Our two national education unions having originally played ball with the Obama administration on ed policy have had an amazingly difficult time retreating from their positions and are growing every more distant from the members they represent. I was thinking about this problem over the weekend as I engaged in a Twitter conversation with Randi Weingarten and a number of tweeters who strenuously oppose the AFT’s support of annual high stakes testing. Both Weingarten and NEA leadership have slowly tried to distance themselves from their support for testing and the Common Core State Standards integrally tied to the tests as well as the connecting of testing to teacher accountability. Their problem has been that the erosion of teaching conditions attributable to the Obama policies has outpaced the speed of their retreat. How much better it would have been to do as Diane Ravitch has done – admit her support for No Child Left behind (that brought us annual testing and sanctions for poor results) was a colossal mistake.
Ravitch’s current views on testing and Common Core are more closely aligned with the rank and file of education union membership than the leadership of either nation union. In a recent blog post, she published a letter to Senator Lamar Alexander, for whom she once worked, exhorting him to end the folly of annual high stakes testing. I suspect that union members reading this must wonder why their union leadership can’t muster the same eloquence and passion.