RCL #8: Paradigm Shift Rough Draft

Paradigm Shift Paper

My Paradigm Shift: Educational Goals in the United States


  • Common Core example from personal life

While timing may have varied from school to school, my high school shifted from the New York State Regents Exams to Common Core curriculum as I entered freshman year.  Since I was a year ahead in math, I continued with the “old” version of math courses, but received exposure to Common Core English classes.  As my high school career progressed, many of my underclassmen friends approached me for help with their questions in STEM fields.  Since science courses did not undergo any significant changes, I provided assistance in classes such as Regents Biology, Chemistry, and Physics with ease, along with other AP courses.  However, the math my younger peers were struggling with took me aback.  Since Mathematics and English education underwent a significant paradigm shift, I struggled to understand the new way courses such as Geometry and Trigonometry were being taught.  While the course matter was quite similar at the end of the day, the bizarre and unusual methods applied to the subjects dazed me.  


According to the organization itself, the Common Core strives to set a national standard for how students in grades K-12 should perform in the classroom.  While a great emphasis is placed on the fact that the Common Core is a set of goals (as opposed to a rigid curriculum), its standards impact how Mathematics and English are taught across America.  As opposed to regurgitation, a deeper understanding of the content at hand is encouraged.  However, the methods through which this is attempted prove confusing at times.  Educators nationwide have adopted a paradigm shift from teaching students how to arrive at the answer to a complex evaluation of the journey which leads the student to the answer.  However, we must question the usefulness of such a system.  Are we creating a highly analytical, problem-solving group of youths or simply confusing them by upheaving an educational system which needs only minor adjustments?

  • Expand to education as a whole
  • Thesis: A shift has occurred which moved the educational importance from what a teacher teaches to how a student performs.  
    • Eg: Standardized tests (role in college admissions, AP, SAT, ACT, individualized state testing) and Common Core (trying to create overarching guidelines for American education)

Historical Context

  • Development of compulsory public education and its initial purpose
    • Draw extensively from Ken Robinson’s TED Talk
  • How has life as a whole changed since then?
  • A need for improvement in the performance of American students has emerged, but how will we achieve it?

Defining the Shift

  • Heightened competition serves as the overall factor from which the paradigm shift in educational goals derives.  
    • Fear of falling behind the rest of the world in terms of educational standards
  • College admissions processes rely heavily on standardised testing scores (AP, SAT, ACT)
  • Standardized testing within individual states: evaluating students based on that state’s standards
    • Birth of Common Core: desire for overarching educational goals.  From this unity derives a nation on the forefront of revolutionizing education (in theory!!)
  • The takeaway from this all: standardized tests and common core serve as products of an American desire to be more competitive in the educational realm.  


Topic 1: Common Core

Education Before Common Core

Generalization of Prior Educational Methods

  • More decentralized approach: each state implemented its own standards for education.  

New York State as an Example

  • In New York specifically, the Board of Regents developed curriculum and exams.  
    • NYS Testing in grades 3-8
    • Regents Exams in grades 8-12

Cause of the Shift to Common Core

Overarching Statement from the Developers

  • A group of administrators, teachers, and state officials from 48 states, two territories, and the District of Columbia met to develop an educational system which recognized the importance of “consistent, real-world learning goals” (“Development Process”).  

Analysis of Their Claims

  • Wanted to bridge the differences in education among the states and ensure that all kids, regardless of where they grew up, are well-prepared for college, or whatever future lies in front of them.  
  • Trying to ensure that America does not fall significantly behind other countries in terms of educating our youth.  

What is Common Core?

Claims of the Developers

  • Common Core is a set of standards, not a curriculum.  
  • Teachers have flexibility to do whatever they desire as long as these standards are met at the end of the day

Questioning of Claims

  • Is this actually true?  Common Core seems to have vastly affected how teachers teach.
  • Bring in several interviews & analyze accordingly
    • Interview 1: Student who has experienced Common Core Mathematics and English
    • Interview 2: Teacher of Common Core Mathematics from Clarence High School
    • Interview 3: Student who took Common Core English and Regents Mathematics

Implications of the Shift

Who Does the Shift Effect?

  • Not all states have to adopt the Common Core Standards
  • 42 of the 50 states, along with district of Columbia, have adopted the standards.  Oklahoma, Texas, Virginia, Alaska, Nebraska, Indiana, and South Carolina have not (ASCD).  

The Future of Common Core

  • Seems to be having little/no positive effects on learning according to a study conducted from 2009-2015 (Samel)
  • Low on the totem poll in 2016 presidential election
  • Most likely going to be phased out.


Topic 2: Standardized Tests

History of Standardized Tests

  • Date back to the civil service exams in Confucian society
  • Purpose: To determine the level of competency of members of society

Cause of the Shift

  • The credibility of public schools began to deteriorate in the twentieth century.  
  • The period of lower-than-average test scores prompted a shift in the purpose of standardized tests.  
  • An intense period of concern about lower-than-average test scores that took place throughout the twentieth century resulted in a transformation of these tests’ purposes.

What is a Standardized Test?


  • Comparison of scores to a norm group
  • All participants complete the exam under the same standardized conditions
  • Formed by specialists in the test’s subject area
  • Objective standards for grading

Purpose of Standardized Tests


  • According to the College Board, these are just a few of the benefits of the SAT:
    • Helps pinpoint a student’s potential in various AP courses
    • Encourages problem-solving strategies similar to those needed in the classroom
    • Connects students to scholarship opportunities
    • Helps students plan their careers
    • Helps students earn admission to many colleges

New York State Testing

  • Includes assessments in Math, Science, and English in grades 3-8 along with Regents Exams for High School.  
  • Main factor in deciding whether or not to promote a student to the next grade level
  • Evaluate how well public schools are serving their students

Analysis of Claims

Are They Truly Effective?

  • Many parents pull their kids out of these situations (NYS Testing) because they find it to be a waste of time and an unnecessary stressor
  • Kids tend to master the format as opposed to the concepts
  • Difference between being a good test taker and being truly intelligent and innovative
  • Great source of stress
  • Drive kids to extreme measures
    • Cheating, having someone else take the exam, performance enhancing drugs, etc.
    • Bring in the ADHD “epidemic” from Ken Robinson’s TED Talk
  • Serve as a large portion of college admissions, yet an extremely intelligent student may have a poor SAT score or an average kid may receive a 1590
  • Seem to cause more harm than good

Do They Truly Serve Their Purpose?

    • In some cases, yes
      • AP testing: allows college students to “place out” of classes they already mastered the material of in high school.  
      • NYS Regents exam serve as a good indicator of whether or not a student learned all the material


  • However, these exams encourage professors to “teach to the test.”  While the students learn exactly what is on the exam, they cannot apply it in all cases


    • For example, It is quite simple to memorize a few key phrases and get a 100% on the Chemistry Regents, but a student really needs to understand concepts to receive a 5 on the AP Physics exam.  
    • Even in the case of Physics, the lecturer will adjust his/her teaching methods to mirror how the AP tests the material as opposed to promoting a true interest in the material
  • Is the purpose of education simply passing the exam, or figuring out what a student is truly passionate about and wants to devote his/her life to?

Schreyer Admissions and Standardized Testing

  • While I read this in on the Schreyer website before applying, the Dean of Admissions stressed the fact in an Information Session I spoke at
  • While Penn State looks at standardized test scores, Schreyer does not
  • They feel that there are myriad more important factors determining a student’s ability level/well-rounded nature.  
  • Agree with this!!

Implications of Shift:

Who Does the Shift Effect?

  • Students
    • Effects college admissions, promotion to another grade level, graduating with honors, and how classes are structured
    • Drive students toward unhealthy competition and extreme stress
    • Leads to a mindset of simply desiring to get through “the next quiz” or “the next big paper”
    • Makes learning torturous and agonizing
  • Teachers
    • Changes how they teach the course
    • Emphasis on teaching to the test vs what they love most about the course
      • When a teacher adds a small blurb about a related subject they are passionate about, students don’t care simply because it isn’t on the test

The Future of Standardized Tests

  • Unlike Common Core, it looks like standardized tests aren’t going anywhere
  • Since they help “standardize” material across the nation, they are highly favored by those attempting to elevate the performance of American children.  



  • Problem identified: the US is falling behind the world in the educational realm
  • Solution:
    • Attempted to place greater emphasis on student performance
    • In reality, we need to look at why education is structured the way it is
  • As the times evolve, education must do the same


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