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The Problem with the AFT Offer for Teachers to “Rewrite” the Common Core

July 11, 2014

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.

No behind-closed-doors killing of the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) resolution opposing CCSS. As Politico states:

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


  1. Imagine a council of physicists deciding that they are going to have a debate on the floor about whether string theory is correct, hold a vote at the end of the debate, and that then, based on the outcome of that vote, mandate that going forward, string theory be taught as correct, no work be funded or published that contradicts string theory, and no professors who doubt string theory be hired.

    Same thing.

    • Bob, the importance of the floor in this case is to keep Unity Caucus from killing behind closed doors the CTU resolution to drop CCSS.

      • Yes, it is important that there be a debate, but it’s insane to have the outcome of that debate be a resolution to support or not to support the Common Core. How about having the outcome be ongoing, continual open discussion and debate about every aspect of pedagogy and the curriculum? How about the outcome being to respect the autonomy of practitioners to make their own decisions about these matters rather than having a Curriculum Commissariat and Ministry of Truth do that for them?

      • KL has RW in a corner. Let’s see just how small that corner can become.

  2. ira shor permalink

    The AFT Exec motion “criticizing” CCSS implementation is the insiders’ way to push the CTU opposition res off the table. It may work b/c convention delegates are a pro-insider selection from the general membership. Weingarten knows how to manage such events to get favorable outcomes. The NEA res against Duncan barely passed this year’s convention after two failed tries in last two years, so the “representative” delegate bodies of labor unions are skewed towards the status quo leadership. Some professional org’s have in fact been places of successful democratic opposition, like some mtgs of the CCCC, MLA, and Amer Studies Assoc. MLA and CCCC changed the rules after opposition groups successes at national mtgs, so “democracy” at these sites is skin deep and has to be fought for. The farther from Weingarten and the Exec any teacher or local is, the more likely opposition will work, like in Chicago and like in Barbara Madeloni’s election as press. of Mass. Ed Assoc.

  3. I’m at the AFT convention and I am not sure there will be too much of an open debate on the floor. The Unity Caucus NYC crowd will be ready to stifle debate or cut it off like they do at Delegate Assemblies here in NYC. Last night the national version of Unity, Progressive Caucus – yeah, I know — voted down the Chicago reso and this afternoon the debate will take place behind closed doors in committee between Chicago and NYC — and the early betting is that Randi will win and the committee will bring out 3 resos for debate on the floor — and will endorse the Randi one. That means the debate may involve amending what is an awful reso – there will be a lot of out of order calls and Randi’s troops will surround the mics. A CTU member asked me how much earlier they should get there to be near the mics – an hour, she asked? “Better be there the day before,” I said. I’m at the press table reporting all weekend at

  4. Reblogged this on Crazy Normal – the Classroom Exposé and commented:
    AFT, please kill Obama’s Common Core standards. Put that Machiavellian agenda to out of our misery and stop the suffering of students and teachers. Refuse to help the fake education reformers profit off our children and taxes.

  5. Kara Tomsa permalink

    Don’t rewrite common cor. Go back the old way because that’s how our kids learn. Taking shortcuts. I, myself, don’t have 3 hours to sit helping do homework. teaching him step by step on how to do each problem

  6. Kara Tomsa permalink

    Drop CCSS

  7. Joseph permalink

    It’s too late to fix Frankenstein, how can she support Common Core,
    when she needs to re write them? the real problem are the published materials supporting them.
    This pig (the Common Core) needs no lipstick. she needs to step down, not a clue.
    The monster she spawned needs a stake through its heart.

  8. Stewart Morales permalink

    I hope teachers will try to start our own Public Open Source Intelligent Transparent Inclusive Voluntary Effectual (P.O.S.I.T.I.V.E.) standards that are researched-based, outside of CCSS, Gates and Pearson.

  9. A bit off topic, but your insight will be valued…are the CCSS internationally benchmarked? Many Thanks!

    • No evidence of not only “international benchmarking” but of the utility of such a practice has not been offered. What good is it for the US education system to resemble Japan, with its national deficit that is larger than ours and higher suicide rate? And we talk of Finland, and they have zero history of “competitive” test dependence. South Korea has high test scores– and their government had to ban a certain pesticide because of the ease with which it allows South Koreans to commit suicide. And China is steering away from standardized test dependence because its students are not developing critical thinking and are not receiving a well-rounded education. Let me stop now. 🙂

  10. cmzirkelbach permalink

    Thank you for helping to break this down for those of fighting Common Core, but on the outside of the teachers circles. I was initially thrilled to see the Chicago Teachers Union resolution, but am once again disheartened by Weingarten’s actions.

    • CC license may be weak, but the states either cower or buy into the ideology that CC is the fix. I agree with pugnacious on all levels, from individual on up. That is what is required to fight political machines, of which AFT’ Progressive/ NY’s Unity Caucus is chief.

    • If teacher “rewrites” are accepted by NGA and CCSSO, creators will be required to sign away intellectual property rights to NGA and CCSSO.

  11. A couple small points: If you want to see CCSSI’s initial pass at international benchmarking, dig around here:

    I don’t think it is very flattering to CC, so it was dropped in later drafts.

    The CCSSI’s intellectual property position regarding the standards is weak. They don’t even have a trademark on “Common Core” (the Common Core curriculum people already did). The fair use argument for publishing modified standards is strong, especially since states have already been allowed to do so.

    The disincentive for modifying the standard is just that the feds might not accept them for RttT waiver, etc., but if a state wanted to get pugnacious, they could start punching harder at the Common Core itself (e.g., pointing out CC isn’t actually benchmarked, etc.).

  12. Louisa Cook Moats’ own research is extraordinarily problematic, and her involvement in the Reading First federal initiative was even worse (although presumably very lucrative for her). So that she was a lead author on the CCSS in the first place is of itself an enormous argument against them.

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. AFT. Common Core will get debated on Sunday. | Fred Klonsky
  2. Randi Weingarten, Mercedes Schneider, CCSS, the NPE Panel, and the AFT Convention | Reclaim Reform
  3. The Problem with the AFT Offer for Teachers to “Rewrite” the Common Core | deutsch29 ← NPE News Briefs
  4. American Federation of Teachers: ‘Remediating’ Duncan and Retaining the ‘Corrupted’ Common Core | Social Dashboard
  5. Oklahoma Common Core Repeal Found Constitutional | The Parent Trigger

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