The NEA and the Common Core

We are living in a CCSS world.  We all know that.  As of this morning, 45 states, the District of Columbia, four territories, and the Department of Defense Education Activity have adopted Common Core State Standards.  Come the next academic year, most students outside the state of Texas will be part of a CCSS-focused approach to teaching and learning.

While we can argue about the urban legends behind the creation of CCSS, the shadowy creatures who supposedly worked in back rooms to develop a comprehensive set of standards for reading and math that were publicly flogged all in some grand scheme to privatize the schools, profit off the system, move all our jobs to India, and signal the black helicopters where to land, we simply can’t argue that we are living a CCSS life.
But that hasn’t stopped some from thinking if they close their eyes real hard, click their heels together, and loudly wish for a different hand, then we might rid our schools of CCSS and all the alleged evils that will follow it.
The anti-CCSS rhetoric seems to get more heated by the day.  We have those on one extreme attacking CCSS for being a ploy of Bill Gates and part of a grand conspiracy to take over our schools.  On the other extreme, we have those who think CCSS will hand over our public schools to the United Nations, robbing our classrooms of the good ol’ local common sense they need to “succeed” as they have all these many decades.
All this seems to be squeezing out efforts to ensure that the CCSS are implemented effectively and with fidelity.  It is drowning out efforts to ensure that classroom materials and PD are truly aligned, and not merely given the lip service they were during the Reading First fights.  
So credit needs to go out to the National Education Association.  NEA represents 3 million educators, and has chapters in every state (including the 45 who adopted CCSS) and in 14,000 communities across the United States.  Any reader of Eduflack knows that the union has a very strong point of view when it comes to many policy issues.  And in a previous life, I had my own issues with NEA and its stances on needed school reforms.
At any rate, last week, NEA posted a great article on its NEA Today website.  The title?  10 Things You Should Know About the Common Core.  Written for its members, the article seeks to poke some holes in the urban legends around CCSS, while providing educators with some meaningful information as each of them prepare for CCSS implementation in their classroom.
Kudos and bouquets to NEA providing needed information.  NEA has long recognized that even if it disagrees with policy, it needs to ensure that its members are getting the supports necessary when it comes to practice.  Look back at NCLB and Reading First, two policies very unpopular with NEA. Yes, the organization advocated against those laws and continually pushed to have them changed.  But it also provided tools, guides, info, and PD to teachers to ensure that every child received the education they deserved.
And what was the response?  From the looks of the NEA Today website, nothing but a whole lot of vitriol.  Accusations about motivations and of being bought.  Disgust dripping from many a poster.  And lots and lots of anger.
What was so offensive in the original article?  Well, let’s take a look at some of the items that NEA called out:
* Because of CCSS, “drill and kill” curriculum could be history
* High-quality fiction, such as Shakespeare and American literature, should be taught under CCSS
* “Common Core promotes curricular learning”
* “Implementation is a work in progress”
* “Teacher leadership is essential”
Yes, I can see why so many educators would be angry with that.  But the most frustration is actually focused on a single bullet point — “Most NEA Members Support the Common Core.”  Here, NEA reiterated a poll conducted in July of this year by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research that “found that 75 percent of its members — teachers and education support professionals — supported the standards outright or supported ‘with reservations.'”
Yes, one could say that 100 commenters from an organization of 3 million is nothing worthy of a second thought.  It is the very definition of statistically insignificant.  And quantitatively, one would be correct.  
But qualitatively, the level of anger and vitriol is just too hard to ignore.  With some professional rabble rousers doing everything they can to turn back efforts on accountability and assessment and school improvement, too many well meaning efforts get caught in the crossfire.  Eduflack just never thought it would be NEA itself getting trapped.
Perhaps it is time for us all to take a collective breath and take some time to reflect on how we move on from here.  Instead of ranting and raving and railing, maybe, just maybe, it is time for us to pursue a new field for a meaningful dialogue on the issues that affect our schools and our kids the most.  We put the fighting words aside, instead focusing on what is working, what is promising, and how we keep focused on learning.
While not everyone in education agrees on everything (though we agree on far more than we disagree), we should all be able to recognize common sense approaches to sensitive issues.  NEA should be commended for trying to help educators navigate the herculean task of getting CCSS online and for dispelling some of the more egregious urban legends surrounding the standards.  They don’t deserve what they seem to be getting in response.
Sometimes, though, haters just gotta hate.  True in life, and definitely true in education.

One thought on “The NEA and the Common Core

  1. “Haters gonna hate” and “ranting and raving”…It’s inspiring that you oppose the oppositional nature of the education debates, but…isn’t “hating” and “ranting” precisely what you do in so many of your blog posts, ridiculing people who express reservations about the motivations of foundations and billionaires pushing school choice?

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