The NEA’s Band-Aids for Common Core are Not Good Enough!

It’s not looking good for Common Core State Standards—one would think. The recent flurry of activity could trick educators and parents into thinking something is going to happen to rid schools of the standards. Even the NEA’s Dennis Van Roekel, spoke out.

But if you read closely enough, the standards are not considered to be endangered—they are just thought to have a few boo boos in the way they were presented. The reformers, including the NEA’s Van Roekel, think the way standards were introduced needs Band-Aids and that will fix the problems.

Here is some of the rundown:

First, The New York Times figured out that it isn’t just the Tea Party, but actually liberals too who are upset about the Common Core. It has taken them a long time to report this.

And then Bill Gates, earlier in the week, tried to dispel what he called “myths” about the Core in USA Today. Without analyzing everything he said, one point he tried to make stood out the most. It is the repetitive emphasis he and others claim, that teachers helped write the Common Core State Standards.

Why isn’t there a list of the names? In the past with the creation of state standards haven’t we always been able to see who helped create them? Wasn’t it a badge of honor for a teacher to be a part of such a process? We know the union leaders were involved, but who were all of the teachers at the local level who helped write the CCSS?

Next, New York’s Governor Andrew Cuomo came out and said the CCSS roll out was “flawed,” and even he would stand with parents. He said, “I’m sort of where the parent is, standing outside with the sign,” and “by the way, I would hold the same basic sign that the parent is holding. I think the way they have implemented Common Core has failed utterly. There is massive confusion, massive anxiety and massive chaos all through.”

But despite all the massive CCSS theatrics lately, there is no sign that there will be an end to CCSS or that it will change in any way. On the contrary, it is all about re-marketing the standards differently. The good news is that the media and the reformers are starting to understand that many people are unhappy with the CCSS.

The bad news is if you were expecting any real debate you will be disappointed. There will most likely be no discussion about the Common Core fuzzy math lessons few understand, or the developmental inappropriateness of things like teaching 1st graders about Mesopotamia—or any discussion about the poor treatment of students with disabilities. No one will discuss why the curriculum excludes subjects like the arts and social studies—or that it seems watered down in places. There is no plan to change the standards themselves.

This was represented best in the news last week by NEA President Dennis Van Roekel announcing, like everyone else, that the rollout of the CCSS was “completely botched” and something better is needed. But notice—he is also not discussing the standards themselves or saying anything about discontinuing them.

No. Van Roekel has, since the start, been a cheerleader for CCSS even though a lot of members of his team don’t want to play the game.

The NEA, like the AFT, has received millions from the Gates Foundation and others, and much money has been poured into the Common Core. So Van Roekel is buying boxes of band-aids. The following is from the NEA website with my understanding of what each statement means:

  1. Governors and chief state school officers should set up a process to work with NEA and our state education associations to review the appropriateness of the standards and recommend any improvements that might be needed.  These are the same individuals who originally “rolled out” the CCSS. All of these folks love the standards so what will they change? My guess is this is damage control. They want to sway opinions.
  2. Common Core implementation plans at the state and local levels must be collaboratively developed, adequately resourced, and overseen by community advisory committees that include the voices of students, parents, and educators. This sounds more like it when it comes to involving the right people, but note the words “implementation plans.” Perhaps they want even more money to get it right. Most likely they will find a few parents who will feel honored to be a part of a group, maybe from Stand for Children, to push the standards, along with a few Teach for America types who are already being paid to coach others about the standards. And probably they will highlight a precocious child who “likes” learning about the Tigris and Euphrates rivers in first grade. Watch for it on your local nightly news. Maybe they will fund more CCSS coaches to push the Core.
  3. States and local school districts must place teachers at the center of efforts to develop aligned curriculum, assessments, and professional development that are relevant to their students and local communities. Here the word “aligned” is key and “teacher at the center” and “professional development.” Too many teachers are complaining. They need some arm-twisting. The problem is many teachers don’t feel vested in the Core and they are fearful. How can they carry out their professional duties under those conditions? CCSS really has changed the nature of teaching and we are watching the disintegration of a profession before our very eyes!
  4. States must eliminate outdated NCLB-mandated tests that are not aligned with the new standards and not based on what is being taught to students in the classroom. In other words, they are saying bring on the new tests and the computers to go along with them.
  5. States must actively engage educators in the field-testing of the new assessments and the process for improving them. Isn’t it a little backwards, not to mention late, for this? The tests and the standards are made already—bought and paid for.  
  6. In any state that is field-testing and validating new assessments, there must be a moratorium on using the results of the new assessments for accountability purposes until at least the 2015-2016 school year. In the meantime, states still have other ways to measure student learning during this transition period—other assessments, report cards, and student portfolios. Instead of foisting the CCSS on all schools all at once, why didn’t they try them out on a few schools across the country? And including other measurement while doing field testing is both time consuming and would seem to contradict what they said in no. 4. Also, is it really field-testing, if it is a forgone conclusion that CCSS will be implemented no matter what?
  7. Stakeholders must develop complete assessment and accountability systems. It takes more than one piece of evidence to paint a picture of what students are learning. Testing should be one way to inform effective teaching and learning—not a way to drive it.  I have always hated the word “stakeholders” because it is a business driven word that has no place being used in regard to schools and children. I have heard it used referring to parents, which at least makes sense…since they are the people most genuinely concerned about student outcomes (another business-like word). But in this case I assume they are speaking of business-leaders or test-makers or edupreneurs or who knows? And are they really serious when they say the tests won’t drive teaching and learning? Ask the teacher who lost their job due to test results.

So if you were wondering about all the Core talk recently, I hope you didn’t get your hopes up. It has to do with Band-Aids. Please don’t be deceived into thinking anything will change other than you. They want you to change…they want you to quit griping and rabble rousing. They want teachers to teach the CCSS like good teachers and for teachers to convince parents that this is what’s best for their children to learn. It isn’t.



  1. says

    Even though Texas has not bought into CCSS (thankfully), I am concerned & stay up to date about the negative impact is is having on teachers and students. Thank you writing the hard truth about education! Most are not brave or confident, whatever you’d call it. I am so interested in what you have to say in your posts every time I get an email! Have you read this article from the Washington Post from Nov. 2013?

  2. Nancy Bailey says

    Hi Sherri, Thank you! You made my day! I also appreciate the link although it didn’t seem to work before. I tried this one. I hope it works.

    And here is a more recent one I found interesting and you and others might like.

    I love both of the above websites!

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