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Teacher group floats Common Core fixes, including a shorter summer break

A teacher-advocacy group says it has some practical ideas for improving the rollout of the Common Core, including a plan to let teachers trade a week of summer break for “intensive” Common Core training.

Educators 4 Excellence, which counts about 7,000 city teachers as members, released a report Monday that calls for the voluntary summer training along with other changes to teacher support and evaluation, testing, and communication with parents. The report arrives as the city and teachers union are negotiating a new contract, where many of those topics will be up for discussion.

Some of the report’s suggestions mirror those previously proposed by the state teachers union, state lawmakers, and a panel appointed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who has fiercely criticized the way the state education department has overseen the standards’ implementation.

But the report departs from Cuomo’s panel by also proposing fixes to the new teacher evaluation system, which he argues should be considered separately from the standards. And it diverges from the union and lawmakers by rejecting a call to remove Common Core test scores from the teacher evaluations.

“For our students it is critical that we do not let the politics drive the discussion and instead engage in a productive conversation about how best to adjust course, improve implementation of the standards, and ensure all of our students receive a high-quality education,” the report says.

The report says the biggest problem with the more rigorous standards, which the state adopted in 2010, is that teachers have not been adequately prepared to help students meet them.

To address this, the report calls for the paid week of summer professional development, which it says should connect to in-school support for teachers that continues throughout the year. The city teachers union would likely have to sign off on such summer training — a topic that could potentially arise in the contract negotiations.

The report also says the state should review the Common Core teaching materials schools have ordered to ensure they meet the needs of all students — a nod to frequent criticism that the new curriculums are not designed to support English language learners or students with special needs.

Some of the proposals match earlier ones by other groups. For example, state lawmakers and the Board of Regents both proposed removing any unnecessary tests from districts’ teacher-evaluation systems, which the new report recommends too. The report also echoes a call by the state teachers union for an independent audit to judge whether the state exams are aligned with the new standards.

Despite the report’s questions about the quality of the state tests, it does not endorse a proposal by the state union and a recently passed state Assembly bill that would delay factoring the test scores into teacher evaluations.

“Delay could create chaos and probably would be the end of the Common Core,” Rob O’Leary, an English teacher at the High School for Law and Public Service who was on the eight-teacher working group that made the recommendations, said in the report.

But unlike Cuomo, the report argues that implementation of the standards and the evaluations should be considered and adjusted in tandem. For instance, it says principals should be better trained to judge whether teachers’ lessons are Common Core-aligned — a consideration likely to come up in the evaluation process.

The report also confronts a concern many teachers have with the evaluation system: Since some grades and subjects, such as physical education and the arts, are not tested by the state, some educators’ evaluations factor in the test scores of students they don’t teach. In order to fix this, the report says all grades and subjects should have assessments whose results could be used to evaluate teachers. Those assessments need not be standardized tests, the report adds.

Read the full report below.


03 24 14 TAT CCSS Memo (PDF)

03 24 14 TAT CCSS Memo (Text)

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