Teachers union, GOP sound off on Common Core
The state's controversial new Common Core educational requirements were attacked on two fronts Wednesday -- by teachers who contend the roll out was "botched" and Republican lawmakers who want to delay its implementation altogether.
The Connecticut Education Association, which represents 43,000 teachers, released a survey of its membership that found 97 percent support a moratorium on the Smarter Balanced Assessments that go along with the new standards.
The test is set to be administered beginning next month in most school districts in the state.
In a rare parliamentary move, minority House Republicans on Wednesday successfully petitioned for bills that would freeze the use of the Common Core curriculum requirements and reduce requirements in the state's new teacher-evaluation process.
Majority Democrats declined to raise their proposed legislation for public hearings and chose to have a information forum Friday instead. The 53-member Republican caucus, meanwhile, came up with the 51 signatures needed for a full hearing.
"It is critical that educators, parents, taxpayers and students be heard on these issues within the legislative process, and that can take place only if we have a formal public hearing,'' said House Minority Leader Lawrence F. Cafero Jr., R-Norwalk.
The teachers union said it supports Gov. Dannel P. Malloy's call for a panel, including teachers, to fix the standards and fix the test.
Connecticut is one of 45 states to adopt the Common Core standards, which call for reading and math to be covered more deeply and in a different order than in the past. Connecticut adopted the standards in 2010.
This year, districts were given the option of taking the state's mastery tests or the new Smarter Balanced Assessments linked to the Common Core. Most districts opted for the Smarter Balanced Assessments.
The CEA survey, which was answered by 1,452 members, found that half of all teachers say the new standards are not being implemented well. Most cite insufficient training and materials.
"If teachers don't have the resources to give students appropriate instruction, how can one be expected to pass the test?" Waxenberg said.
He also pointed out that no Connecticut teachers were involved in the development of the new standards or the test.
Education Committee Co-Chairman Andrew Fleischmann, D-West Hartford, called the CEA's proposal to work together on a solution more reasonable than the GOP's call to stop all implementation of Common Core standards immediately.
"I don't even understand how that bill is properly before the General Assembly. I did not have a single Republican colleague approach me about the Common Core curriculum before February of 2014. Not one," Fleischmann said. "This is serious business and it's not like this Common Core suddenly descended out of the sky. It's been a multi-year process."
Commissioner of Education Stefan Pryor called the concerns valid and justified, but he also characterized this testing year as "low stakes."
Results of the new test are not expected until early 2015 and will not count against teachers or students.
So why give it, then?
Pryor said to comply with federal law, the state must administer the test in at least some capacity.
While Waxenberg acknowledged that stopping the new test is unlikely, he also warned that 87 percent of the teachers who answered the CEA poll believe their voices are not being heard.
"Many have reached the saturation point," Waxenberg said.
The CEA survey seems to run counter to others that have been conducted recently.
A Scholastic poll found nearly 3-in-4 core subject teachers in Connecticut are enthusiastic about the implementation of the Common Core. A poll conducted by the American Federation of Teachers also found support for the Common Core.
"We are not saying we do not support high standards," Waxenberg said. "But are these the right standards? These are standards from Washington."
Cafero said lawmakers have heard from hundreds, if not thousands, of educators who want to weigh in on the issue. He added that the planned forum, with hand-picked speakers and a set amount of time, "does not allow for a robust debate."
The Republican teacher evaluation bill would create a subcommittee of classroom teachers to discuss the evaluation program.
It would reduce the number of classroom evaluations to one per year, and cut the number of goals for each teacher. It would also exclude mastery test scores from being factored into teacher evaluations.