After dropping hints in interviews and public appearances for weeks, AFT President Randi Weingarten is formally weighing in on the backlash to the Common Core standards today by calling for a moratorium on consequences attached to Common Core test scores.
Weingarten is making the proposal right now in a speech to business and civic leaders at the Association for a Better New York, a pit stop for public figures with new ideas to float. Among the high-profile audience members is state Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch, who helped steer New York's adoption of the tougher standards and has defended the state's decision to test students on the standards before teachers had curriculum materials aligned to them.
Weingarten is expressly saying that she is not opposed to testing students on the new standards, which emphasize critical thinking and problem solving skills. She just doesn't want states or districts to judge schools, teachers, or students according to the test scores.
"When states and districts get the alignment right — moving from standards to curriculum to classrooms to feedback and improvement — student success will follow," Weingarten is saying, according to her prepared comments. "But until then, a moratorium on stakes is the only sensible course."
The full text of the speech is below, and we'll have more complete coverage, including reactions from Tisch and others, later today.
Chancellor Dennis Walcott and UFT president Michael Mulgrew talk at the education commission.
The city and other school districts desperately need additional funding if they are to raise academic standards, Department of Education Deputy Chancellor Shael Polakow-Suransky said today.
Even though the city has done more to integrate new learning standards known as the Common Core than other districts and states, it cannot adequately train staff or buy the materials it needs with the resources it currently has, he said.
"We are bound to fall short if we raise the standards without investing in the support that educators need to meet this challenge," he told the commission, according to his written statement.
The call for additional funding was one of three priorities that Polakow-Suransky outlined before Gov. Andrew Cuomo's education reform commission today. The funding, he said, would be necessary to to purchase new books, software and other learning tools aligned to the Core, and help schools hire coaches to train teachers in the implementation of the Core. He also said the city needed more funds to develop a key piece of the new teacher evaluation system, rigorous assessments developed by the city for each grade level and subject area that would factor into teachers' evaluations on top of many other criteria.
"As these assessments become more authentic there are real costs that come along with them," Polakow-Suransky said. "None of this is funded."
Polakow-Suransky was offering a solution to a problem that United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew told the commission had already arrived. Mulgrew said the Common Core rollout has already been hindered by the lack of robust materials aligned to the new standards that teachers can use in classrooms now.
When it comes to new "common core" standards, theoretical language is giving way to hands-on practice.
The curriculum standards, accepted by 48 states, are being rolled out citywide this year after being piloted in 100 schools last year. Today, every teacher in the city is expected to get training on them.
Chancellor Dennis Walcott sat in on a training session this morning at Brooklyn's PS 124, which took part in the pilot last year. But at many schools, today is likely to be the first time that teachers learn just how the common core standards are poised to change their jobs.
Some principals put together their own plans for today, but they can also draw on four 90-minute lessons the city devised. One session asks teachers to evaluate student work from their own school to see if it meets the new standards. In another, they will practice assessing teachers according to a new evaluation rubric. A third lesson focuses on connecting two overarching citywide goals: strengthening student work and teacher practice. And a fourth lesson asks teachers to examine student work from a school that adopted the new standards last year. The lessons are part of the Department of Education's online "Common Core Library" of resources.
In a letter to principals last week announcing the lesson plans, Walcott laid out a timeline for schools' common core-related accomplishments. This fall, he wrote, teams of teachers at each school should identify students' shortcomings. In the winter, teachers should ask all students to complete two common core-aligned "tasks," one in reading and one in math. Through it all, principals should be giving teachers frequent feedback based on classroom observations, Walcott wrote.
Walcott's letter to principals is below: