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Connecticut Teacher Does Not Want Common Core; Weingarten Refuses to Validate the Sentiment

January 23, 2014

On January 17, 2014, veteran Connecticut teacher Elizabeth Natale wrote in the Courant about her disillusion with the pressures of corporate reform upon her West Hartford, middle-school classroom.

In her article, Natale makes it clear that the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) are part of that disillusion– not only the CCSS assessments– but CCSS itself:

When I started teaching, I learned that dealing with demanding college presidents and cantankerous newspaper editors was nothing. While those jobs allowed me time to drink tea and read the newspaper, teaching deprived me of an opportunity to use the restroom. And when I did, I was often the Pied Piper, followed by children intent on speaking with me through the bathroom door.

I loved it!

Unfortunately, government attempts to improve education are stripping the joy out of teaching and doing nothing to help children. The Common Core standards require teachers to march lockstep in arming students with “21st-century skills.” In English, emphasis on technology and nonfiction reading makes it more important for students to prepare an electronic presentation on how to make a paper airplane than to learn about moral dilemmas from Natalie Babbitt’s beloved novel “Tuck Everlasting.” [Emphasis added.]

Natale is clear in her position that CCSS is part of a package of reforms that needs to go:

My most important contributions to students are not addressed by the Common Core, Smarter Balance and teacher evaluations.

Natale’s article went viral. On January 23, 2014, the Courant wrote a follow-up article attesting as much.

However, don’t you know, in that second Courant article, American Federation of Teachers (AFT) President Randi Weingarten– who is unwavering in her support for standards that affect no classroom directly connected to her– put a spin on Natale’s words:

Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, said, “I totally understand this teacher’s sentiment.”

“We have a toxic situation when everything is reduced to a test score; when no attention is paid to the social, emotional, nutritional and health needs of kids; and when educators are given inadequate resources, training and time to actually teach to the Common Core State Standards,” Weingarten said in an email. [Emphasis added.]

Nowhere in Natale’s original article does she maintain that she wants CCSS.

Weingarten wants it, and as I have noted in the past, Weingarten wants teachers to buy into CCSS, too.

In the second Courant artice, Weingarten continues with what has become her packaged discourse on CCSS:

But Weingarten said “even with all of this, polls have found that an overwhelming majority of teachers support the new standards, but too many feel unprepared and unsupported.”

She said that “to reclaim the promise of public education—and keep great teachers in the profession—school administrators, principals, lawmakers and others must listen to teachers about what they need to prepare their students for the real world.” [Links added.]

Well, if Weingarten wants to “listen to teachers about what they need,” here’s a fresh opportunity. The Washington Post just posted this article in which I challenge a university professor who supports CCSS to actually enter a public school classroom and teach CCSS for one or two years. Here is the challenge in brief, excerpted from the article:

Teachers have just been following the wrong standards, is all. Never mind that CCSS is unpiloted, and never mind that Graff has no firsthand experience in teaching eighth graders. It simply must work because it sounds good on paper to a university professor.

Graff does not consider whether it is developmentally appropriate to push eighth graders to become “college ready,” nor does he consider that the overarching CCSS goal is to force kindergarten through grade twelve to be “college ready.” …

…Stop freely commenting on the merits of CCSS to a public school system foreign to your professional experience. If you want the right to comment, volunteer to teach those eighth-grade CCSS and be evaluated by their attendant assessments for a year or two. Then you might have earned your right to speak on the merits of CCSS– if you can still stomach the idea.

Today, I extend the offer to Weingarten.

Randi, if you want CCSS, please, do show us how it’s done.

I have heard from a reliable source that there will soon be an opening to teach English and language arts at Sedgwick Middle School in West Hartford. Perhaps you might apply.

6 Comments
  1. 2old2tch permalink

    Forget the fact that I still love the feel of a pencil between my fingers. What I write gives me a visceral map of the material I am examining that punching buttons just does not do. But, I am an old warhorse. I still believe that children have a lot more to tell us about what they need than is outlined by CCSS and the electronic gadgets we need to measure it. I still believe that teachers have more to offer than a formulaic plan to produce tomorrow’s worker bees. Unfortunately, I see too much evidence of teachers buckling down to “unpack” the standards and turn them into something recognizable. I cringe when I hear the dutiful platitudes claiming “international benchmarking” and “college and career readiness.” I shudder at the incredible dollar amounts school districts are dedicating to technology and “21st century skills.” Getting rid of the old war horses is more than a thinly disguised attempt to save money. If you start over with fresh new faces, they won’t know that what is expected of them is wrong. They won’t know that they should be able to have a life outside of teaching. They’ll burn out soon enough to allow the continuation of the cost savings and the indoctrination. I wonder if Randi bothered to speak to Elizabeth Natale before she spun Natale’s essay into a backhanded affirmation of CCSS.

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