National Education Association:
Just Say No to Common Core Tests
The NEA struggles to remain solidly aligned with the Democratic Party although the union opposes most of Pres. Obama’s education policies. At the 2013 National Education Association convention in Atlanta, union leadership both promoted Common Core standards and fought against them. The union seems afraid to directly rebuke President Obama and his policies. Delegates introduced — but failed to pass — two measures that condemned Obama’s education policies outright and were critical of Secretary of Education Arne Duncan; both measures called on Obama to fire Duncan.
Common Core is inextricably linked to the Obama administration, although the administration and Common Core proponents often deny this. Arne Duncan bragged about Obama’s role in Common Core creation at a UNESCO meeting in Paris on Nov. 4, 2010. He stated:
In March of 2009, President Obama called on the nation’s governors and state school chiefs to ‘develop standards and assessments that don’t simply measure whether students can fill in a bubble on a test, but whether they possess 21st-century skills like problem-solving and critical thinking and entrepreneurship and creativity.’ Virtually everyone thought the president was dreaming.
While NEA union leadership and delegates circled the wagons to protect themselves from Common Core at the convention, they were unwilling to step away from politics to speak directly against it, or to speak up for educating students well.
The NEA passed several “New Business Items” designed to protect teachers from Common Core. Some observers ask: What about the students? What about the future of public education? Although the NEA could be a force against Common Core and the federal takeover of American education, the union seems too aligned with the Democratic political machine to do more than squeak about testing that could negatively impact their own job security and paychecks.
NEA executive director John Stocks railed against “privateers and profiteers peddling their false promises,” yet the delegates passed a Board of Directors proposed item agreeing to assist union affiliates, parent organizations, and communities in “advocating for and developing implementation plans to transition to Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and better assessments.”
Union President Dennis Van Roekel decried “other people’s solutions.” He condemned the idea that “anyone can be an education reformer” and criticized those who are motivated by “profits. Big profits.” Does Van Roekel not know the history of Common Core development? Is he unaware of the huge profits being realized by the education support companies and organizations thanks specifically to Common Core?
Common Core Tests
Linda Darling-Hammond is developing the very tests that union members are fighting against, yet Darling-Hammond was a speaker at a 2013 NEA convention event. Union Executive Director Stocks hailed Darling-Hammond as “a renowned education expert.” She is a prominent proponent of CC, was the head of Obama’s education policy transition team, and is senior research advisor for the SBAC Common Core test development team.
Delegates passed a new business item asking for “a moratorium on using the outcome of the tests associated with the Common Core standards, except to inform instruction. . . .” Some delegates argued that a moratorium wasn’t enough and that no high-stakes testing should ever occur. Testing is called high-stakes when it can be a factor in teachers receiving merit pay, rather than the usual union pay standard of seniority. The union demanded that schools “limit the reliance on and investment in high-stakes standardized tests, and decrease the reliance on CCSS-related tests in evaluating teacher performance.” They adopted plans for the NEA to “develop a comprehensive strategy to affirm [their] opposition to the excessive and inappropriate use of high-stakes tests.”
In a convention speech, union leader Stocks decried “[i]gnorant politicians who can’t seem to understand that learning is more than testing.” At the convention, it was decided that the NEA will send a letter to the National Conference of State Legislatures urging that all state legislators take the new Common Core standardized tests. The letter will demand that the legislators’ test scores be published. Why the union chose to go after state legislators regarding Common Core is perplexing. CC was foisted upon legislators and voters, many of whom are only now finding out the negative impact it will have on public education.
The NEA union wants American students to adapt to Common Core standards and tests but they would prefer that Common Core doesn’t affect teachers.