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Would Arne Duncan Consider Calling for Pause in Common Core Stakes?

Late last month, American Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten called for a moratorium on any high stakes attached to the Common Core State Standards as they are being implemented, to allow teachers more time to prepare.

This month, a majority of Washington "insiders" believe states will enact some sort of moratorium on stakes. A small portion, or 18 percent, thought the U.S. Department of Education would take such action, according to this Whiteboard Advisers survey.

To be clear, most stakes tied to the common core (or any standards) are assigned by states—penalties for schools that don't make good progress on test scores, for example. But the feds also play a role in assigning stakes. For example, federal officials require states with a waiver to eventually attach stakes to teacher evaluations tied to test scores.

So I asked Education Department press secretary Daren Briscoe about whether Arne Duncan would echo these calls for pausing stakes tied to common core, and take relevant action at the federal level. Briscoe said federal officials have heard these concerns and are "thinking them through carefully."

He wouldn't elaborate.

Sounds to me like he's not closing the door on such a pause.

And if you read Andy Smarick's Q-and-A with the Education Department, it's clear Duncan and crew realize the tough work that's ahead for common core and tests.

"...[W]e must provide teachers and principals with the resources and professional development they need to make the transition," the department says.

What's more, the department in December quietly suspended its own peer review of state assessments until further notice—a mechanism of federal review that served as a check on state tests to make sure they comply with the No Child Left Behind Act. Remember, states are still operating under their existing state testing systems while the common tests are being developed.

The department, which is revising its peer review system, told Smarick: "Once complete, all assessment systems, including PARCC, Smarter Balanced, and all other state assessment systems, will be required to demonstrate how they meet the requirements for technical quality, alignment, and other assessment best practices."

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