The Problem with the AFT Offer for Teachers to “Rewrite” the Common Core
A very good thing will happen on Sunday, July 13, 2014, at the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) convention in Los Angeles: The Common Core State Standards (CCSS) will be debated on the floor.
Weingarten, for instance, has repeatedly said she supports Common Core, but she also made a deliberate decision to allow a long public debate — which will be livestreamed online — on the standards. She has said the AFT is a democracy and will adopt policies favored by a majority of members, even if that means a dizzying about-face on the Common Core.
I spoke with CTU President Karen Lewis on July 10, 2014, about my concern that CTU’s anti-CCSS resolution would be somehow stifled. I learned that Lewis was instrumental in pushing for an open debate on CCSS.
There is another AFT resolution in support of CCSS. The supporting resolution assumes that CCSS is good, if only it were properly implemented. Sound familiar? As Politico notes:
The AFT will also consider a resolution — drafted by its executive council — asserting that the promise of the Common Core has been corrupted by political manipulation, administrative bungling, corporate profiteering and an invalid scoring system designed to ensure huge numbers of kids fail the new math and language arts exams that will be rolled out next spring. An even more pointed resolution flat out opposing the standards will also likely come up for a vote.
In order to preserve CCSS, AFT members are being offered a financial enticement to “rewrite” CCSS:
The American Federation of Teachers will open its annual convention Friday morning with a startling announcement: After years of strongly backing the Common Core, the union now plans to give its members grants to critique the academic standards — or to write replacement standards from scratch. …
The grant program does not need a vote from the membership to take effect. Union officials say they expect to begin distributing grants worth about $20,000 to $30,000 this fall. Local and state affiliates are eligible for the grants; AFT officials are encouraging applicants to build coalitions with parents and civic leaders, though teachers are supposed to lead the work.
Ironically, the grant money will come from the AFT Innovation Fund formerly financed by Gates to the tune of $4.4 million and doing exactly what he financed: “to work on… the Common Core State Standards.”
Aside from the Gates intention being fulfilled, however, there is a much greater problem with teachers’ “rewriting” CCSS. CCSS is a product owned by the National Governors Association (NGA) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO). Thus, any content labeled “CCSS” belongs to these two organizations that control the CCSS license. Furthermore, any content in CCSS becomes static– one-size-fits-all, inflexible, unable to be adjusted– except by permission of the CCSS license owners.
And never forget: CCSS must be static because it was created to serve as the nucleus for punitive, test-driven “reform.” That was the plan since 2008 and NGA’s early press release on the issue.
Consider Louisa Moats, teacher, research, who was one of the actual “insiders” of CCSS development and who defended CCSS until she realized her work was intended as a rigid vehicle to drive test-based outcomes. What is noteworthy is that Moats was on the “inside” of CCSS development and was still kept in the dark regarding NGA’s and CCSSO’s intent to use her work as a foundation for inflexible, test-driven reform. Moats spoke about her “naïveté” in a January 2014 interview published in Huffington Post:
Marilyn Adams and I were the team of writers, recruited in 2009 by David Coleman and Sue Pimentel, who drafted the Foundational Reading Skills section of the CCSS and closely reviewed the whole ELA section for K-5. We drafted sections on Language and Writing Foundations that were not incorporated into the document as originally drafted. I am the author of the Reading Foundational Skills section of Appendix A. …
I never imagined when we were drafting standards in 2010 that major financial support would be funneled immediately into the development of standards-related tests. How naïve I was. The CCSS represent lofty aspirational goals for students aiming for four year, highly selective colleges. Realistically, at least half, if not the majority, of students are not going to meet those standards as written, although the students deserve to be well prepared for career and work through meaningful and rigorous education.
Our lofty standards are appropriate for the most academically able, but what are we going to do for the huge numbers of kids that are going to “fail” the PARCC (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers) test? We need to create a wide range of educational choices and pathways to high school graduation, employment and citizenship. The Europeans got this right a long time ago.
If I could take all the money going to the testing companies and reinvest it, I’d focus on the teaching profession — recruitment, pay, work conditions, rigorous and on-going training. [Emphasis added.]
So, to those teachers who are tempted to take AFT money in order to “”make CCSS better,” let me caution you that your work will become part of the CCSS that is ultimately locked into place and handed over to the likes of Pearson for nationwide marketing purposes. Pearson plans to make itself indispensable and benefit handsomely from CCSS by offering assessments, curriculum to accompany those assessments, teacher development, and “data driven adaptive learning.”
Imagine how much better it will be for Pearson to be able to advertise that CCSS was “rewritten by teachers.” That is a phenomenal selling point, not only for Pearson, but also for any influential, pro-CCSS individual taking to the cameras.
In closing, I implore my teacher practitioner colleagues nationwide: Do not allow yourselves to be in the position of Louisa Moats, who years later came to the conclusion, “I was so naive.”
We need to utterly do away with CCSS. It is my hope that one of the celebrated gains from the AFT national convention is the death of CCSS.
My best to CTU members and others who are fighting to kill CCSS.
Like my writing? Read my newly-released ed “reform” whistle blower, A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who in the Implosion of American Public Education
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