Perdido 03

Perdido 03

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

My Take On Dennis Van Roekel's Common Core Backtrack

NEA President Dennis Van Roekel backtracked on Common Core today:

The nation’s largest teachers union is pulling back on its once-enthusiastic support of the Common Core academic standards, labeling their rollout “completely botched.”

National Education Association President Dennis Van Roekel said he still believes the standards can improve education. But he said they will not succeed without a major “course correction” — including possibly rewriting some of the standards and revising the related tests with teacher input.

“In far too many states, implementation has been completely botched,” Van Roekel wrote in a letter Wednesday afternoon to his organization’s more than 3 million members.

Van Roekel’s statement suggests quite a rocky road ahead for the Common Core standards, which are meant to instill more rigorous language-arts and math instruction in public schools — and which have been a priority of the Obama administration

He goes on to say that 70% of teachers now say CCSS implementation is going badly in their schools.

Van Roekel is not totally off the Common Core - he says states where CCSS implementation has been strong, teacher support for it remains strong, but that is not enough states.

So here is what Van Roekel suggested going forward:

In states that have made a commitment to involving teachers up front and providing teachers with the time, training, and resources they need to make the standards work, educator support for the standards is strong.

So if better teaching and learning is our goal, then policymakers need to implement educators’ common sense recommendations to get implementation on track:

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 States must eliminate outdated NCLB-mandated tests that are not aligned with the new standards and not based on what is being taught to students in the classroom.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

Okay, we can give points for movement in the right direction here, with Van Roekel acknowledging how many of his members are pissed off over what Common Core is doing to their schools and profession.

And we can give points too for suggesting the CCSS need to be revisited and redone, that there are flaws, especially around appropriateness.

As far as I remember, that's further than Iannuzzi went in the NYSUT withdrawal of support for CCSS and further than Randi Weingarten went with her call for a moratorium on high stakes attached to the CCSS tests.

I don't think either of them actually questioned the appropriateness of the CCSS, just the botched implementation.

Still, there's an awful lot of faith in Van Roekel's statement about the need to re-develop the assessments, re-do the assessments, field-test the assessments, and therein lies a problem I have with Van Roekel's statement - it continues to place an awful lot of faith and emphasis on a test-based education system.

But as Peter Greene noted in his Van Roekel reaction piece, that's probably because the NEA is still "ploughing the road for NEA's Helmsley-fund financed partnership with PARCC and SBA."

In the end, I think this is a good first step for the NEA, to acknowledge that many of their members are miserable over CCSS, that many want a "course correction" with the direction the NEA itself has taken over CCSS, that the implementation has been botched and the standards themselves may need to be revisited.

That said, we have a long way to go before the NEA leadership gets this completely right - the problem is not just the CCSS implementation or the appropriateness of the standards, the problem is also with the heavy emphasis on testing and data collection, the push for standardization in the first place.

Still, let's give credit where credit is due - Weingarten started this with the call for a moratorium on the high stakes connected to the CCSS tests, Iannuzzi continued it by withdrawing NYSUT support for CCSS until the NY State Education Department accomplished a list of demands he made around implementation and testing and now Van Roekel goes further by saying the standards themselves may have to be revisited.

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