Teachers head: Don't link tests to evaluations yet

AP News
Posted: Apr 30, 2013 1:47 PM

NEW YORK (AP) — The head of the country's second-largest teachers union said Tuesday governments should hold off on linking standardized test results with evaluations of schools, students and teachers until everyone is on the same page.

Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, called for a moratorium on penalties associated with tests aligned to the national standards called Common Core benchmarks until the standards have been fully implemented.

"The fact that the changes are being made nationwide without anything close to adequate preparation is a failure of leadership, a sign of a broken accountability system and, worse, and an abdication of our responsibility to kids, particularly poor kids," Weingarten told the Association for a Better New York, a business group.

Forty-five states and the District of Columbia have adopted the Common Core standards.

The issue in New York, among the first states to test students based on the standards, has been contentious. New York students in grades 3 through 8 took Common Core-aligned math and English tests during the last two weeks although most schools in the state have not fully implemented the standards.

Some New York students complained that the Common Core-aligned English tests were too difficult to complete in the allotted time, and there were reports of students crying from stress.

Weingarten said she supports the Common Core standards, which are intended to increase rigor and prepare students better for college and careers, but she urged New York not to evaluate teachers or students based on this year's tests.

"Across the state, scores from this spring's assessments may be used to determine whether students advance or are held back, to designate a school's performance, and even to determine whether schools stay open or shut down. And they will be used as 20 percent of teacher evaluations," she said.

Merryl Tisch, the head of New York's Board of Regents, said the same percentage of teachers will be rated "effective" based on this year's tests as in the past. But she noted the state Education Department has said it will not designate any schools as failing based on the tests.

She added: "We believe strongly that this is the right thing for students and teachers right now."

Andrew Kirtzman, a spokesman for the city Department of Education, said, "This is about a special interest that doesn't want this to happen because of fear for their jobs."

The AFT says it has 1.5 million members. The National Education Association claims to be the largest teachers union with 3 million members.