AFT's Weingarten: "Just rhetorically adopting the Common Core standards will not improve teaching and learning. They must be thoroughly implemented and integrated with teacher development, teacher evaluation systems, curriculum and assessments."
PROVIDENCE, R.I.—Teams of school administrators and teachers union leaders from 15 cities rolled up their sleeves at a first-ever conference to work on ways to align the new, rigorous Common Core State Standards with teacher development and evaluation systems, curriculum and assessments.
The American Federation of Teachers conference, "Connecting the Dots: Collaboratively Moving from a Sorting System to a Learning System," was sponsored by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
Forty-five states and Washington, D.C., have adopted the Common Core State Standards for math and English language arts. The standards must be implemented by the 2013-14 school year.
"Just rhetorically adopting the Common Core standards will not improve teaching and learning. They have to be thoroughly implemented and integrated with teacher development, teacher evaluation systems, curriculum and assessments," said AFT President Randi Weingarten. "This is part of the continuing improvement process that is essential for high-quality teaching. It's a big change, and we have to get this right."
She added that educators have received little guidance on implementing the Common Core standards. "We need commitment, not just exhortation by federal and state governments to adopt and put into practice the Common Core standards. Teachers need the time and the tools to master curriculum and other instructional changes to be able to teach competently and confidently, and that costs money," Weingarten said.
She noted that states' austerity budgets and a fixation on testing—which have been used to sort and punish teachers—have diverted resources and time from what really needs to be done to help teachers succeed in preparing kids well for the opportunities and challenges ahead of them.
Teams heard from outside experts and districts that have already begun the alignment process. For example, Marlboro, N.Y., leaders shared their work connecting the Common Core standards to curriculum, including grade-level teams creating lessons. Cranston, R.I., and West Warwick, R.I., team members discussed their progress in integrating their teacher evaluation systems with the Common Core standards.
Labor-management teams from the following districts participated in the Providence conference:
Albuquerque, N.M.; Baltimore; Berea, Ohio; Cincinnati; Cranston, R.I.; East St. Louis, Ill.; Meriden, Conn.; Nashua, N.H.; New Britain, Conn.; Pawtucket, R.I.; Philadelphia; St. Louis; Toledo, Ohio; West Haven, Conn.; and West Warwick, R.I.
For the Common Core standards to be implemented effectively, Weingarten said:
- Labor-district partnerships are essential and give teachers a voice, which is especially important since they are the ones who work most closely with the students.
- Parents need to understand why the Common Core standards are important, how they are used, and how they will better educate their children.
- Teachers need professional development and other resources to implement these new standards.
In addition to this conference, another example of the AFT providing the tools and resources teachers need is the AFT's Share My Lesson, a free online collection of more than 255,000 education resources by teachers, for teachers. Share My Lesson includes a significant bank of resources, such as grade-specific lesson plans, that are aligned to the Common Core standards.
- Public education must end the current obsession with high-stakes tests and create good assessments—not just fill-in-the-bubble tests—that are aligned with the Common Core.