July/August 2013 Issue
- Testing/Assessments & Learning Standards, APPR/Teacher Evaluation
June 22, 2013

New Common Core flexibility gives states time to 'get it right'

Author: Matt Smith
Source: NYSUT United

The U.S. Department of Education will give states the opportunity to hold off for one year the use of standardized tests as a factor in making high-stakes personnel decisions - a move made in the wake of a fierce campaign waged by NYSUT and its members.

The new policy will give states until Sept. 30 to apply for a waiver that would extend until 2016-17 the use of assessments in teacher evaluations.

"Secretary [of Education Arne] Duncan's announcement is consistent with NYSUT's call for this year to be a 'hold-harmless' year, in which school districts and teachers can look at what worked, and what needs tweaking, in order to ensure that evaluations are meaningful and fair," said NYSUT President Dick Iannuzzi.

The announcement came just 10 days after more than 15,000 NYSUT members, parents and union and community activists packed the Empire State Plaza for the "One Voice United" rally. The rally was the latest step in NYSUT's campaign urging policymakers to reconsider the way in which the Common Core was being rolled out.

American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten called for a moratorium on using assessments in high-stakes decisions, a move that was in sync with NYSUT's own campaign. Weingarten said while Common Core had the potential to "revolutionize" teaching and learning, districts must be given the time to develop a quality implementation plan. National Education Association President Dennis Van Roekel affirmed that position, saying Common Core should focus on "teaching and learning," rather than "consequences."

NYSUT's campaign included thousands of "Tell it like it is" letters from educators and a petition - signed by more than 10,000 parents and other education advocates - calling on the State Education Department and Board of Regents to delay using the new state assessments in high-stakes decisions regarding student and teacher performance.

Iannuzzi and NYSUT Vice President Maria Neira emphasized that message during the union's statewide and months-long "Tell it like it is" listening tour. (See story on page 16.)
Duncan said the decision came as a result of hundreds of meetings across the nation with teachers and other educators - people he described as doing "the real work."

Under the new flexibility, the department also will offer states the opportunity to avoid "double-testing" of its students, which could happen as states begin to administer Common-Core aligned assessments. Duncan said states could request they be allowed to use just one test in schools - either a field test designed to help work out the kinks in the new assessment system, or the regular state assessment.

Neira said the leadership and activism of NYSUT and its members is helping to effect change at both the state and national levels.

"Educators, through their union, have been voicing their concerns loud and clear: We all want the state to get it right," she said. "The Regents listened to educators and took an important step in the right direction. Now, Secretary Duncan has signaled that the federal government will allow states more time to implement the Common Core more fully and fairly before attaching high-stakes consequences to standardized tests."

Neira added that NYSUT will be urging SED and the Regents to take a leadership role among the states in seeking additional time to make the adjustments necessary to "get it right."