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Gates Foundation calls for 2-year delay in Common Core tests

Updated: July 12, 2014 6:28AM



The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which has championed the Common Core State Standards and is credited with getting them implemented in more than 40 states, is recommending a two-year delay on standardized tests that evaluate teachers and students.

Illinois already is taking its time, waiting until next spring to roll out Common Core-based Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers tests, unlike many other states that used them this year.

Instead, Chicago Public Schools use Northwest Evaluation Association and Educational Planning and Assessment System tests that already are given to students to evaluate teachers and determine student promotions, district spokesman Joel Hood said.

“CPS is taking the same cautious approach to student, teacher, principal and school evaluations that the Gates Foundation recommends,” he said in an email. The district’s subsequent test plans for 2015-16 teacher and student evaluations are still unclear, he said.

In a letter published Tuesday on its website, the Gates Foundation called for more time to let teachers and students adjust.

“No evaluation system will work unless teachers believe it is fair and reliable, and it’s very hard to be fair in a time of transition,” the letter said. “The standards need time to work. Teachers need time to develop lessons, receive more training, get used to the new tests, and offer their feedback.”

The foundation’s announcement comes in the wake of a Washington Post story last week that laid out Gates’ history of financial support for the development and implementation of the Common Core standards nationwide.

Robin Steans, head of the education policy group Advance Illinois, which advocated adopting Common Core, said the state wasn’t planning to use the PARCC tests in teacher and student evaluations until next year, recognizing the gravity of such a transition to a new form of instruction.

“You really want to take the fear away so people focus on what’s best for kids, what’s best for practice,” she said.

Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, parent union of the Chicago Teachers Union, has been asking since April 2013 for a study on the high-stakes consequences of the testing.

In a statement Tuesday, she said the foundation’s recommended delay “responds to the very real frustration of parents and educators over a badly mismanaged implementation of the standards — ignoring the real needs of kids, failing to provide the supports for teaching to the standards, and fixating on testing instead of teaching. . . . The common core standards are too important not to get them right.”

Email: lfitzpatrick@suntimes.com

Twitter: @bylaurenfitz



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