For the past two weeks, elementary and middle-school students have been taking standardized tests, tests the city will use to decide whether to close schools, give teachers tenure or hold students back. It's something the president of the national teachers 'union came to New York to try to stop.
The message from the president of the national teachers' union was simple: you can't give the tests before you do the teaching.
As most of the country transitions to new national learning standards, called the Common Core, Randi Weingarten called for education officials to slow down, saying they are risking the whole effort by subjecting students and schools to high-stakes tests before they've had time to adjust to the new material.
"These standards, which hold such potential to create deeper learning, are instead creating a serious backlash as officials seek to make them count before we make them work," Weingarten said.
She made her public plea here Tuesday morning not because she used to be the president of the city's teachers' union, but because she said New York is a model for what should not happen, one of just two states that has already begun testing on the new material. She said that students, teachers and schools should not be held accountable for the results.
"We're talking about a moratorium on consequences for these transitional years," she said.
Weingarten actually devoted much of the speech to praising the new standards and their potential, a position she shares with the Bloomberg, Cuomo and Obama administrations.
"This is our chance, maybe our once-in-a-lifetime chance, to realize the purpose of public education, to instill skills and knowledge, to instill a love of learning, to foster an informed an engaged citizenry, to build a stronger nation," she said.
But Andrew Kirtzman, a city education official, still slammed the speech.
"Every reform effort in history has had people, special interests, saying 'Let's slow down, let's put the brakes on, we're not ready,'" Kirtzman said. "This is about a special interest that doesn't want this to happen because of a fear for their job."
Weingarten, who had a rocky, yet often productive, relationship with the mayor, said she was disappointed.
"It's really sad that this school system, that knows me so well, would actually be that derogatory," she said.
State education officials were more diplomatic. Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch even attended the speech. But they also were clear: there will be no slowdown in New York.