August 12, 2013
By AFT President Randi Weingarten
Washington, DC – "After months of inoculating warnings that the first results of the Common Core testing would be disappointing, no one should be surprised. These results are the consequence of years of intense fixation on test prep and rote memorization instead of developing the critical-thinking and problem-solving skills our kids need. They are the consequence of simply telling teachers, “Here are new standards—just do it,” without providing the adequate supports and preparation. They are the consequence of putting testing before teaching and learning, and rolling out tests before teachers and students even have the tools, curriculum and material to bring the Common Core into the classroom.
The low scores will be used by some as an excuse to throw out the Common Core or denigrate public education; those are the wrong lessons. But it does show the impact of having an accountability system based on teaching to the test instead of developing the skills kids need. Teachers and students in New York and elsewhere worked incredibly hard this year. But their work was still based on a system that valued test prep and scoring well on old tests that were premised on rote memorization rather than on a system that provides the resources and supports—the curriculum, the professional development, the time, and the extra help kids need to achieve the deeper knowledge and understanding embedded in the Common Core.
Even today, there are reports that teachers and students in New York City may not receive Common Core-aligned curriculum materials before school starts. And a new report from the Center on Education Policy indicates that many states do not have the necessary financial resources, staffing or high-quality materials to adequately prepare teachers to teach to the Common Core.
These results should serve as a warning siren for states and districts across the country rushing to make the Common Core about tests and not about ensuring that the necessary shifts in instruction have occurred—especially to state education chiefs in states like New Mexico and Rhode Island who are being offered additional time to get this transition right but are refusing to take it. If we believe—which we do—that the Common Core State Standards are essential to teaching students the critical-thinking and problem-solving skills they need and to ensuring they are college- and career-ready, then we need to prepare the people who will be helping students master these skills. That is the call we made in April, and these results underscore that urgent need.”