June 2013 Issue
May 24, 2013

National momentum grows to put a brake on high stakes

Author: Deb Ward
Source: NYSUT United
hvaerling 'testers' association
Caption: Haverling Testers', er, Teachers Association members take part in a national day of action to wear blue and call on state officials to "put the brakes on high stakes" assessments. Photo provided.

Following the lead of educators, parents and community members in New York state, momentum is accelerating across the country for a much-needed moratorium on high-stakes consequences for the new Common Core tests.

In a recent address to the Association for a Better New York, AFT President Randi Weingarten called to "put a brake on high stakes," reinforcing support for NYSUT's Representative Assembly resolution that demands this year's tests not be used for high-stakes decisions affecting students and teachers. Her words echo those of thousands of educators who have written heartfelt letters to the commissioner through the union's ongoing "Tell it like it is" campaign.

Weingarten said Common Core Standards "will either lead to a revolution in teaching and learning, or they will end up in the overflowing dustbin of abandoned reforms." The key? Implementation, and the time to do it right, she said.

NYSUT President Dick Iannuzzi heartily agreed. "The insistence on using unproven tests - on material students haven't learned, from a curriculum teachers don't have - is undermining the Common Core's potential to enhance teaching and learning," he said. The National Education Association also supports the AFT's call for a moratorium.

"The conversation right now should not be about the consequences of a score, but about teaching and learning," said NEA President Dennis Van Roekel. "Let's give students and educators the time and tools they need to succeed." The unions' message - that getting Common Core Standards right requires putting the brakes on farreaching test consequences while the state re-evaluates its rocky implementation - is resonating.

NYSUT Vice President Maria Neira said the union's poll of New York state parents found that close to 80 percent agree there should not be high-stakes consequences for new state tests that were rushed out before the material could be fully taught. "Parents agree that there is a total lack of common sense in testing children on what they haven't been taught," she said.

Kati Haycock, president of the Education Trust, a national organization that promotes and supports policies that raise student achievement, seconded Weingarten's call for a moratorium in a message that emphasized taking the time to get Common Core right.

"By muting some of the features of our accountability systems, we can press the accelerator on our improvement systems," Haycock wrote. "As Ted Sizer might say, we can speed up by slowing down." U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan is sending signals he's aware of growing problems with implementation. He recently criticized "high-stakes testing where children's lives or teachers' careers are based on one test." On the subject of a moratorium, he said: "We understand this is a difficult, tough time of transition. We're spending a huge amount of time listening to ideas about how to do it," and noted he is in ongoing conversations on the subject with Weingarten.

The groundswell for a moratorium on high-stakes tests is just one more reason to be at the One Voice United rally June 8 in Albany.