NYSUT sues state over Common Core tests


No matter how state education officials promote the benefits and successes of the Common Core curriculum standards, it remains controversial. And a new lawsuit by New York State United Teachers probably won't ease those concerns. The union that represents most of the state’s teachers says that the state is stepping on the First Amendment rights of teachers by prohibiting them from discussing the standardized test questions.

The lawsuit was filed by five teachers — four from the Spencerport Central School District. The suit stems in part from the “Stand with Spencerport” petition against the Common Core and standardized testing. By last June, the petition, which included a letter to the State Education Department, had 5,500 signatures demanding accountability and transparency concerning the administration and scoring of state assessments in English and Math for grades 3-8.

The results of these tests are factored into the professional evaluations of New York’s teachers.

The SED initially resisted revealing test questions, but eventually caved to pressure. But teachers were ordered not to discuss the questions. They could face disciplinary action if they are caught criticizing or voicing their concerns about test questions.

Many teachers say that the state’s “gag order” is a way to suppress any further embarrassment for the bungled roll out of Common Core. (Some of the questions on the first batch of tests drew considerable public criticism.)

“This is related to the main issue, which is whether teachers should be evaluated on these tests,” says Adam Urbanski, president of the Rochester Teachers Association. “Is it fair to evaluate teachers on tests that they can’t see or discuss?”

Urbanski says that the state’s actions raise red flags.

“Why did they have so much concern about revealing the tests?” he says. “Is this a form of secrecy to cover something up?”