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NY teachers union pulls its support from Common Core, urges removal of state ed chief

The Board of Directors of the New York State United Teachers, a union with more than 600,000 members, has approved a resolution that withdraws its earlier support for the Common Core State Standards “as implemented and interpreted” by the New York Education Department. It also declares “no confidence” in the policies of State Education Commissioner John King and calls for a three-year moratorium on high-stakes consequences from standardized testing.

The action is a blow to supporters of the Common Core, which was approved several years ago in 45 states and the District of Columbia but which has become increasingly controversial around the country, with a number of states pulling back from the initiative or changing the standards. Some states, such as Florida, are actually changing the name so as not to be seen as being identified with the Core.

The New York State United Teachers, which is part of the American Federation of Teachers, had given its support to the Core earlier. But AFT President Randi Weingarten, a longtime Core supporters, has called implementation of the Core “far worse” than that of the troubled Web site. She also supports the NYSUT resolution.

Implementation of Common Core in New York has been severely troubled from the start. Teachers have complained that they weren’t given enough time to create lessons aligned with the Core before students were required to take state-mandated Core-aligned tests. Those assessments, given last year, proved controversial when state officials predicted exactly what percentage of students would flunk. (How did they know? They set the cut scores.) The latest scandal: A Common Core Web site created and operated by the New York Education Department actually sent students to other sites with vulgar material, and when questioned about it, officials refused to take responsibility. (You can read about some of the problems in these posts from award-winning Principal Carol Burris of South Side High School in Nassau County, who has been chronicling New York’s standardized test-driven school reform on this blog for some time: here, and here and here and here and here.)

The board met Saturday in Albany and approved the resolution, which will now be sent to more than 2,000 delegates to the union’s Representative Assembly meeting in April in New York City. It would be surprising if it doesn’t pass.

The resolution declares “no confidence” in King, calling for his removal, and, according to a union release, is asking for the following:

* completion of all modules, or lessons, aligned with the Common Core and time for educators to review them to ensure they are grade-level appropriate and aligned with classroom practice;
* better engagement with parents, including listening to their concerns about their children’s needs;
* additional tools, professional development and resources for teachers to address the needs of diverse learners, including students with disabilities and English language learners;
* full transparency in state testing, including the release of all test questions, so teachers can use them in improving instruction;
* postponement of Common Core Regents exams as a graduation requirement;
* the funding necessary to ensure all students have an equal opportunity to achieve the Common Core standards. The proposed Executive Budget would leave nearly 70 percent of the state’s school districts with less state aid in 2014-15 than they had in 2009-10; and
* a moratorium, or delay, in the high-stakes consequences for students and teachers from standardized testing to give the State Education Department – and school districts – more time to correctly implement the Common Core.

NYSUT President Richard C. Iannuzzi was quoted in a news release as saying that King “has pursued policies that repeatedly ignore the voices of parents and educators who have identified problems and called on him to move more thoughtfully.”