Education groups back AFT position on Common Core stakes

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A coalition of prominent organizations representing more than 10 million parents, educators and administrators released an open letter on June 6 backing the AFT's call for a moratorium on high stakes tied to new standardized tests aligned with the Common Core State Standards (CCSS).

"Rushing to make high-stakes decisions such as student advancement or graduation, teacher evaluation, school performance designation, or state funding awards based on assessments of the Common Core standards before the standards have been fully and properly implemented is unwise," warned the letter from the Learning First Alliance, which includes the AFT as a member organization. Other Learning First Alliance members backing the position are the American Association of School Administrators, the American School Counselor Association, the International Society for Technology in Education, the National Association of Elementary School Principals, the National Association of Secondary School Principals, the National Education Association, the National School Boards Association and the National Parent Teacher Association. (The National Association of State Boards of Education was the only Learning First Alliance member that declined to sign the letter.)

The letter stresses that the Learning First Alliance believes "the Common Core State Standards have the potential to transform teaching and learning and provide all children with knowledge and skills necessary for success in the global community." However, reaching those goals requires that "teachers, administrators, parents and communities are working together to align the standards with curriculum, instruction and assessment.

"Their work—which includes providing the pre-service and professional learning opportunities educators need to effectively teach the standards, making necessary adaptations to implementation plans as work progresses and field-testing efforts to ensure proper alignment—will take time."

"The moratorium on consequences of high-stakes tests was first urged by American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten in April," Washington Post education reporter Valerie Strauss noted in a recent blog. "Because teachers have not had time to properly absorb and create curriculum around the standards, [Weingarten] said, it's unfair for students to already be taking high-stakes tests aligned to those standards."

Some of the impetus behind the letter came less than a month earlier, at the Learning First Alliance's annual membership meeting in Washington, D.C. (See related story.) At the meeting, teams of AFT leaders and educators from Quincy, Ill., and Cleveland highlighted some of the supports and resources needed for sound implementation of the Common Core in a session moderated by AFT executive vice president Francine Lawrence. Sound introduction of the Common Core "is a process of implementation, feedback and revision," Lawrence told participants. "You need to take the time to get it right." [Learning First Alliance, Washington Post, Mike Rose]

June 11, 2013