The Intersection

AFT President Calls for Making Common Core Standards Work before They Count

May 1, 2013


AFT President Randi Weingarten is calling for a moratorium on high stakes associated with Common Core assessments until states and districts have worked with educators to properly implement them. These standards, she said, will result in one of two outcomes: They will lead to a revolution in teaching and learning, or end up in the dustbin of abandoned reforms.

“What has me optimistic is that teachers want these standards to succeed,” Weingarten said in an April 30 speech in New York City. “We recently polled our members, and 75 percent of our teachers support the Common Core standards. That’s no surprise—because teachers, including many AFT teachers, played a fundamental role in the design and review of these standards. We’re talking about less memorization, less racing through a course of study, and more searching for evidence and conceptual understanding. All of which help students to be college- and career-ready.”

However, there are also reasons for pessimism, she noted. “These standards, which hold such potential to create deeper learning, are instead creating a serious backlash—as officials seek to make them count before they make them work. That’s what we’re seeing here in New York, as you have witnessed in the last few weeks. And it is happening throughout the country.”

“Let me be clear about what this moratorium is and isn’t: We aren’t saying students shouldn’t be assessed. We aren’t saying teachers shouldn’t be evaluated. We’re not saying that there shouldn’t be standardized tests. We’re talking about a moratorium on consequences in these transitional years.”

“It’s kind of amazing that it’s necessary to call on states and districts to implement the Common Core before making the new assessments count,” Weingarten said. “But that is what I feel compelled to do today. Districts, states and policymakers: Administer student assessments, perform teacher evaluations, but use them to understand and respond to student and teacher needs in this transition. Just like businesses let data improve products, let the data inform instruction and improve policy. That way we can help teachers and students master this new approach to teaching and learning, and not waste time punishing people for not doing something they haven’t yet been trained or equipped to do.”

The speech marked the beginning of coordinated activism by AFT and its 1.5 million members to urge proper implementation of the Common Core. The union has prepared an extensive online toolkit on the Common Core for its leaders. Members are urged to send letters urging U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and their state education commissioners to support a moratorium. On May 9, AFT members will wear blue to show their support for the Common Core and the need to “Do What It Takes Before High Stakes.”

“The fact that the changes are being made nationwide without anything close to adequate preparation is a failure of leadership, a sign of a broken accountability system and, worse, an abdication of our moral responsibility to kids, particularly poor kids,” Weingarten said.

To read AFT President Randi Weingarten’s full speech, go here


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