National principals group urges slowdown in Common Core implementation

Arne Duncan (By Jacquelyn Martin-Associated Press)
Arne Duncan (Jacquelyn Martin/AP)

The National Association of Secondary School Principals is calling for a slowdown in the Common Core initiative, citing educators’ concerns about “the implementation of the new standards in their states and the inadequate training they have received to help them ensure that their teachers are able to change instructional practices.”

The NASSP, the leading organization representing middle and high school principals across the United States, issued a new policy brief that urges policymakers at the district, state and federal levels to slow down on imposing accountability mandates on new college and career-read standards that the U.S. Education Department has required as a condition of receiving a federal waiver from the most onerous parts of No Child Left Behind. The department gave waivers to most states with one of the provisions being a promise that teacher evaluations would be tied to student scores on new Common Core standardized tests in the 2015-16 school year. But Education Secretary Arne Duncan last year said it was possible for most states to wait until 2016-17 school year.

The policy brief says that the organization supports new standards but says their success depends on “well-thought-out and long-term implementation efforts in states and districts that set reasonable expectations for educators and build the capacity of school leaders and teachers to implement college and career ready standards and administer assessments aligned with those standards.”

Among the recommendations offered to federal policymakers are:

*Abandon the punitive provisions of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act and provide significant financial resources for states to implement college and career ready standards and the related assessments with fidelity.
*Delay for two years the use of new assessment results for high-stakes accountability purposes. A two-year transition will allow for sufficient experience with a fully validated and implemented assessment system consisting of preassessments, performance-based assessments, and summative assessments all accompanied by meaningful and timely feedback to teachers and schools. Specifically, we call for a delay in invoking penalties and sanctions related to test scores on schools, principals, and teachers.
*Eliminate the mixed message sent by current “dual testing” practices in which schools are held accountable for scores on “old state assessments,” but teachers are expected to be engaging in instructional practices that prepare students for new, yet unseen, assessments.

Among the recommendations for state policymakers:

*Adopt a 5–10 year plan to appropriately implement the new, higher standards along with a plan to sustain the changes wrought by their adoption.
*Eliminate outdated state assessments that are not aligned with college and career ready standards and collaborate with principals and teachers to field test new assessments and a process for perfecting them.
*Maximize the flexibility provided by the US Department of Education to delay penalties and sanctions related to test scores on schools,principals, and teachers.

Among the recommendations for district policymakers:

*Continue the process of ongoing professional development that is designed to shift the culture of schools and classrooms and build the capacity of all teachers in middle level and high schools, particularly in the areas of cross-content literacy, including argumentative writing, higher-order thinking skills, application of lessons to real-world situations, and active engagement of all students.
*Ensure that teachers and principals have time to collaborate with one another and provide professional development opportunities for instructional staff members to help build their capacity to teach to higher standards and provide students with the supports they need to achieve them.
*Focus principal training on instructional leadership—not school management—which will help principals and assistant principals to become well-versed in college and career ready standards and give them the ability to coach their teaching staff.

Here’s the entire policy brief:

14-111-AD_CollegeCareerBriefing_rev2[1]

Valerie Strauss covers education and runs The Answer Sheet blog.
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Valerie Strauss | June 3