New York Teachers Withdraw Common Core Support, Declare No Confidence

The union's board voted unanimously to declare no confidence in State Education Commissioner John King.

State Education Commissioner John King, Jr., center, listens to a speaker during a forum on Common Core learning reforms at the Stephen and Harriet Myers Middle School on Oct. 24, 2013, in Albany, N.Y.

The New York State United Teachers' board voted unanimously to declare no confidence in state education commissioner John King, center, pictured here at a Common Core learning reform forum on Oct. 24, 2013.

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The board of New York's teachers union on Saturday unanimously voted to withdraw its support for the Common Core State Standards as they are being implemented, and declare no confidence in the state's education commissioner.

The New York State United Teachers, a union which represents more than 600,000 education professionals in the state, is also asking the state Board of Regents to remove State Education Commissioner John King Jr. from office. And although it previously backed the Common Core standards, the union says it will not support the education benchmarks "as implemented and interpreted," until the state education department "makes major course corrections to its failed implementation plan" and puts a three-year moratorium on the high-stakes consequences of testing aligned with the core.

 

"Educators understand that introducing new standards, appropriate curriculum and meaningful assessments are ongoing aspects of a robust educational system," said NYSUT President Richard Iannuzzi, in a statement. "SED's implementation in New York state has failed. The commissioner has pursued policies that repeatedly ignore the voices of parents and educators who have identified problems and called on him to move more thoughtfully."

[READ: State Education Leaders Say They Won't Give Feds Student Data]

Educators and parents have raised concerns about the Common Core-aligned tests in recent months, as well as the consequences they hold for both students and teachers.

When New York school districts began administering Common Core-aligned standardized tests last spring, there were significant drops in scores when the results were released in August. Not even one-third of students in third through eighth grade met or exceeded the standards in math or English.

King said then the sharp drop in scores was a result of the rigor of the new standards and that the decline was expected.

"These proficiency scores do not reflect a drop in performance, but rather a raising of standards to reflect college and career readiness in the 21st century," King said when the scores were released. "I understand theses scores are sobering for parents, teachers, and principals. It's frustrating to see our children struggle. But we can't allow ourselves to be paralyzed by the frustration; we must be energized by this opportunity."

[REPORT: States Cannot Choose Cost Over Quality in Common Core Assessments]

Still, educators in New York have remained steadfast in their opposition to an increase in high-stakes testing. In October, principals from around the state sent an open letter to parents, claiming state testing had increased by 128 percent since 2010, and that children had "reacted viscerally" to the tests.

"We know that many children cried during or after testing, and others vomited or lost control of their bowels or bladders. Others simply gave up," the principals wrote. "One teacher reported that a student kept banging his head on the desk, and wrote, 'This is too hard,' and 'I can't do this,' throughout his test booklet."

But the group of principals, much like the NYSUT, have said these behaviors are not a result of the Common Core standards themselves, but rather the "unwise decision to implement high-stakes testing before proper capacity had been developed."

With students preparing to take the standardized tests again in the coming months, the teachers union is urging state officials to take action.

"It's time to hit the 'pause button' on high stakes while, at the same time, increasing support for students, parents and educators," said NYSUT Vice President Maria Neira, in a statement. "A moratorium on high-stakes consequences would give SED and school districts time to make the necessary adjustments."

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