Monday, July 14, 2014


The AFT yesterday passed a resolution supporting Common Core State Standards while the teachers I know basically hate them.  Education Week and Ed Notes have coverage of yesterday's floor debate at the Los Angeles AFT Convention.  The back-and-forth on Common Core ended up being NY v Chicago and the more militant Chicago Teachers Union certainly won the debate in my mind but the UFT had their pro-Common Core resolution carry because of their Unity Caucus discipline.

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
"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.


Anonymous said...

Stronger NYSUT: ·

Thank you Karen Lewis and CTU for your efforts to get AFT to reject Common Core! Say NO to Gates Money! Say NO to the poorly written CC

Anonymous said...

From Mercedes Schneider: Louisiana AFT Critic:

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.

Anonymous said...

Why must you label those in opposition of Unity as "militant". They are not carrying weapons, or declaring anarchy. They are trying to build a stronger union with a leadership that stands up to both students and teachers. I can tell you as an elementary teacher, it's a term that's a real "turn off". We are not the Symbionese Liberation Army of the '60s and '70s. We are just teachers who want someone willing to articulate why things must change. I don't consider a Dartmouth College graduate a militant. I consider her an articulate, intelligent woman with a strong point that most teachers agree with.

James Eterno said...

Militancy is a labor term. I am for peaceful action.

Anonymous said...

Militant definition:
1. vigorously active and aggressive, especially in support of a cause: militant reformers.

Nothing to be afraid of.

NYC Educator said...

In fairness, James, UFT reps are actually UFT leadership reps, having signed loyalty oaths agreeing to vote as they are told. So just because ostensible UFT reps vote for Common Core or whatever does not mean rank and file support it. That's one of the disadvantages of a system in which rank and file have no representation whatsoever.

James Eterno said...

I agree and have been trying to change that for almost twenty years.

Anonymous said...

You can quote definitions, but the public at large don't see it that way. Karen may be running for mayor. Let's find better adjectives because I for one want a leader who is brilliant, fair, and assertive. But most important, she has integrity and is willing to listen to different point of views. Her strike was not a militant action, it was a courageous one.