February 19, 2009
Statement by American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten
On Report Finding Limited Improvement in State Standards for Students
"Closing the Expectations Gap," released today by Achieve, finds that, while some states are taking the steps necessary to better prepare students for college and careers, progress in many states has been slow.
WASHINGTON—We commend Achieve for continuing its quest to ensure that every child attending U.S. public schools, regardless of where he or she lives, is taught to high-quality, internationally benchmarked standards. The AFT has been a longtime leader in the standards movement, and earlier this week we called for national standards.
Achieve's report is based on the common-sense idea that students will learn better if we define what they are expected to learn and what skills we expect them to acquire. We have made too little progress, despite decades of work, and we need to change our approach in two fundamental ways.
First, we need to ensure that teachers are very involved in setting standards, and give teachers the tools and conditions to help kids meet standards, including a core curriculum, assessments and time for professional development-all based on the standards. Because educators work closely with students every day, they can provide firsthand experience and important insights about what students need. The failure to involve teachers doomed the standards movement.
Second, we need to restart-at the national level-the discussion about creating high-quality content standards for all students. Most of the effort has focused on states, and this report makes clear that too few students today are educated in an environment with clear benchmarks for high standards of achievement. A Fordham Institute report released today on the variability of No Child Left Behind's sanctions also reinforces the need for national standards. By bringing together a broad-based group of educators, elected officials, community leaders, content specialists and pedagogical experts to establish high-quality national standards, we can, in one fell swoop, remove a key obstacle-the uneven quality of state standards-to providing better and more opportunities for America's children.
# # # #
The AFT represents more than 1.4 million pre-K through 12th-grade teachers; paraprofessionals and other school-related personnel; higher education faculty and professional staff; federal, state and local government employees; nurses and healthcare workers; and early childhood educators.