I’ve written about my differences with state and national union leaders on what I have termed their wholesale embrace of the Common Core State Standards. I had occasion last week to meet with a group of local union presidents from across the country and NEA President Dennis Van Roekel under the auspices of the National Council of Urban Education Associations (NCUEA), a powerful caucus with in the National Education Association (NEA). I used my opportunity to engage Van Roekel to address what is becoming clearer to me all the time: the difference between the Common Core Standards as they exist as originally promulgated and the Standards as they are being experienced in the school districts and classrooms of our nation.
Acknowledging that the implementation of the Standards in New York has been a disaster, Van Roekel went on to explain that the NEA’s support for them has been driven by internal polling of the membership indicating broad support for them, and, in fact, several of the presidents in attendance spoke to the support of their members. He did say that the members have some concerns about implementation but are generally supportive.
While I was reluctant to accept this report on NEA’s polling, a number of experiences at this conference caused me to change my view. Wherever I went, whatever discussion I participated in at this NCUEA conference, there was a sense in the leaders I met that Common Core Standards are here to stay so that we might as well make the best of them that we can. To be sure there are places in the nation where the Standards are being implemented better than in New York, but that doesn’t mean that they are being enthusiastically embraced by our members. In a world where their leaders offer them no alternatives, it’s sensible to try to make the best of things.
I returned home convinced that the battle against testing and the Common Core Standards increasingly linked to that testing will have to be won in New York first. Here I increasingly meet local leaders who see the lunacy the Standards have become, leaders whose members are fed up with the attempt by corporate interests to take over their profession, standardizing their work and neutering it of its creative challenges. Not only must the battle be won in New York, but the driving energy to victory is going to have to emanate from Long Island where parents are joining with teachers to defend what we all know are some of the best schools in our nation.