From Education Week, here is our colleague from Chicago Sarah Chambers summing up why Common Core needs to go:
"These standards are crippling our students' education and their joy of learning. As a special ed. teacher, I've seen my students transformed from smiling children excited about learning to students who cringe when they're made to read passages several grade levels above their [abilities]. This resolution speaks to the promise of the common core, and this promise is to test, test, and over-test our babies. Do not fool yourselves: You cannot have the common core without high-stakes testing."
And now for UFT President Michael Mulgrew's view:
"I have heard the stories about how Eli Broad and [Bill] Gates and a flying saucer full of Martians designed these standards. ... Now we have teachers unpacking the common core, and we are seeing the promise. What bothers me more than anything is the idea that the AFT would back down from a fight. Those standards are ours; the tests are ours; we are fighting because they took tests from us, and we're going to take it back from them. It is our profession."
The Chicago response from Michelle Gunderson:
"The common-core standards were not created with teaching and learning in mind. They were created with testing in mind. The College Board got together and decided what their students should look like, not our students."
You get the idea. Just like at the Delegate Assembly in NYC, the UFT (easily the largest local in the AFT), with their huge loyalty oath signing Unity Caucus bloc of votes), has enough influence to ram anything through so our national union remains supportive of Common Core while those of us who teach are again left wondering why we pay union dues.
Karen Lewis, the President of the Chicago Teachers Union, questions the thinking of AFT leadership:
Karen Lewis @KarenLewisCTU Follow
"I can't believe we would agree to CC$$ because we're worried about bad press. When we present our reasoned arguments, we win."
I think most of us would agree that New Action's Jonathan Halabi, a press observer in LA, sums up the debate on Common Core very well when he says, "Debate is turning into UFT vs CTU. Embarrassed that my local (UFT) is so wrong."
Does this mean Jonathan and New Action won't be supporting Mulgrew's reelection in 2016?
In other AFT convention news, new United Teachers of Los Angeles teachers (UTLA) President Alex Caputo Pearl spoke about a possible teachers' strike out in LA. He stated: “It’s a unionism that is willing to strike. It’s a unionism that is willing to build to a strike and strike if that’s what we need to do.” I understand Mulgrew was on the same panel when Alex spoke. It must have been interesting to hear the contrast in approaches as Chicago's Karen Lewis was also on that panel.
The AFT also passed a watered down Secretary of Education Arne Duncan improvement plan. The other large national union of teachers, the National Education Association, recently called for Duncan's resignation.
Overall, we have appeasement (so what else is new?) from the AFT led by Randi Weingarten and Michael Mulgrew but there are some militant pockets that have emerged in Chicago, LA and other places.
As for Common Core, we'll let education historian Diane Ravitch have the last word. This is taken from her blog:
No matter how many resolutions are passed at this or any other convention, the Common Core standards are going nowhere. State after state is dropping them or the federal tests or both. The standards ignore the root causes of low academic achievement: poverty and segregation. There is no proof that they will fulfill their lofty goals. They will end up one day as a case study in college courses of the abuse of power: how one man tried to buy American education and bypass democratic procedures. Even in states with high standards, like Massachusetts and California, there are large achievement gaps. Even in the same classrooms with the same teacher, there are variations in test scores.