At a luncheon honoring educators, State Education Commissioner John King and AFT President Randi Weingarten differed on the state's timetable for Common Core implementation, a week after King abruptly canceled (and ultimately was forced to reschedule) several public forums on that very topic.
Prompted by a moderator for Teaching Matters, the organization that sponsored the New York City event, King repeated his determination to forge ahead even as demands grew for a more measured phase-in.
Weingarten challenged King to rethink his hard-line stance, proposing a multi-year implementation period for the new material and tests, where scores would not be used for high stakes decisions affecting students or teachers.
"Let¹s figure out how to make the adjustments we need to do just like the president is doing for Obamacare so we get this right," she said. "Common Core is a huge shift."
Parents and teachers have raised concerns about the state's poor implementation, which included testing before schools had the time, resources or professional development needed to teach Common Core.
"Commissioner King's not dealing with the Common Core, he's dealing with numbers," NYSUT President Richard Iannuzzi, who attended the luncheon, told reporters.
Ianuzzi said the state should take it a step at a time, first implementing the Common Core correctly, then aligning the right assessments.
The state needs a breather, he said. "We need the State Education Department to go back to concentrating on teaching and learning instead of test scores."
NYSUT, the AFT and the UFT have all called for a moratorium on high stakes attached to the Common Core until the pieces are in place.
Weingarten cited several states that are adopting the Common Core but holding off on the consequences tied to testing. "I get embarrassed when a state like California is figuring it out better than my beloved Empire State," she said. Disinvestment in education over the last five years, she said, has made the rush to test and evaluate especially troubling.
Weingarten was honored at the Teaching Matters event as a champion of education and innovation for her outspoken support of raising teacher quality standards, for her leadership in creation of a teacher development and evaluation model providing continuous improvement and feedback, and for calling for high standards for prospective teachers.