TIME Education

Gates Foundation Calls for Delay in ‘Common Core’–Based Teacher Evaluations

Common Core-Indiana
Kindergarten students at George Buck Elementary School in Indianapolis on March 25, 2014 AJ Mast—AP

A major supporter of the controversial academic standards, the Gates Foundation now says schools should wait two years before using Common Core tests to make "high-stakes" decisions

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which has spent more than $200 million supporting the Common Core academic standards, is pushing for a delay in using test results associated with the new guidelines to evaluate teachers.

The foundation, one of the largest philanthropic organizations in the world, called for a two-year moratorium Tuesday on using the Common Core standards to make “high-stakes” decisions about educators and students.

“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,” Vicki Phillips, the director of education for the Gates Foundation, wrote in a letter. “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 decision was met with support from the country’s largest teachers’ union, the National Education Association, the New York Times reports. “We absolutely need more time not only in using them in high-stakes decisions about teachers, but in using them in high-stakes decisions about students too,” the association’s secretary-treasurer Becky Pringle said.

Critics, however, say that such delays should be decided individually by Common Core states, according to their own specific timelines. Others suggest the delay doesn’t do enough to directly address concerns about the standards, such as whether punishments meted out on teachers based on poor test scores alone will dull creativity in the classroom or, worse, encourage cheating.

Designed by a convention of experienced educators, the Common Core received bipartisan support and encouragement from the Obama Administration when it was formally adopted by 46 states and the District of Columbia. In the years since, it has become a source of frustration for parents and teachers struggling to adjust to the new standards amid speedy state rollouts and mounting test-focused performance evaluations. Several states have already began testing students according to Common Core standards, while three states — Oklahoma, Indiana and South Carolina — have repealed the Common Core entirely.

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