NEA Says Common Core Was ‘Botched’
Dennis Van Roekel has finally been forced to call into question the Obama administration’s “gift” to American education, Common Core. Van Roekel, the President of the nation’s largest teachers union, the National Education Association (NEA), held out while his constituents, American teachers, jumped ship all around him. But even he must finally admit there is something seriously wrong with Common Core.
At the 2013 NEA convention in Atlanta, union leadership promoted Common Core standards. Delegates introduced from the floor — but failed to pass — two measures that condemned Obama’s education policies outright and were critical of Secretary of Education Arne Duncan; both measures called on Obama to fire Duncan. Teachers’ representatives expressed dissatisfaction with Common Core (CC) at the 2013 convention and they have continued to do so, despite CC proponents’ constant claim that teachers are in favor of the top-down education program forced upon them.
On February 19, 2014, Dennis Van Roekel posted a letter to union members at NEAToday.org. Van Roekel writes that he has “been listening closely” (and many bet he has indeed been getting an earful for him to be forced to break with his administration pals). Van Roekel admits that Common Core implementation has been “botched.” He writes:
Seven of ten teachers believe that implementation of the standards is going poorly in their schools. Worse yet, teachers report that there has been little to no attempt to allow educators to share what’s needed to get [CC] implementation right. In fact, two-thirds of all teachers report that they have not even been asked how to implement these new standards in their classrooms.
Van Roekel seems surprised by what those closest to Common Core have been saying all along. Teachers and parents knew several years ago that CC was seriously flawed. No one wanted to hear those complaints. Many were labeled as extremists, malcontents, and nut-jobs. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan even said he found it “fascinating” that Common Core opponents were “white suburban moms who — all of a sudden — their child isn’t as brilliant as they thought they were. . . .” Some wonder if Duncan is equally fascinated now that the one finding fault with Common Core is his union ally.
Union president Van Roekel maintains that “scuttling these standards” is a bad idea. That’s no surprise. He says the union wants “states to make a strong course correction and move forward.” Tying teacher evaluations to student test results remains a sore spot that has never been popular with teachers unions.
In his letter, Van Roekel suggests allowing teachers “time to field-test the standards in classrooms to determine what works and what needs adjustment.” The standards have started to be implemented in 46 states and the District of Columbia, so it seems a little late to begin field-testing.
Although some media outlets, political pundits, and CC supporters say that teachers and their unions are only unhappy with the implementation of CC standards, not the standards themselves, Van Roekel clearly calls for an examination of the entire Common Core experiment. His letter states that he wants the NGA and the CCSSO to “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.” But the NGA (National Governors Association), the CCSSO (Council of Chief State School Officers), and their agent, Achieve, Inc., claim that input was received, reviewed, and incorporated from all “stakeholders” to develop the best standards possible; surely teachers’ input was already included. Sadly, it was not, and the entities that developed Common Core have deceived the public. Van Roekel writes: “The very people expected to deliver universal access to high quality standards with high quality instruction have not had the opportunity to share their expertise and advice about how to make [CC] implementation work for all students, educators, and parents.”
The letter ends with Van Roekel’s proclamation: “There’s too much at stake for our children and our country to risk getting this wrong.” That is exactly what Common Core opponents have been saying for years.