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Thursday, September 29, 2016

Randi WeingartenDuring a Tuesday morning speech to the Association for a Better New York, American Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten called for a moratorium on using standardized test results to evaluate schools, students, and teachers until Common Core state standards are better implemented.

Weingarten effusively praised the Common Core education reforms, which would impose a new set of standards for English language arts and mathematics that would shift the focus from memorization to conceptual understanding — and which supporters say would better prepare students for college education and competitive careers. But although Weingarten said the new standards “have the potential to be a once-in-a-generation revolution in education,” she also warned that too many schools still remain unprepared to teach the new curricula.

Citing an AFT poll of teachers finding that an “overwhelming majority said they haven’t had enough time to understand the standards, put them into practice, or share strategies with colleagues,” Weingarten promised that test scores would drop due to students’ and teachers unfamiliarity with the new standards, and argued that it would be absurd to use those scores to determine whether students are held back, or to designate a school’s performance.

“Can you even imagine doctors being expected to perform a new medical procedure without being trained in it or provided the necessary instruments — simply being told that there may be some material on a website?” Weingarten asked. “Of course not. But that’s what’s happening right now with the Common Core.”

“I am proposing that states and districts work with educators to develop clear tasks and a clear timeline to put in place the crucial elements of Common Core implementation,” Weingarten said. “And until then, the tests should be decoupled from decisions that could unfairly hurt students, schools, and teachers.”

Common Core has become an increasingly — and somewhat surprisingly — divisive issue over the past several months. Although 45 states and the District of Columbia have adopted the new standards, and both the Obama administration and a majority of Republican governors across the country support the reform, many conservatives are now pushing back. The Republican National Committee recently passed a resolution condemning the plan as “an inappropriate overreach to standardize and control the education of our children so they will conform to a preconceived ‘normal,'” and right-wing media mogul Glenn Beck has been aggressively promoting conspiracy theories charging that Common Core will somehow destroy American society.

While Weingarten declined to discuss the growing partisan battle over the standards, she did have some strong words about another issue that has divided Washington: the federal budget sequester, which she argued would hamstring Common Core’s implementation.

Noting that some estimates have predicted the costs of implementation to run as high as $12 billion, Weingarten stressed that “schools and students have already endured four years of deep cuts to education,” and lamented that “while the sequester may no longer be causing headaches at airports, it’s taking a hatchet to education funding for poor children.”

In comments to reporters after her speech, Weingarten elaborated that — although Congress moved swiftly to solve the “middle class problem” of sequester-based flight delays — legislators have done nothing to help poor children who will suffer from deep cuts to Title I services, IDEA funding, and Head Start, among other vital programs. Weingarten also noted that the sequester could also cost 10,000 teachers their jobs if no action is taken.

“We’re already seeing — because of state cuts — less funding today than 10 years ago in terms of early education. And sequestration means that 70,000 fewer kids will get the services of Head Start,” Weingarten explained. “So this is in some ways an invisible cut, because it hurts poor kids. At the very same time that we’re actually saying that kids need these deeper, more enriched standards, we’re actually taking away current support.”

Randi Weingarten’s full speech to the Association for a Better New York can be read here.

Photo: Randi Weingarten testifies at a 2010 hearing about supporting America’s educations (House Committee on Education and the Workforce Democrats via Flickr.com)

  • charleo1

    Perhaps no other institution has suffered more than public schools, as a
    result of Right Wing, extremist, and the T-Party’s disdain for education.
    And in those States like Florida, where they gained unstoppable majorities,
    after the 2010 elections. There has been no institution, or group of people,
    they have went after any harder, and sought to inflict more harm upon, than
    public school teachers. And that list of those who fared better, would include,
    violent criminals child rapist, women who have been raped, or Middle Class families with children. Who have suffered a kind rape, of their economic, and educational opportunities, under the cynical nihilist’s, anti-government, pro-corporate flag.
    They have used the F-Cat as a cudgel, aganist teachers. Directly tying their
    salaries, and jobs, and even the school itself, to the one size fits all, test.
    Making no allowances for inner city schools, where a greater portion of the kids
    live in abject poverty, and English may not even be their first language. Governor
    T-Party, Scott, who rode the extremist’s support, and money, he likely stole from the Medicare program, in his former job as CEO of a hospital chain, to the Governor’s chair. While, down South in Miami-Dade County, where budgets had been stretched to the breaking point by the housing collapse. Furloughed thousands of public school teachers. As Scott withheld desperately needed funds slated for Miami-Dade. Then, handed out those funds, to connected cronies, as start up money to buy land, and build for profit Charter Schools. That were of course, exempt from the F-Cat, and it’s sometimes impossible standards, that came with it.

    • sigrid28

      Ah Florida, the national petrie dish. Now, we can observe the outcome of the corporate model in education, where even well-educated teachers with twenty years of experience and superb references are deemed “overqualified” and replaced by easily disposable modules (new college grads who come in at the bottom of the pay scale; without subject majors, just “education degrees;” who can be substituted by highly paid administrators at will).

      Speaking as one of these over-the-hill experts put out to pasture I can say that I and others like me would be able to master teaching the Common Core State Standards for English–any level–IN A DAY using any text or library book at our disposal. We happy few, we band of brothers (and sisters) mastered the subjects we teach so we can concentrate on two things: WHO THE STUDENTS ARE and WHERE THEY ARE, whether you are talking about the attendance list or a student’s understanding of “Moby Dick,” for example.

      Then why the delay? As I surfed about the Common Core website, under the topic “Resources,” I noticed two noteworthy entries: Publishers’ Criteria of the Common Core State Standards in English, and Publishers’ Criteria of the Common Core State Standards in Mathematics. We should not forget that any new set of educational standards may represent a daunting challenge for students and novice teachers, but Common Core State Standards is a bonanza for publishers, who have to bring out ALL NEW text books and nonprint media, tests and workbooks, and other teaching materials, which cannot be done overnight. Each new curriculum is a moneymaker for someone.

      • charleo1

        Thank you so much for your comment, that gives those
        like myself, who are not teachers, or school administrators,
        a ringside seat, as to how these policies affect the business
        side of education. I had read with interest, the influence of
        Texas, on all new curriculum for schools nationwide, because
        of being the largest purchaser of text books, and other such
        materials. And how the decisions of the very religious members
        on the State Board, was dealing with the subject of evolution,
        vs. intelligent design. Deciding, that intelligent design be taught
        along side of Darwin, so as students could make up their own
        minds as to the validity of each theory. So, one might imagine
        the Earth Science class teaching on one hand, a planet, six
        billion years old, first forming as a molten mass. And offering
        up a scenario, presented with an equal amount of validity, as
        looking very much like a Flintstone cartoon. With Wilma, and
        Fred, sharing a six thousand year old Earth, with the dinosaurs.
        These are the same people, mind you, that would condemn
        the Taliban’s rejection of modernity.

  • All students are not alike, each one has deferent likes and dislikes and is always smarter in doing the things he is interested in doing. There are Mechanics, science’s, doctors, mathematicians, artists, space, we need to teach our students to think for themselves and not conform to the ways of others.