curriculum based on the new standards.
"We're the first state in the country to do that around the Common Core and one of the only states ever to make this large an investment in curricular material," said State Education Commissioner John King.
So when will that be ready?
"By fall, winter 2013," King said.
That's months after the first high-stakes tests.
"I think we have to be clear that this is a storm that is headed right at us and we are going to see a significant drop in the test scores," Mulgrew said.
"We've said that we expect scores to go down," Walcott said. "We just don't know to what level. I mean, this is going to be a tough, tough test."
A lot tougher, thanks to a timeline that puts the test first.