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Weingarten: Wait a Year-Plus on High Stakes Around Common Core

This morning, American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten gave a speech in New York City in which she called for a moratorium on high stakes associated with the impending common-core tests. She said that 75 percent of teachers support the standards, but they need more time to understand and put them into practice before schools, students, and teachers are measured by scores on the new assessments. (Education Week reporter Catherine Gewertz covered the content of the speech here.)

In a media call just after the speech, Weingarten explained that the moratorium "could be one year, could be longer." She went on to say that rather than a particular amount of time on the moratorium, she was asking states to put in place a "quality implementation plan," including curriculum, professional development, and input from teachers.

"In some places the implementation plan could be done quickly," she said. "In Cleveland they've done this in three years." Weingarten added that states also need time for field testing. "There's no shame in midcourse correction."

Weingarten noted that while Kentucky was the first state to implement the standards and is well ahead in this area, the state "spent a lot of time making it clear that the stakes would be deemphasized."

When asked whether states that are holding off until 2014-15 to fully implement the standards should wait an additional year before employing high-stakes measures, Weingarten responded, "I'm saying we have to see the tests. How do you know if there is any alignment, if they're actually measuring what we've been teaching? We need to field test PARCC and Smarter Balance." The common core-aligned tests are not scheduled to be completed until 2014-15.

She also stressed that the proposed moratorium is "not about teacher evaluation. That's an excuse the so-called reformers are using." Instead, she said it's about "taking responsibility and not finding an excuse for the status quo ... [which] is articulating reform and doing nothing to implement it."

"We believe in the common core," she said. "We believe it's a really important strategy for helping kids learn the skills they need to be college and career ready and ready for life. We want to save it and not have it abandoned to the dustbin of history."

In a blog post published yesterday in anticipation of Weingarten's speech, Tim Daly, president of the New Teacher Project, said that holding off on tying student achievement to teacher evaluations in order to get common core right "would be a mistake." He contended that changes to teacher-evaluation systems have already happened too slowly and that "taking accountability out of the equation isn't likely to ease or improve Common Core implementation."

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