Timing the Common Core

American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten made a big announcement this week by calling for a moratorium on all stakes associated with the Common Core State Standards until students and teachers have been given ample training and time to “master this new approach to teaching and learning.” This is a reasonable statement on its face, but what does it mean in practice?

For some context, when No Child Left Behind required every state to adopt standards, create assessments aligned to those assessments, and build an accountability and reporting system, it gave states 44 months to do all of those things (from January 2002 to September 2005). Half the states already had standards and testing systems up and running, but many were starting basically from scratch, and the rest needed to make revisions. For comparison, the Common Core standards are new and more rigorous than existing standards, but they’re only one component of the full accountability apparatus, and all the states that have adopted the standards are relying on either one of the two assessment consortia or ACT to create assessments for them.

The Common Core standards were released in final form in June 2010. It is now almost May 2013, so states, districts, teachers, preparation programs, parents, unions, and students have had about 35 months with the final standards. The new standards won’t actually have consequences for schools and teachers in most states until 2014-15. If we assume the school year starts in September 2014, that will have been 51 months since the standards were adopted. Again, NCLB left 44 months to do everything; the Common Core allows 51 months to implement standards alone. If this isn’t enough time, what would be?

Weingarten also said that the federal government has not provided funds “specifically targeted to prepare teachers” for the Common Core. This is really just a sly way of saying Congress hasn’t dedicated a specific funding stream to support the implementation of the Common Core. Meanwhile, it provides $2.5 billion to support professional development that can be used to “improve the knowledge of teachers and principals and, in appropriate cases, paraprofessionals, concerning effective instructional strategies, methods, and skills, and use of challenging State academic content standards and student academic achievement standards, and State assessments, to improve teaching practices and student academic achievement.” In other words, Congress has provided, and continues to provide, districts with money to support the implementation of state standards such as the Common Core.

None of this mentions the work of the AFT, National Education Association, national foundations, teacher preparation institutions, assessment consortia (Smarter Balanced and PARCC), or other groups with a stake in the successful implementation of the Common Core. The next time you read a proposal about halting the Common Core, keep in mind all the time and money that’s already been spent.

—Chad Aldeman

Chad Aldeman is a senior policy analyst at Bellwether Education Partners.

This blog entry originally appeared on The Quick and The Ed.

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