(Meme credit: Mitchell Rubinstein)
Culturally and racially insensitive.
Cheap in quality but expensive in cost.
These are just a few of the words used to describe EngageNY common core modules.
Indeed, a new study from Rochester schools finds that EngageNY materials are disengaging children from learning and developmentally inappropriate, esp for K-2.
“Instead, the committee called for local teachers and administrators to lead the way in developing lessons that help students reach the Common Core standards more effectively — and, implicitly, faulted the district for failing to do so sooner.”
Read the report here.
This is no surprise to parents and educators across the state, though. Since the onslaught of common core in our classrooms, reports of students hating school, thinking of themselves stupid, increased anxiety, confusion and getting physically sick have dominated mainstream and social media. While the standards themselves are fundamentally flawed, EngageNY modules are rife with errors and have been egregiously scripted which compounds the problem.
Caring, astute and insightful teachers such as educator Beth Dimino advise that common core is developmentally inappropriate, causing children a great deal of anxiety and that common core amounts to state sanctioned child abuse. You can watch Dimino’s remarkable speech circa 2013 here.
As to the common core modules, advocate Chris Cerrone (@Stoptesting15) tweeted the following back in April 2014:
Similarly, blogger Perdido Street School discovered the EngageNY modules were rife with problems. He writes:
“The EngageNY modules have been widely mocked, ridiculed and criticized by parents and educators, students have complained about the drudgery of the lessons, so perhaps the flacks at SED have just gotten sick of defending the indefensible and are ready to throw even more cash into the Common Core curriculum development process.”
Educators across the state have complained in various forums about the modules since its inception to date. For example:
EngageNY is fundamentally flawed says this parent and educator:
The critiques about EngageNY keep getting more astute and unsettling seem to fall on deaf ears.
A report from WAMC, “Commissioner King Attends Common Core Forum in Plattsburgh“, North Country radio, nevertheless advanced profound arguments similar to the statements above.
Parents and teachers are disgusted with common core and EngageNY modules.
Perdido Street School blog wrote: “I was very disturbed to hear about the culturally insensitive materials, but I believe the charge. The authors of the materials live in their own culturally isolated bubble, so it is hardly shocking that these cases will come up. Nonetheless, it is an intolerable situation. This is one more major reason to oppose the Common Core States Standards.”
This Connecticut educator wrote:
Connecticut incroporates EngageNY into their curriculum. However, CT offers their teachers a stark warning and cautions them about using the modules:
Despite the evidence, NYSED seems utterly oblivious to these clearly inappropriate, scripted, defective modules. NYSED has been bragging about EngageNY and pimping the modules out across the country as exemplars and for use in other states.
EngageNY is a curriciulum source expected to be used by Florida educators via the Florida Department of Ed:
Likewise, EngageNY is provided as a resource to educators by the California Department of Ed:
Connecticut and many other states use EngageNY as well.
Telling, however, is that while King brags about the millions of “hits” the website has purportedly had and that the EngageNY modules are being used in states across the US such as Florida and California (and across the world he claims), NYSED apparently provides a help desk that specifically deals with problems and revisions associated with the modules and lessons. That speaks volumes.
This week, we are excited to announce the launch of a new version ofEngageNY.org! Over the last year, we have been working to make changes and improvements to the website based on your feedback. We hope you enjoy the new site.
In 2011, the New York State Education Department (NYSED) launchedEngageNY.org to provide optional and supplemental resources that help educators prepare students to succeed in college, careers, and life. Since that time, New York has led the country in implementing rigorous learning standards, creating Common Core curriculum and instructional resources, measuring student progress on these learning standards, providing statewide professional development, and implementing an evaluation system that helps educators improve their practice.
The curriculum modules, professional development materials, and videos on EngageNY are resources available for everyone with a stake in improving teaching and learning – our school leaders, teachers and other educators, higher education faculty, and parents and families. To date, EngageNY resources have been viewed over 60 million times by more than 5 million unique visitors. Our optional curriculum modules have been downloaded 6.7 million times by people from New York, around the country, and even throughout the world.
We are pleased to announce design changes to EngageNY.org that reflect feedback and requests from educators that make it easier and faster to find relevant content.
New year-long curriculum maps allow educators to quickly locate English Language Arts and Mathematics materials at any grade level. These curriculum maps collect all modules and lessons for a given subject and grade in one place. In addition, our professional development kits are now organized by date and by topic, making these materials easier to find and to use. All content is marked with descriptive information known as “tags” and can be found using search tools and “filters.”
Visitors to EngageNY.org can now sign up to receive timely updates about particular topic areas or general updates. When something new is added to the site in a topic of interest to you, you’ll get an alert.
Site Look and Feel
EngageNY.org now has an updated look and feel. The resources educators have used are still available – in most cases at the same direct link – but the overall site has been refreshed with a new design.
The EngageNY team continues to make progress towards new Portal capabilities, including professional learning communities and collaboration features. Please continue to visit EngageNY.org for the latest updates and news as launch details become available.
For more information about the changes to EngageNY.org, please visit our FAQ page. A short video outlining the improvements to the site is also available.
Thank you for your continued support and use of EngageNY. Please take a moment to watch my welcome video available below.”
On the bright side, challenges always present teachable moments says Miriam Lute in this piece that attempts to look on the bright side regarding the faulty EngageNY in “Five Things Engage NY Didn’t Intend to Teach My Kid:”
It’s always good to look on the bright side of things, right? (Or at least frequently good. Relentlessly doing so veers toward denial.)
Nonetheless, when you have a kid in school in this age of absurd overtesting, inappropriately high-stakes standardized testing and corporate influence in education, you have to look for the silver linings.
One of the things many parents I know have been struggling with, which is smaller than the overtesting problem yet related to it, is the poor quality of the Engage NY materials that teachers are being suddenly expected to use. While I wouldn’t dismiss them wholesale (I actually think some of the ways they approach teaching math are kind of neat), they were clearly rushed out and did not benefit from the services of a copy editor. The instructions are frequently unclear, ambiguous, or even flat out wrong. There are subject-verb disagreements, typos, gratuitous brand names, and imprecise measurements.
But I’m trying to see these challenges as teachable moments. So here are five skills that these materials have helped me either start to teach my daughter, or think about how to teach her, this fall:
1. Sometimes close enough is good enough. I still think that if you are teaching kids to measure things in whole centimeters, then the lines you give them to measure shouldn’t be 5 2/10 and 5 4/10 cm long. Especially if you are then going to ask them to add the lengths together and they haven’t started fractions yet. Some of us do own rulers with millimeter markings and if they are there, our kids will insist on using them. And yet, sometimes close really is good enough, possibly even just as good for the goal at hand. Identifying when those times are is a pretty great life lesson.
2. Learn what you need to learn to get the job done. This is the alternate lesson of the not-whole-cm polygon: if getting an early introduction in fractions is something exciting, rather than stressful, then measuring precisely was a pretty great opportunity, and in fact made the whole thing a lot more interesting (even if it also made bedtime a whole lot later too). Diving into something because it is interesting even if people tell you it’s above your head is more or less a foundational impulse for a life-long learner. It’s also a crucial instinct for all sorts of specific career paths—journalist, scientist, inventor, entrepreneur. (Think: “Well, to make my awesome idea work, I’d have to figure out electrical engineering. Huh. OK!”)
3. Don’t follow the rules if they are wrong. I actually had a bit of fight with my kid over this, but I dug in my heels. There were a series of pictures of objects, with centimeter squares underneath to count to measure them. The instructions said to count each square to find the length of the objects. (My emphasis.) Except that on some pictures, the squares extended way out beyond the ends of the objects. My daughter wanted to count all the squares as per instructions. I said that would obviously give the wrong answer and was therefore flatly an unacceptable choice. (Not, I should note, that I think it’s a problem for her to ever get her homework wrong. This was a principle thing.) I asked her if she wanted to be one of those people who were hit by a train because they listened when their GPS told them to turn onto a train track. Next time around the example might be, “would you treat someone as less than a full human if a law said you should.”
4. Always ask what assumptions are driving what you read. Why do you think Raz Kids has two separate “ebooks” called Shoes Women Wear and Shoes Men Wear? Why would Squanto help the pilgrims after he had been kidnapped and held as a slave by other Europeans? What families do you know that don’t match the structure in this story?
5. Question authority. Does that sentence sound wrong? Why yes, that’s because it is wrong. Is that science fact dodgy? Yup. Does the fact that you are 7 years old and it’s printed in your homework mean you can’t recognize it’s wrong? No. Does a grammar mistake in your math word problem negate the value of that problem? Also no. Does everyone make mistakes sometimes? Yes.
But if you identify something wrong and you can articulate why, then you have every right to question it.
Now, it’s going to be another set of history lessons about what happens when you do, but education is an ongoing process. We’ll get there.