Wednesday, February 19, 2014

DVR Corrects Course

Dennis Van Roekel today let loose on the NEA Today website with what represents a big set of admissions for him, and what for many of us wins a Captain Obvious merit badge. Regarding the CCSS:

I am sure it won’t come as a surprise to hear that in far too many states, implementation has been completely botched

Well, the "no surprise to hear part" is pretty obvious. And we've been saying the rest for a while. So how big a shift does today's commentary actually represent.

The opening paragraphs can be dismissed, I think, as face-saving revisionist history. New lipstick on the same ugly damn pig. "The CCSS came out and educators leapt forward like good soldiers, embracing the standards with joy blah blah blah but it turns out the bureaucrats muffed the implementation, and you know, we told them not to do that!!" Okay, fine. That, combined with the note of "like a good life long learner, I've been listening to teachers and learning what it looks like on the ground" is probably the closest we'll get to an apology, and I'm okay with that. Politics. It's what's for breakfast, and he still washes it down with the koolaid.

But gone is the factoid about widespread teacher support. Now we're talking about widespread teacher non-preparation for the core, and the non-support teachers are getting with implementation. It sounds a lot like the standard "The standards are swell; it's just an installation problem" so far, but somewhat feistier than in the past.

A few grafs later, he arrives at the sixty million dollar question:

Where do we go from here?

DVR acknowledges that lots of folks want NEA to call for scrapping the standards. And it would be easy to go along with the critics on the left and the right (one bonus point for admitting they all exist), but we don't want to go backwards. Specifically, we don't want to go back to the bad old days of NCLB and teaching to tests and bad bubbling.

DVR, you do know that there were schools before NCLB. We could go back a mere fourteen years and find ourselves back in the age of authentic assessment, an approach that had potential but was snuffed out by NCLB. So, minus one point for ignoring the full range of options.

He moves on to some specifics. Work with teachers. Stop giving old bubble tests that don't match the new standards. Involve teachers in developing some of this stuff.

And in fact the whole thing would be way too weak to mean much (other than DVR is sliding one step closer to living on the same reality as the rest of us), except for one thing. And I am going to hold DVR to that one thing, because if we get that, none of the rest matters.

DVR has a list of seven items NEA wants from "policymakers" (DVR first artfully sidesteps the issue of whether it's states, feds, or corporations that are driving this bus), and at the number one spot, we find this:

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.

Can we just tattoo that across the sky? Paint it on DVR's face?

The other six are just arble-garble about testing and proper field-testing and accountability and probably ploughing the road for NEA's Helmsley-fund financed partnership with PARCC and SBA, but I don't care and I'm willing to ignore it, because if we get a do-over on the standards, if we get a state-level method of revising the standards to suit that state with teachers in an actual position to affect the process-- I would do the kind of happy dance that would embarrass grandchildren that aren't even born yet. Rewrite the standards? With the states, not the USDOE? I have to say, I don't hate that idea.

There will be a ton of parsing of DVR's release today, but for me, that one point is the bombshell. Because the standards are the foundation of everything else. And, done correctly, everything else must wait for the standards to be finished and fixed. I have no illusions about the likelihood of that happening easily or even at all. I'm just happy that my national union has even just one thing on the table that I can support. There's an awful lot of platitudinous baloney on this new plate, but for the moment, I'm going to ignore it and focus on the yummy chocolate chip cookie that I can see.

I am already reading the cries that it is too weak and too late, and there's absolutely no question that it's both. But at this point, there are only two options-- being too late, or staying too wrong. You can't fix Too Late. Absent a time machine, DVR can't undo his ongoing period of wrong-headed quackery. At this point the best we could get would be Too Late But Absolutely Right.  Too Late But Slightly Less Wrong isn't perfect, but it's still better than Still Dead Wrong And Unwilling To Talk About It. Sometimes better is all you get. 

UPDATE : Well, it took DVR about a week to backtrack on this and walk back the most interesting and worthwhile parts. Here's the scoop on that.


  1. My state, NM has a bill pending that would do just this (DVR's #1). I don't think it will fly in my state's current political mess, but we are still hoping.

  2. The fact that we are bringing our supposedly (bought) leaders back to a half reality shows that power still derives from the people. Thanks to parents and those tenured educations who can speak truth to power that the ball is finally in our court.

  3. As an educator I don't want to "recommend improvements". I want to rewrite the standards and submit them. If we're recommending they can say "Thanks but no thanks." Educators rewrite them, the state adopts them, period. I want educators to take back education from those who have hijacked it.