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NYSUT on Common Core

January 29, 2014 pm31 6:34 pm

The anti-public education reform movement is being driven back, everywhere. It’s high-water mark is in the past.

NYSUT’s opposition was to NYS implementation, not the Common Core as a whole. Progress, but less than we want.

Yet, they are still dangerous. They are still well-funded. They have access to media, to propaganda. They have influence from Arne Duncan through many state and local education departments. They have institutes and organizations and influential private donors. And they have already changed many of “the facts on the ground” – rewritten laws, broken contracts, attacked pensions, closed schools, opened doors for private charter school operators, test makers, etc etc.

We need to check them as they continue to aggressively assault public education. We must turn back new attacks.

We need to pursue the facts that they have changed, and changed them back. We need to undo their damage. (In NYC, the shorthand version is undoing Bloomberg’s failed legacy).

Our unions need help opposing, and strengthening their opposition, to anti-public education 

But importantly, we need to make certain our own allies are on board. Our national unions made awful compromises and concessions to the anti-public education reform movement. They can be brought back, but it will take pressure from below. And we need to take care that they don’t do as Nasser did in Moscow: signal left and turn right.

A month ago the AFT President tweeted opposition to Value Added (a way of judging teachers on test scores). Careful. My local, usually closely aligned to her, has opposed Value Added for quite some time . Instead they support a “Growth Model”. Honestly, the difference is miniscule. But a lawyer chooses words carefully. She didn’t oppose “Growth Models” – and that’s what we should have heard. We have a signal of progress, but no real progress, not yet. We need to keep up the pressure.

(Similarly, I oppose rating teachers on test scores. The AFT opposes rating teachers “primarily on test scores.”  You think there’s no real difference?)

This weekend the New York State United Teachers (NYSUT) called for the removal of Commissioner of Education. (The NYSUT Board adopted the resolution,  still needs to be adopted by the Representative Assembly this Spring). That’s progress.

The proposed resolution also brings NYSUT in open opposition to the Common Core “as implemented and interpreted in New York State.” That is progress as well. But it is not opposition to the Common Core. Really.

  • Opposition to the Common Core would mean that NYSUT was looking to take New York State out of the Common Core.
  • Opposition to the Common Core as implemented and interpreted in New York State means NYSUT is looking for NYS to implement Common Core better.

There’s a difference. We would want the former. If they polled members in NY, they’d know we want to dump the Common Core. But they chose, for now, the latter, a half step.

In a similar vein, the UFT called earlier this year for a moratorium on consequences for high stakes exams. We should have called for a moratorium on the tests themselves. Progress, but a half-step.

Let’s recognize what we have: The steps in the wrong direction have stopped. We have half-steps in the right direction. And we have need for much more progress.

It is crucial to our struggle that we get our organizations fully on board. Pressure from below has moved them. Let us state, but not overstate, our progress, as we continue to move forward.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. David-S permalink
    January 30, 2014 am31 11:57 am 11:57 am

    I have a dilemma with the entire discussion about standards. On one hand, I’ve seen first hand how the Regents Exams ( NYS) help to provide some degree of uniformity to classroom instruction and curriculum. I’ve also seen in neighboring states what happens in classrooms where classroom instruction is unguided by a device such as we have in NYS. The whim of a school, or teacher, or pressure from administration, to ‘dumb down’ the curriculum to raise passing percentages is not easy for an educator to resist when there are no ‘standards’.

    An examination of nationwide education reveals only NYS has Regents. Everywhere else, it’s a local, often a class by class decision. If the public wants to raise the quality of national education there have to be some changes.

    The ‘if’ in the preceding sentence is a real ‘if’. When ‘Little Johnny’ doesn’t do as well in a more rigorous class there is bound to be an upset parent. Teachers know all too well the trouble coming their way from upset parents complaining about a child’s poor grade. The cynic in me says that it’s all about the ‘grade’ and not much about mastering the subject.

    This leads me to feel that state and national standards have a place.

    The problems:
    1. Evaluating instructors by students results.
    2. Standards established by people who are not educators or otherwise valid participants.
    3. The press for making what should be a complex review of students educational progress, and the need for extra support, being reduced to a number. This for the express reason to make a ‘sound’ bite, or a thin news report.
    4. The abuses of those with an axe to grind, like US News, to be able to make invalid, but headline grabbing, articles comparing schools from different places.
    5. Evaluating specific institutions by aggregating the test scores of the students they serve.

    This is far from an exhaustive list.

    Additionally, anyone thinking from this read that the NYS Regents Exams are currently a good tool need remember that the Regents have been tinkered with extensively for political reasons since Bush’s No Child Left Behind and not for the better. In those former days, committees of teachers created exams and the curricula that they were based upon. Not so for quite a while. Sadly!

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