Ohio Echoes National Call for Brakes on High-Stakes of Common Core Tests

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Tests Should Be Decoupled from Decisions that Hurt Students, Teachers and Schools until Standards Are Properly Implemented and Field-Tested 

(May 1, 2013) The Ohio Federation of Teachers today joined a national call for a moratorium on the stakes associated with Common Core assessments until the standards are properly implemented and field-tested.

"We support the Common Core standards as a way to transform the very DNA of teaching and learning," said OFT President Melissa Cropper. "We are excited about the possibilities for greatly increased student achievement.

"Students across Ohio stand to benefit deeply with the correct approach to this new way of teaching and learning. States will get this wrong, however, by pushing too fast before the components of a strong plan are created," Cropper said. "Ohio must take a more thoughtful look at developing a quality implementation plan with field testing to make sure it's accurate before imposing high-stakes consequences."

Teachers for the most part know about the new standards, but have not had enough time to dig into them deeply, make the necessary alignment changes within the school, and adjust teaching strategies. Cropper said teachers need more quality professional development, resources, and time to make an authentic switch to Common Core before attaching high stakes decisions to the new standards.  

The national call for a moratorium on high-stakes consequences until standards can be properly implemented came from AFT President Randi Weingarten during a speech in New York yesterday. In that speech, Weingarten made it clear that if implemented properly and in partnership with educators, the new, deeper Common Core standards for math and English language arts can transform teaching and learning and provide all children with the problem-solving, critical-thinking and teamwork skills they need to compete in today's changing world. 

"If we're able to step on the accelerator of quality implementation, and put the brakes on the stakes, we can take advantage of this opportunity and guarantee that deeper, more rigorous standards will help lead to higher achievement for all children," Weingarten said. 

Weingarten said a moratorium is necessary on the consequences of high-stakes tests to allow for midcourse corrections, as needed, in aligning the standards, curriculum, teacher training, instruction and assessments.   

Forty-five states and the District of Columbia have adopted the Common Core State Standards, but some states and districts are giving students assessments based on the standards before they have been implemented, without giving teachers the tools and resources they need to make these instructional shifts, and based on content students may have never seen, Weingarten said. 

Weingarten made clear that this is not about stopping the tests, it's about decoupling the tests from decisions that could unfairly hurt students, teachers and schools. Right now, nationally, test scores may be used to determine if a student advances or is held back, to designate a school's performance, to evaluate educators and even to decide school closures. 

"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," said Weingarten. "These standards, which hold such potential to create deeper learning, are instead creating a serious backlash as officials seek to make them count before they make them work. They will either lead to a revolution in teaching and learning, or they will end up in the overflowing dustbin of abandoned reforms." 

A recent AFT poll found that 75 percent of teachers support the new standards, but that they have not had enough time to understand them, put them into practice or share strategies with colleagues. 

"Can you imagine doctors being expected to perform a new medical procedure without being trained in it or provided the necessary instruments—simply being told there may be some material on a website? Of course not, but that's what's happening right now with the Common Core." 

Weingarten also highlighted districts, such as Cleveland, and states, such as Kentucky, that are trying to build effective implementation programs, but she made clear that everyone everywhere must be engaged in this work to make the potential of the Common Core a reality for all students. 

"This is our chance—and it must be our choice—to get this right. Rhetoric about urgency can't trump quality, equity and sustainability," Weingarten said.