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Weingarten and Walcott square off on New York’s handling of the Common Core

Chancellor Dennis Walcott and teachers union chief Randi Weingarten offered their own differing takes this morning on how the implementation of the new Common Core learning standards has gone in New York State.

“New York was a debacle, Dennis,” Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers told Walcott during a panel discussion to help kick off NBC’s three-day “Education Nation” summit at the New York Public Library.

The panel covered the role of standardized testing in classroom instruction, but much of the conversation focused on New York State’s controversial decision to align the Common Core standards to new tests, which was made amid widespread complaints that students and teachers weren’t adequately prepared.

Walcott has been a staunch defender of the decision and reprised his arguments again on Monday. He said that New York was actually ahead of the rest of the country because it was finally confronting a problem — that few high school graduates are actually ready for a college education or to work professionally — that needs more urgency.

“We knew it was not going to be easy,” Walcott said, in response to Weingarten. But he said that the accelerated implementation meant education leaders could have debates about testing to the standards earlier.

It’s not the first time Weingarten has criticized how the state’s implementation of Common Core. In a high profile speech in April, Weingarten called for a moratorium on the use of high-stakes decisions tied to the new tests until schools had more time to adopt the standards.

Walcott and Weingarten have a history from Weingarten’s days in New York City, when she headed the city teachers union. Weingarten left in 2009 after she was picked to takeover the national teachers union.

“It was a nice interaction with Randi,” Walcott said after the panel, which also included Montgomery County schools Superintendent Josh Starr and former Louisiana Superintendent Paul Pastorek. “I miss Randi.”

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