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IFT President Speaks Out About Common Core State Standards

10/29/2013
Students and teachers packed a hall at the University of Chicago’s Institute of Politics on October 24 to hear educators and self-identified experts discuss the national and statewide launch of Common Core State Standards (CCSS). IFT President Dan Montgomery was on the Illinois panel.

“We’re coming out of a dark period for our profession, and teachers feel under attack for all ills in society,” Montgomery explained. “That atmosphere has created a lot of skepticism for CCSS.”

The IFT President discussed his reservations against tying CCSS with teacher evaluations at the same time CCSS are being rolled out for the first time. A lifelong educator himself, Montgomery listed the possible pitfalls of that approach. The new tests are to be administered on computers, which will limit computer use for instruction. He also questioned how much time testing will take away from instruction, information which has not been made public.

“Putting a moratorium on the high stakes consequences is not an unreasonable thing to do,” he said. Montgomery advocated for more time to get implementation right before assessing teachers on the results. He insisted that a chaotic first year for implementation can lead to poor test scores and, “once the results come out, people of all political stripes will say we’re failing.”

President Montgomery was joined on the panel by District U-46 Superintendent Jose Torres and Advance Illinois’ Director Robin Steans. Montgomery and Torres found common ground with concerns for English Language Learners and the new tests. The two educators echoed each others’ concerns over the budgeting for the new tests and how that will affect existing school programs. Steans expressed trepidation over general education budget cuts and said, “We have a lot of work to do” on school funding, but did not express any need to slow down the high-stakes testing associated with the standards.

The preceding national panel featured U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and the libertarian American Enterprise Institute’s Frederick Hess. The two typically are on the same page regarding initiatives like charter schools, merit pay, and curbing tenure rights. However, the concept of national standards placed them at odds with one another.

Hess expressed serious doubts about implementing CCSS. Although he has been one of the biggest proponents of “no excuses” accountability for teachers, he explained that,

“You can’t roll out new assessments and talk about teacher accountability at the same time.” He predicted that CCSS will be, “Five to six years of disruption and turmoil… but the biggest flop since y2k.” 

Duncan insisted that raising standards and making them uniform throughout the nation would inspire students and teachers to rise to the occasion.

“It’s great to raise standards, but if you’re not helping teachers, parents, and administration with implementation, you’re kidding yourselves,” said Duncan. “We need to do a better job of educating them in what this really means.”

Video of the panel discussion is available online.
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