Topics: Labor Unions

AFT's Randi Weingarten calls for time out on Common Core testing

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Politics,Beltway Confidential,Sean Higgins,Labor unions

Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, gave a speech yesterday in which she called for a two-year moratorium on the implementation of Common Core testing.

Common Core is a new standard for for teaching reading and math. Devised by a multi-state coalition and endorsed by the White House, it is set to be adopted by 45 states. That has the education establishment in turmoil.

Weingarten called this week for a time out:

Weingarten made clear that this is not about stopping the tests, it’s about decoupling the tests from decisions that could unfairly hurt students, teachers and schools. Right now, nationally and in New York, test scores may be used to determine if a student advances or is held back, to designate a school’s performance, to evaluate educators and even to decide school closures.

“The fact that the changes are being made nationwide without anything close to adequate preparation is a failure of leadership, a sign of a broken accountability system and, worse, an abdication of our responsibility to kids, particularly poor kids,” said Weingarten. “These standards, which hold such potential to create deeper learning, are instead creating a serious backlash as officials seek to make them count before they make them work. They will either lead to a revolution in teaching and learning, or they will end up in the overflowing dustbin of abandoned reforms.”

A recent AFT poll found that 75 percent of teachers support the new standards, but that they have not had enough time to understand them, put them into practice or share strategies with colleagues.

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

It’s not clear how long Weingarten thinks the moratorium should be. Notably, she also made a point in the speech of claiming the union wasn’t against Common Core. AFT teachers were involved in the creation of the new standards,  Weingarten said. She also touted her union’s effort to train teachers in adopting the standards.

Education reform activist RiShawn Biddle offers some thoughts on Weingarten’s move on his website, Dropout Nation. He says she’s engaged in some Bill Clinton-style triangulation:

[Y]ou have to always remember that the AFT is first and foremost a teachers’ union, and it has no interest in backing anything for long if it has the potential to weaken its already-declining influence over education policy. This is especially true if it involves the use of objective student test score performance data in teacher evaluations and other efforts to end the shoddy teacher evaluation regimes (as well as near-lifetime employment privileges) that have helped make teaching one of the professions public sector or private insulated from any performance management (as well as justifies the union’s existence). The AFT is also loathe to continue supporting anything that threatens the grand bargain it (along with the National Education Association) has struck with Baby Boomers among the rank-and-file members under which they give the union carte blanch to do what it pleases so long as it stands stalwart for traditionalist thinking as well ensure that the profession is insulated from accountability. …

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The reality is that Weingarten is doing nothing more than what traditionalist-minded school leaders such as Montgomery County, Md., Supt. Joshua Starr are seeking: Halting any effort to hold districts, teachers, and school leaders accountable for success or failure in improving student achievement. After all, the new Common Core exams are being launched just as states are launching new teacher evaluations that require objective student test score growth data on those exams to account for at least 20 percent of (and sometimes, as much as half) of the overall performance reviews. The fear that declines in student performance on the exams will adversely impact evaluations is largely overblown. But the reality is that the new evaluation systems will likely lead to more teachers being sacked. This doesn’t help the AFT’s bottom line or its effort to preserve influence.

 

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