Date: May 2, 2013 4:49 PM
Author: Jerry P. Becker
Subject: AFT President: Halt All High Stakes Linked to Common Core
From Education Week [American Education's Newspaper of Record],
Tuesday, April 30, 2013. See
Teachers' Union President: Halt All High Stakes Linked to Common Core
By Catherine Gewertz
AFT President Randi Weingarten is calling for a moratorium on all
stakes associated with the Common Core State Standards, saying that
teachers have not had enough time or support to understand them
deeply and shift their instruction accordingly.
In what's being billed as a major speech this morning in New York
City, Weingarten says that it's unfair to judge students, teachers,
and schools on test scores that reflect material that hasn't been
adequately taught yet. Those kinds of high-stakes decisions should be
held in check until states and districts develop-and carry
out-implementation plans that include the time and resources
necessary for professional development, curriculum, and instruction
to fully reflect the standards, she said in draft remarks shared with
Weingarten's speech was triggered by recent opposition in New York
state to this year's tests, which were newly designed to reflect the
expectations of the common standards. The New York state teachers'
union, an AFT affiliate, raised objections to those tests-and
voluntary new curriculum-on similar grounds, as we reported to you
last month. [See
In her prepared remarks, Weingarten praised the common core, saying
it held promise for better teaching and learning, especially for
disadvantaged students. She described a visit to a New York City
school where 4th graders were mining Christopher Columbus' diary for
rich details of his experience, rather than memorizing facts of his
journey. It took more than 50 hours for the teachers at that school
to understand the new standards deeply enough to make necessary
changes in their classrooms, and they still meet weekly to manage it,
Weingarten's draft speech said.
Few schools are managing such shifts, however, the speech said.
Instead, common-core-aligned tests are often being introduced before
lessons and materials are even available or fully put into practice.
That kind of implementation is causing a "serious backlash,"
according to Weingarten's speech.
Before students, teachers, or schools are judged on mastery of the
common standards, Weingarten says, adequate time and support must be
available to understand them, develop curriculum for them, adapt
instruction, and then find out-through "a bunch of different
measures"-whether all that is working. Putting the new standards into
practice without adequate preparation, she says, is "a failure of
Weingarten also takes a dig at the Obama administration, noting that
it earmarked more than $350 million in the Race to the Top funds for
assessments, but nothing specifically for professional development.
(The U.S. Education Department provides about $2.5 billion in
professional-development money to states and districts annually,
through the Title II grants, which they're free to use as they like.)
Anticipating the accusation that she is anti-accountability,
Weingarten said in her remarks that she envisions the moratorium only
in the "transitional years" in which school systems are fully
absorbing the required shifts.
While Weingarten is staking out this turf, others are claiming
different parts of this policy debate. Yesterday, in anticipation of
Weingarten's speech, Tim Daly of the New Teacher Project blogged that
teacher evaluations based on the common core should move ahead. [ See
]There has also been an upsurge in protests against testing in
general, the student demonstrations in Oregon being only one recent
For a full copy of Weingarten's speech, see
Assistant Editor Stephen Sawchuk, who writes Education Week's Teacher
Beat blog, contributed to this report.
Jerry P. Becker
Dept. of Curriculum & Instruction
Southern Illinois University
625 Wham Drive
Mail Code 4610
Carbondale, IL 62901-4610
Phone: (618) 453-4241 [O]
(618) 457-8903 [H]
Fax: (618) 453-4244