A small group of state education officials is pushing back against a call by teachers unions for a moratorium on using standardized tests for evaluating students or teachers until states have completely implemented Common Core standards, a new way of teaching math and reading in grades kindergarten through 12th.
The Common Core standards, fully adopted by 45 states and the District, marks the first time that states have agreed about the knowledge and skills that every U.S. student should acquire by the end of the school year in grades K-12. The standards do not address curriculum — what is taught is left to individual states.
Three weeks ago, Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, called for a moratorium on the “stakes” associated with new standardized tests that are being rolled out across the country.
Chiefs for Change, a group of state education officials organized with help from former Florida governor Jeb Bush (R), released a letter Tuesday to Education Secretary Arne Duncan in which they said states should move ahead with plans to use the new tests to assess students and judge teacher performance.
“Recently, some members of the national education community have advocated for pulling back on accountability in our schools,” the group wrote to Duncan. “. . . [We] reject any calls for a moratorium on accountability. . . . We will not relax or delay our urgency for creating better teacher, principal, school and district accountability systems as we implement more rigorous standards.”
The AFT’s Weingarten, a Common Core supporter, warned that the new approach is being poorly implemented and requires a “mid-course correction” or the effort will fall apart.
Her call came days after New York had administered new tests based on the Common Core standards. Teachers, parents and students complained that the tests were poorly designed, covered material that had not been taught and frustrated children to the point of tears. New York, like many other states, plans to use the test results in decisions about student grade promotion, teacher job evaluations and school closings.
Weingarten said states should implement a moratorium on consequences for at least one year until teachers and students across the country are sufficiently steeped in the Common Core standards. New York and Kentucky are the only states to have begun testing based on the new standards; the others are scheduled to follow in 2014. Her call was echoed days later by Dennis Van Roekel, president of the National Education Association. Together, the unions represent a vast majority of public school teachers.
A poll commissioned by the AFT found that most teachers support the Common Core standards but feel unprepared to teach to them.
Chiefs for Change, whose mission is to put “children first through bold, visionary education reform that will increase student achievement and prepare students for success in colleges and careers,” advocates for “transparent and rigorous accountability” that relies on academic testing as a measure of success.
The group includes Janet Barresi, Oklahoma state superintendent of public instruction; Tony Bennett, Florida commissioner of education; Stephen Bowen, Maine commissioner of education; Chris Cerf, New Jersey commissioner of education; Deborah A. Gist, Rhode Island commissioner of elementary and secondary education; Kevin Huffman, Tennessee commissioner of education; Paul Pastorek, former Louisiana state superintendent of education; Hanna Skandera, New Mexico public education department secretary; and John White, Louisiana state superintendent of education.