Teaching Profession

Common Core a Theme of NEA’s 2013 Gathering

By Stephen Sawchuk — July 02, 2013 2 min read
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We haven’t begun the 2013 NEA Representative Assembly quite yet, but already there are clues that the Common Core State Standards are likely to be one of the big topics of discussion.

Take a look at New Business Item A, which was submitted by the union’s board of directors. It calls on NEA to support and make guidance available “to affiliates, parent organizations, and community stakeholders to assist them in advocating for, and developing implementation plans, to transition to Common Core State Standards and better assessments.”

And later in the week, the NEA will also debate an item calling on a moratorium on the use of high-stakes tests associated with the common core until teachers and districts have developed “authentic, locally developed curriculum and assessments,” according to this release.

The NEA has endorsed the common core since they were unveiled, but unlike the American Federation of Teachers, it has never been particularly flashy about its support. So its decision to put a statement of support for the standards out during a time in which the CCSS is being politically challenged is a noteworthy move—and also a somewhat uncharacteristic one for the generally risk-averse union.

And the union is putting its money where its mouth is. According to the Huffington Post, the NEA is beginning a partnership with an online site to showcase common-core-aligned lessons taught by some of its members, to the tune of $3.6 million.

NEA is announcing the new resources because it feels that much of the current criticism of the standards is based on misinformation, including the sloppy conflation of the terms “standards” and “curriculum” by the mainstream media. And it believes that implementation is crucial to the standards’ success, President Dennis Van Roekel said.

“We said we thought teachers had to be involved in the development of the common core, and I think it shows when you look at the standards,” he told me today. “There’s a smaller number of them. They’re clearly stated. And they ask students to learn things that can’t be demonstrated on a simple bubble test.”

The bottom line, it seems, is that the union’s leaders are very committed to the common core, even if it brings some criticism, both external and internal.

While the standards seems to have a fair number of supporters among NEA members, it isn’t unanimous. For example, a new (non-NEA) group of activist teachers, the Badass Teacher Association, says it’s “ENRAGED by how aggressively the leadership of the NEA is supporting the Common CORE standards and think this stance is an unmitigated disaster for the organization, given the grass roots [sic] opposition to CCCS that is building across the political spectrum” (emphasis theirs).

Fred Klonsky, an Illinois union delegate who’s disappointed by the focus on common core, has more on his blog.

Some folks are even concerned that the NEA’s proposed $3 dues increase will be put forward toward common-core implementation, even though union officials tell me that states and locals will get to decide how to spend the funds, if the increase is approved.

Expect more discussion, and probably some pitched debate, about the common core over the days to come.

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Teacher Beat blog.