Last week, the New York State Education Department released the results of the 2013 state test scores, which were fully aligned to the new national Common Core Standards for the first time. The Core standards are fewer, clearer, and higher, and thus the bar for proficiency was raised. Chancellor Dennis Walcott warned educators and families to brace themselves for a drop in scores. And boy did they drop. Last year, 47% of students in New York City passed the English test and 60% passed the math test. This year, only 26% of students across the city passed the English test and 29% passed the math test. In fact, nine schools across the city had zero students pass the math test. Yes, you read that correctly: zero.

The internet is abuzz with talk about the results, and much of the talk is centered on what’s wrong. The tests weren’t fair. The students were too stressed out. The teachers weren’t prepared. The schools didn’t have enough time to adjust their schoolwide practices and instructional strategies. But excuses get us nowhere.

Certainly, the news is disheartening, and we do need to go through some grieving in order to come out stronger on the other end. The 5 stages of grief are Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and Acceptance. I hope that we move quickly through the first four stages because the question that we really need to be asking ourselves is not “Why did we fail?” but rather “What now?” We are educating children in the 21st century, preparing them for jobs that we don’t even know exist yet. In order to do that effectively, we have to raise the bar.

Instead of griping about all the factors that led to the precipitous drop, what can we learn from those that were successful? 97% of the students at Bronx Success Academy 2 passed the math test and 77% of them passed the English test. (See other bright spots here.) How did they do it and how can other schools adapt some of their strategies to fit their own?

As we prepare our programming for the 2013-2014 school year, Schools That Can is excited to help schools learn best practices from each other by sharing their personal challenges and successes related to the Common Core. We owe it to our students to move beyond the denial, the anger, and the bargaining. We need to focus on helping students reach their potential and leap over the bar. The way we will accomplish that is by learning from Schools That Can.