Teachers and their unions believe in the promise and potential of the Common Core State Standards, despite what Hanna Skandera and Kevin Huffman wrote in their July 25 Washington Forum commentary, “Teachers unions’ destructive behavior.” The American Federation of Teachers has supported higher standards since the 1990s, and we reaffirmed that support this month at our national convention.
Last year, in New Mexico, our union called for a moratorium on high-stakes testing on the standards. We weren’t fleeing from accountability then, and we’re not fleeing from it now. In fact, we advocated for a stronger accountability system that tracks multiple measures of learning and focuses on support and improvement. We believe that we must give teachers, students and parents the time, tools and trust necessary to make the standards work in the classroom and not put all of our focus on tests.
The Common Core is falling apart in states such as Indiana, Louisiana and Oklahoma, where right-wing governors have hijacked standards adoption. That this commentary was directed at teachers and their unions instead of at governors such as Indiana’s Mike Pence and Louisiana’s Bobby Jindal reveals the writers’ true anti-union motives.
Stephanie Ly, Albuquerque
The writer is president of the New Mexico state chapter of the American Federation of Teachers.
Recent convention votes by teachers unions reflect the rising grass-roots movement against standardized exam overkill and related polices. Like many parents, students and community activists, local union members are outraged by harmful test-and-punish schemes. That is why they pushed their national associations to speak out more strongly.
Political appointees, such as state education heads Kevin Huffman and Hanna Skandera, mischaracterize the union actions . They also ignore the facts. Test-fixated programs encourage educators to teach to the test to the detriment of other areas of knowledge, the National Research Council has found, but have failed to narrow racial gaps significantly.
Growing numbers of education stakeholders support alternative systems of accountability. Instead of one-time exams, they advocate ongoing assessment of student performance. They draw on personal experience and reams of research data to critique reliance on test scores to measure students, educators and schools.
Test scores are neither an accurate nor fair measure of learning, teaching or educational quality. A moratorium on high-stakes standardized exams would create the opportunity to develop better assessment tools.
Robert A. Schaeffer, Boston
The writer is the public education director for the National Center for Fair & Open Testing.