In Press Release

AFT Michigan and AFT National have supported and advocated for Common Core standards. We did so because we have always advocated for high academic standards that reflect knowledge and competencies students should possess to be able to compete in a global economy, including critical thinking and problem solving. The standards were developed by experts, grounded in evidence, internationally benchmarked, and provide a coherent framework to prepare students for college and careers. We believe in holding our students to high expectations.

We know that too many students have the continued need for remedial courses when they pursue higher education. Others risk being unprepared for high-skill jobs—which remain unfilled which negatively impacts our local economy. Common core should help address these concerns.

We do, however, have a number of concerns about implementation. If not implemented correctly and fairly with the resources necessary the goal of common core standards will not be reached and students and educators will be harmed.

There must be comprehensive and meaningful professional development in order to implement these standards. Educators need be trained as to what the standards are, how advancement to standards is measured and best practices for our students to reach these goals. This takes additional resources that the state must provide our
already financially strapped public education system. Implementing the common core standards and developing and utilizing assessments for these standards raise different questions. First we should ask: Why we Assess in the
first place? The answer is easy – helps teachers determine learning progress so that they can modify instructional practices accordingly to help students learn. Assessment canʼt just be about comparing kids in Detroit to Arkansas. Sure, itʼs interesting to know, but assessment must be directly tied to improving student learning. To achieve this there must be multiple measures of student growth, and all measurers must enhance our studentsʼ education rather than narrow it. We concur that pre and post tests are important. But assessments must be used, for diagnostic reasons. To help identify where a student is strong and where she is weak so that the teacher can address the weakness.

Smarter Balanced is aligned with common core standards but is not the be all and end all of assessments. It can provide valuable data but so can using student learning objectives and teacher prepared pre and post tests. Furthermore, we do question having Kindergarten and early elementary students sitting in front of a computer
answering questions to judge their academic growth.

As we are today with the MEAP and the Michigan Merit Exam we are concerned that assessment results will be used for high stakes decision making, because we worry that tying these decisions to testing will change the purpose of assessing from diagnosing student learning to other purposes In the very, very least there must be a three year moratorium on the use of assessment results to make these decisions. We must know as fact that the standards, assessments and curriculums are aligned. Educators must have time to be trained and to work with these new standards.But that is our fall back position. We have issues with using these assessments as the determining factor for high stakes decision making at any time. For example, what will be the response to these assessments being used to determine which are priority schools (the bottom 5%) and which are focus schools(a subgroup is not doing well)? One could guess even more teaching to the test which narrows the focus from achieving all standards, thus limiting the expanse of a studentʼs education and damaging the ability to use these assessments as diagnostic tools. If this is about the pursuit iof high student expectations through quality instructions letʼs keep that the focus

And we are concerned over how these assessment results will be used to evaluate teachers. The current law requires 25% of a teachers evaluation be based on the standardized test results. Again, damaging its use as a diagnostic tool. Moreover, there are bills concerning merit pay although as Dr. Deborah Ball, chair of the MCEE, points out in the councilʼs report, there is no evidence that merit pay enhances performance and evaluations should not be used in this way.Additionally, over a year ago, the state legislature said teacher evaluations were a
prohibited subject of bargaining. We truly do not know how you have a meaningful evaluation system when it is unilaterally determined without meaningful educator input. As we roll this out we are missing an opportunity to improve evaluation through the bargaining process and we undermine local participation.

Conclude, by going back to the why we advocated for common core standards. To enhance our students education and to better prepare them for secondary education and/or the world of work. If implemented correctly and if aligned assessments are used for diagnostic reasons to help improve student learning, the adoption of these standards by the state board of education, will be a real benefit for our children and our communities.

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