In a day of debates, the American Federation of Teachers voted to continue its support for the controversial Common Core standards while complaining about its faulty implementation. The delegates also voted for a resolution to put Secretary Duncan on a remediation plan that would be monitored by President Obama (ha-ha, when he is not busy with foreign crises). Politico.com wrote: “The “improvement plan” would include the requirement that Duncan enact the funding and equity recommendations of the Equity Commission’s “Each and Every Child” report; change the No Child Left Behind and Race To The Top “test-and-punish” accountability system to a “support-and-improve” model; and “promote rather than question” teachers and school staff.”
After the NEA passed a resolution calling on Duncan to resign, the AFT rebuke seemed like mockery of Duncan, a bureaucrat who demands accountability of everyone but is never held accountable for his own missteps. Of course, his missteps are not mistakes but reflect his contempt for teachers and public schools. In his world-view, everyone lies about how terrible schools are except him.
This is the press release in which AFT explained its continued support for the Common Core, which will drain states and districts of billions of dollars for the testing industry while teacher layoffs increase:
“LOS ANGELES— AFT members today passed a resolution at the union’s national convention reaffirming the AFT’s support for the promise and potential of the Common Core State Standards as a way to ensure all children have the knowledge and skills they need to succeed in the 21st century while sharply criticizing the standards’ botched implementation. The AFT’s resolution lays out key actions needed to restore confidence in the standards and provide educators, parents and students with the tools and supports they need to make the standards work in the classroom.
The resolution, “Role of Standards in Public Education,” resolution passed following an intense, extended debate on the convention floor. Educators expressed their frustrations and anger with how the standards were developed and rolled out, without sufficient input from those closest to the classroom and without the tools and resources educators need to make the transition to the new rigorous standards, even as states and districts rushed to test and hold teachers and students accountable. AFT members also voiced their distrust of efforts by those seeking to make a profit off the new standards. No matter where members stood on the issue, there was clear anger over the deprofessionalization of teachers throughout the implementation process. At the same time, however, many educators shared how they’ve witnessed, when done right, how these standards more from rote memorization to provide children with the deeper learning the standards were designed to produce and that the standards remain the best way to level the playing field for all children. Proponents of the resolution made clear that it resolution offers solutions to fix the poor implementation and includes a call for greater teacher voice.
“We heard a lot of passion today—all in support of student needs and teacher professionalism,” said AFT President Randi Weingarten. “And where our members ended up is that we will continue to support the promise and potential of these standards as an essential to tool to provide each and every child an equitable and excellent education while calling on the powers that be in districts and, states and at the national level to work with educators and parents to fix this botched implementation and restore confidence in the standards. And no matter which side of the debate our members were on, there’s one thing everyone agreed on—that we need to delink these standards from the tests.”
The resolution lays out key action steps the AFT is taking to make the standards work for kids and educators, including:
• Rejecting low-level standardized testing in favor of assessments aligned with rich curricula that encourage the kind of higher-order thinking and performance skills students need;
• Supporting efforts by affiliates to hold policymakers and administrators accountable for proper implementation;
• Advocating that each state create an independent board composed made up of a majority representation of teachers and education professionals to monitor the implementation of the standards;
• Fighting to ensure that educators are involved in a cohesive plan for engaging stakeholders, and, that they have a significant role in the implementation and evaluation of the standards in their schools, and that there are adequate funds provided by all levels of government to ensure successful implementation of the standards; and
• Reaffirming the call the AFT made more than a year ago for a moratorium on the high-stakes consequences of Common Core-aligned assessments for students, teachers and schools until all of the essential elements of a standards-based system are in place.
“What educators and parents are saying is,: ‘Yes, we want our children to have the knowledge and skills they need for life, college, career and citizenship.’ But to make that a reality, our voices need to be involved in a meaningful way, and we actually have to focus on the learning, and not the obsession with testing,” said Weingarten.
Here are my thoughts;
If the standards are decoupled from the tests, as the AFT hopes, the standards will be a very costly and very toothless tiger. With or without the tests, they will drain every district of desperately needed resources.
One very promising idea to emerge from the conference was Randi Weingarten’s proposal to give grants to groups of teachers to revise the standards. This makes sense, especially in light of the fact that the writing committee for the Common Core standards did not include a single active classroom teacher nor anyone who had experience teaching early childhood edition nor anyone who had taught children with disabilities.
To those who say that the standards can’t be revised because they are copyrighted, I say nonsense. Let’s see if the National Governors Association or Achieve or the Council of Chief State School Officers has the gall to sue the AFT or its surrogates for trying to fix the CCSS. Bring it on.
No matter how many resolutions are passed at this or any other convention, the Common Core standards are going nowhere. State after state is dropping them or the federal tests or both. The standards ignore the root causes of low academic achievement: poverty and segregation. There is no proof that they will fulfill their lofty goals. They will end up one day as a case study in college courses of the abuse of power: how one man tried to buy American education and bypass democratic procedures. Even in states with high standards, like Massachusetts and California, there are large achievement gaps. Even in the same classrooms with the same teacher, there are variations in test scores.
We live in an age of magical thinking, of unrealistic expectations and of lies dressed up as goals and promises. For more than a dozen years, politicians have insisted that testing and accountability would leave no child behind. Then in 2009, the politicians said that testing and accountability would create a “race to the top.” Now we are told that common standards and common tests will bring about equity and excellence. What fools these mortals be. The politicians never run out of excuses or slogans. At some point, the public will tire of their know-nothing meddling. Let us hope that day will come soon.