NEA Calls for Arne Duncan’s Resignation

Over the Independence Day weekend the Representative Assembly at the National Education Association’s (NEA) annual convention held in Denver approved a resolution that called for U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan’s resignation.

Daily Caller has more:

Another major factor behind the newly intense hostility to Duncan was his response to the Vergara v. California court ruling that recently invalidated California’s laws regarding teacher tenure and layoffs. Unions wanted Duncan to swiftly condemn the ruling, but his official statements were lukewarm or even somewhat supportive, suggesting that states needed to rewrite their tenure laws to make it easier to remove bad teachers….

…The demand for Duncan’s ouster is one of the sharpest breaks yet between the Democratic Party and a group that has historically been among its most stalwart supporters. Reformist Democrats and unions have repeatedly clashed over tenure reform, charter schools, merit pay and Common Core multi-state education standards. Fierce attacks on Duncan may be serving as an indirect criticism of President Obama, whom the NEA has endorsed twice.

… (Jim Stergios of Pioneer Institute) said that in addition to Vergara, another driver of the Duncan resolution may be increasing anger over Common Core, which Duncan and President Obama have consistently supported. In the past year, nearly 100,000 teachers have joined a group calling itself the Badass Teachers Association (BAT), which aggressively attacks Common Core and many other major school reform efforts.

That growing opposition could split the NEA, as the group still officially supports the standards.

I would suspect that Common Core wasn’t the primary reason, but there certainly is division in the ranks as other teachers unions not aligned with NEA has come out in opposition to the Common Core.

This definitely is not a partisan issue, and more and more teachers are starting to speak out.

Opposition to Common Core Growing Among NEA Members


NEA President Dennis Van Roekel

Mike Antonucci notes an increase in opposition to the Common Core among members of the National Education Association seen in a recent survey they commissioned.  He writes at Intercepts:

The National Education Association intensified its backing last fall with the results of a poll and focus group of 1,200 members conducted by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research. The union proudly noted that “more than 75 percent of NEA members either support the standards wholeheartedly or with some reservations.”

The breakdown of the findings was 26% in wholehearted support, 50% in support with reservations, 13% without an opinion, and only 11% opposed.

Even while NEA was touting these figures it was conducting a wider web survey, encompassing almost 17,000 members in 33 states. The results of that survey showed a worrisome trend for the union and for Common Core supporters in general.

Support for the standards fell only slightly, down to 71%. Opposition, however, solidified to almost triple the previous number. A full 29% of NEA members do not support CCSS.

NEA’s response to this will be a more expansive version of what we have already seen. Since February, the party line has been to support the standards while denouncing their implementation as “botched.” NEA took this position despite the 2013 poll also declaring that “79 percent of respondents said they were well or somewhat prepared to implement the new standards” and that “44 percent said teachers were playing a major role in the implementation of the standards. 32 percent said teachers were being consulted.”

And why do they want to continue to be a champion of the Common Core?  Gee, I wonder.

NEA’s Van Roekel Loses Faith in Common Core (Sort Of)

dennis-van-roekelNational Education Association President Dennis Van Roekel in a letter published yesterday that the Common Core implementation has been completely botched.  He statements, speaking on behalf of his union (but under the guise of “educators”), in support of the Common Core in this letter reads more like a faith statement than a fact-based case for the Common Core.

So when 45 states adopted the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), we as educators saw the wonderful potential of these standards to correct many of the inequities in our education system that currently exist.  Educators embraced the promise of providing equal access to high standards for all students, regardless of their zip code or family background.

We believed the standards would help students develop the critical thinking and problem-solving skills they need to succeed in the fast-changing world.  NEA members overwhelmingly supported the goals of the standards because we knew they could provide a better path forward for each and every student. The promise of these high standards for all students is extraordinary.  And we owe it to our students to fulfill that promise.

As educators, we also had high hopes that our policymakers would make an equal commitment to implement the standards correctly by providing students, educators, and schools with the time, supports, and resources that are absolutely crucial in order to make changes of this magnitude to our education system.

Words like “potential,” “promise,” “believe,” and “high hopes” doesn’t exactly inspire confidence, but you really don’t have any choice but use words like this when you don’t have any data backing the standards up.

Van Roekel loses faith though when the rubber meets the road.

So over the last few months I have done what my students and fellow educators have taught me:  I have been listening closely. I have joined our state leaders in member listening sessions around the country, observed dozens of member focus groups, and invited hundreds of thousands of NEA members to share their views about how CCSS implementation is going.

I am sure it won’t come as a surprise to hear that in far too many states, implementation has been completely botched.  Seven of ten teachers believe that implementation of the standards is going poorly in their schools. Worse yet, teachers report that there has been little to no attempt to allow educators to share what’s needed to get CCSS implementation right.  In fact, two thirds of all teachers report that they have not even been asked how to implement these new standards in their classrooms.

Imagine that:  The very people expected to deliver universal access to high quality standards with high quality instruction have not had the opportunity to share their expertise and advice about how to make CCSS implementation work for all students, educators, and parents.

Consequently, NEA members have a right to feel frustrated, upset, and angry about the poor commitment to implementing the standards correctly.

This shouldn’t come as a surprise as it is a top-down initiative.

But he’s still hanging on with a belief that the failed implementation is just due to the powers that be not listening to teachers about how to properly implement the standards.  Could a big part of the problem be with the standards themselves?  No, couldn’t be.

We. Must. Move. Forward. Van Roekel states.

But scuttling these standards will simply return us to the failed days of No Child Left Behind (NCLB), where rote memorization and bubble tests drove teaching and learning.  NEA members don’t want to go backward; we know that won’t help students.  Instead, we want states to make a strong course correction and move forward.

I’m no fan of No Child Left Behind either.  States that abandon the Common Core will revert back to previous standards, that’s not really moving backward.  They can also adopt their own standards.  Also if he thinks Smarter Balanced and PARCC won’t foster the same type of “teaching to the test” mentality as we see with No Child Left Behind (which is still in effect) he’s mistaken.

His suggestions will do very little to solve the problem as if working with the NEA will solve all of the problems.

1. Governors and chief state school officers should set up a process to work with NEA and our state education associations to review the appropriateness of the standards and recommend any improvements that might be needed.

2. Common Core implementation plans at the state and local levels must be collaboratively developed, adequately resourced, and overseen by community advisory committees that include the voices of students, parents, and educators.

3. States and local school districts must place teachers at the center of efforts to develop aligned curriculum, assessments, and professional development that are relevant to their students and local communities.

4. States must eliminate outdated NCLB-mandated tests that are not aligned with the new standards and not based on what is being taught to students in the classroom.

5. States must actively engage educators in the field-testing of the new assessments and the process for improving them.

6. In any state that is field-testing and validating new assessments, there must be a moratorium on using the results of the new assessments for accountability purposes until at least the 2015-2016 school year. In the meantime, states still have other ways to measure student learning during this transition period—other assessments, report cards, and student portfolios.

7. Stakeholders must develop complete assessment and accountability systems. It takes more than one piece of evidence to paint a picture of what students are learning. Testing should be one way to inform effective teaching and learning—not a way to drive it.

Not every suggestion is bad, but it’s naïve.  You’re going to have problems with any assessment that is aligned to poor standards that encourage failed teaching methods, but he’s too in love with the standards to see that.

Photo credit: Iowa Politics (CC-By-SA 2.0)

Bill Gates Wins Hearts for the Common Core By Lining Pockets


The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation spent millions to advance the Common Core State Standards in 2013.

From Valerie Strauss at The Washington Post:

Millions of Gates dollars were awarded this year for various Core-related activities, including to increase public support for the Common Core;  a $3.2 million grant to the New Venture Fund is intended “to support successful implementation of the Common Core State Standards by building public awareness and understanding.” (The fund’s Web site says it is a nonprofit organization “offering domestic and international grant-making services, executing donor-developed projects, and providing full fiscal sponsorship including grant and contract management for innovative public-interest projects.”)

Some of the grants are to help develop new standardized tests aligned to the Core; the Council of Chief State School Officers won $4 million in July “to support the development of high quality assessments to measure” the standards. Other grants are to help teachers develop materials for the Common Core. The NEA Foundation for the Improvement of Education won a few grants in this regard, including one in July for $3,882,600 to “support a cohort of National Education Association Master Teachers in the development of Common Core-aligned lessons in K-5 mathematics and K-12 English Language Arts,” and another in October for $501,580 “to give support to teachers in Kentucky to implement the Common Core State Standards confidently and effectively.”

Meanwhile, the National Conference of State Legislatures won $447,046 in November to “continue its support of state legislators on Common Core and teacher effectiveness”; UCLA won $942,527 in September “to develop a tool that helps states on Common Core-aligned assessments”; the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in August won $115,000 “to support an online, game-based learning experience for reading and writing aligned to Common Core literacy standards”; and the University of Kentucky Research Foundation won $1 million in February to “to support the launch of a new Center for Innovation in Education to advance implementation of the common core and more personalized learning for students and teachers that will enable young people to graduate career and college ready.”

I seem to recall testimony in Wisconsin from a representative of the National Conference of State Legislatures who claimed to be neutral.  If memory serves correct we can deem him a liar.  Then there is $800,000 that went to the National Association of School Boards – sigh.

You can see the list here.

Impending Disaster in American Education: Exxon Mobil Ad Supports a Failed Promise

Below is a press release that was sent out by American Principles Project.

Washington, DC – Today, the American Principles Project responded to a new ad aired for the National Education Association (NEA) and funded by Exxon Mobil. “It is ironic that Exxon is supporting the Common Core even though those standards undermine the goals of preparing more children for STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) studies and closing achievement gaps,” said Emmett McGroarty, Education Director at the American Principles Project.

“In order to be admitted to a STEM program, students need to have completed at least pre-calculus and ideally calculus by the end of high school. When children are not prepared to take algebra I at the start of eighth grade, they have to accelerate three years of math into two years in order to be prepared for calculus by twelfth grade,” observed Ze’ev Wurman, a former U.S. Education Department official and an expert on math standards. “As is, the Common Core does not include even pre-calculus expectations. This makes for a significant disadvantage for children from economically disadvantaged communities because they cannot afford the private tutoring and courses to help them negotiate the accelerated learning.”

Wurman continued, “In contrast, when California moved algebra I to eighth grade, and set K-7 expectations so that all students will be prepared for it, the achievement gap dramatically narrowed – economically disadvantaged students posted achievement gains more than twice those of their wealthier peers.”

“What Exxon Mobil likely has in mind is the promise of the Common Core, not its reality. Two private associations developed the standards in response to a federal grant competition that expressly called on states to ‘prepare more students for advanced study and careers in the sciences, technology, engineering, and mathematics, including by addressing the needs of underrepresented groups and of women and girls in the areas of science technology, engineering and mathematics,’” said Mr. McGroarty. “Sadly, the Common Core failed to fulfill that promise.”

You can see the ad here.

The Gates Money and Common Core

Mercedes Schneider has a fabulous audit of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation spending on Common Core.  In particular I want to highlight money spent on advocacy and advancing the Common Core.

Let us now consider major education organizations and think tanks that have accepted Gates money for the express purpose of advancing CCSS:

American Enterprise Institute: $1,068,788.

American Federation of Teachers: $5,400,000.

Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development: $3,269,428.

Council of Great City Schools: $5,010,988.

Education Trust: $2,039,526.

National Congress of Parents and Teachers: $499,962.

National Education Association: $3,982,597.

Thomas B. Fordham Institute: $1,961,116.

Almost $2 million dollars and yet Chester Finn of Fordham said the money had nothing to do with his support of the Common core.  Right, sure.  I find it fascinating he had to buy off both major teachers union.  We’re getting word that the Gates Foundation may be spending more money on advocacy as they since they’re losing ground.

I get asked how the opposition is being funded and I have to reply we don’t have a billionaire funding us.