Leeway Urged in Putting Common Core Into Effect
Five national groups, representing a broad range of state and district-level K-12 leaders, are weighing in on how to manage the transition to common standards and tests.
The Council of Chief State School Officers on May 28 rejected calls for a moratorium on any high stakes tied to the Common Core State Standards. Instead, the CCSSO suggested that states have almost all the power they need to smooth the way for what could be a rocky transition—provided that the federal government allows flexibility on certain issues.
A day later, four organizations representing district leaders called for "adequate" time to prepare teachers to teach the standards, for students to learn them, and for schools and educators to be held accountable for test scores tied to the standards. In their joint statement, the groups did not define how much time would be enough, however. "We must make adequate time for a thoughtful conversation about how assessments can be used to provide instructionally useful information to schools in a timely manner," said the American Association of School Administrators, the National Association of Elementary School Principals, the National Association of Secondary School Principals, and the National School Boards Association.
The state chiefs, in their May 28 "principles" document about the common-core transition, were far more specific.
The CCSSO says states need some flexibility from U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan—on meeting provisions of the No Child Left Behind Act itself or on using NCLB waivers already granted—during the next couple of years as the common core is fully implemented and common tests come on line.
About three dozen state chiefs or their representatives met with three high-level federal department officials May 23 in Chicago to talk about those issues.
The CCSSO, along with the National Governors Association, spearheaded the creation of the common English/language arts and math standards that have been adopted by all but a handful of states.
What They Want
Specifically, the state chiefs want flexibility on:
• Accountability. States want to be able to hold school accountability designations steady for a couple of years, after this current school year, during the transition to new tests, which are scheduled to debut in the spring of 2015.
• Teacher evaluations. The chiefs say they want federal officials to be open to states' requests for delaying the use of student test scores in teacher evaluations.
The timelines have been embedded by the federal department into states' NCLB waiver plans and have been fairly non-negotiable.
For example, federal officials have not approved Illinois' waiver request, because the state cannot meet the aggressive teacher-evaluation deadlines the Education Department is requiring.
• Tests. States should be able to choose which tests to administer for accountability purposes in 2013-14, the chiefs say. That is an issue for the states in one of the two consortia developing common tests, Smarter Balanced, which will give pilot tests to a significant number of students. The 25 states in that consortium are worried about double testing students by giving them both the pilot and the regular state test.
"We're not interested in pausing accountability," said Chris Minnich, the CCSSO's executive director. "Teachers need time and need support to do it."
The federal Education Department wouldn't comment on the chiefs' requests.
Sitting on the sidelines, so far, is Mr. Duncan, who has not forcefully weighed in on the transition years.
Mr. Duncan, when asked at a reporters' roundtable on May 29 whether he favors a pause in accountability as new tests are put in place, responded: "Pause what? When?" And then, "We're working on that."
Staff Writer Lesli A. Maxwell contributed to this article.
Vol. 32, Issue 33, Page 25Published in Print: June 5, 2013, as Groups Urge Leeway in Standards Implementation