Add California Democrat Rep. George Miller’s name to the list of policymakers who think a “smart pause” is warranted before tying teacher evaluations to tests aligned to the Common Core standards.
“You have to give teachers the opportunity to be fully developed in the presentation of this material,” said Miller, who serves as the top Democrat on the House education committee, at an event promoting the Common Core at the Center for American Progress Friday. “If they are fully developed, you have something to evaluate.”
Miller is hardly alone in this view—numerous states and the District of Columbia have already taken a step back, or are planning to take a step back, when it comes to tying evaluations to new tests intended to gauge whether students are ready for post-secondary education or the workplace. U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan recently offered states with waivers from the No Child Left Behind Act that are transitioning to new tests extra time to incorporate student outcomes into evaluations. And Vicki Phillips, the director of education at the Gates Foundation has also weighed in in favor of a testing moratorium, as has Randi Weingarten, the president of the American Federation of Teachers.
But Miller’s comments pack a special punch because he is one of the most hawkish members of Congress when it comes to accountability. Miller, an architect of the No Child Left Behind Act, said that tying test-scores to Common Core exams before teachers are ready would be repeating one of the biggest mistakes of the NCLB era.
Miller, who will retire at the end of this Congress, remains a big fan of Common Core. He said much of the opposition from GOP policymakers is spurred by folks looking for “reserve parking” on the issue in advance of the 2016 presidential campaign—and folks who need a reason to be angry at the administration now that the administration’s health care initiative has, in Miller’s view, become more politically popular.
“The politicians will keep firing back and forth at one another, Miller said. “But students are enthusiastic” about being more challenged and better prepared for college.
Will Congress reauthorize ESEA anytime soon? Miller doesn’t think it will, or possibly, even should.
“Congress needs to take a deep breath and take some time to think about the transition [to Common Core] and what the federal role should be,” he said.