Monday, January 27, 2014

NEA Sees News from NY, Punts

As everyone following the continuing CCSS adventures knows by now, New York State United Teachers' Board of Directors this Saturday voted "no confidence" on the policies of John King and recommended his ouster.

The resolution was sweeping in its rejection, but also came packed with a whole set of specific recommendations and requests. You can read the whole NYSUT release here.It's a pretty canny piece of political needle-threading.

"Educators understand that introducing new standards, appropriate curriculum and meaningful assessments are ongoing aspects of a robust educational system. These are complex tasks made even more complex when attempted during a time of devastating budget cuts. SED's implementation plan in New York state has failed. The commissioner has pursued policies that repeatedly ignore the voices of parents and educators who have identified problems and called on him to move more thoughtfully," said NYSUT President Richard C. Iannuzzi. "Instead of listening to and trusting parents and teachers to know and do what's right for students, the commissioner has offered meaningless rhetoric and token change. Instead of making the major course corrections that are clearly needed, including backing a three-year moratorium on high-stakes consequences for students and teachers from state testing, he has labeled everyone and every meaningful recommendation as distractions."

So, not a direct repudiation of CCSS. Just all its arms and legs and ears and everything done by the much-unloved guy who made it the cornerstone, bedrock, and giant stone albatross of his every policy. 

I'm not a "CCSS is swell once you get rid of testing and implement it properly" guy. I am a "kill it with fire" guy. I believe that testing is the whole inseparable point of CCSS. That said, I can see the flip side-- remove testing, and you've removed the point of CCSS, and it's just more paperwork. Pull out its fangs and it is, in the words of that great philosopher Yukon Cornelius, a humble bumble.

Well, there's been much to discuss about the NYSUT repudiation of King's policies. It's the biggest stand taken against reform so far, all the more ballsy because it required the state teachers to take a flier without any expectation that a national union had their back. After the resolution, Randi Weingarten quickly popped up with messages of support and approval-- more commendable evolution on her part.

Now, about 48 hours later, Dennis Van Roekel finally finds his voice. Well, sort of anyway. NEA's PR office released a message from the office of DVR, and of course the NEA leader is stepping forward to support and encourage the brave and ballsy teachers of-- oh, no. Wait. No, no that's not it.

The new Common Core State Standards provide real opportunities for the students in our nation’s public school system, but we owe it to them to provide teachers with the time, tools, and resources to get it right. Educators in New York were given no choice but to make a strong statement against the inadequate implementation of the standards. Teachers, administrators, parents and communities must work together to align the standards with curriculum, instruction and assessment, and this isn’t being done in New York.

Yep-- given a slam dunk union-leading opportunity, one that required nothing more than simply leaping up on an already-moving bandwagon, DVR took a flying leap and landed right in the middle of one more CCSS promotional piece.

Look at the two excerpts again. NYSUT is expressing concern that the interests of teachers, students, family, and community members are not being heeded and represented. DVR is concerned that the standards aren't getting all the love and care they deserve. And while this opening graf lists the people who aren't properly implementing the standards, DVR gets through all four paragraphs without mentioning John King by either name or title. Here, briefly, is the rest of the statement.

Graf #2) We've been telling people folks need time to implement this stuff. Kentucky and California are exemplars. Argle-blargle common sense principles. Blah blah blah college and career ready.

Graf #3) Believe it or not, we'll once again tell you about our poll that shows our members overwhelming support the standards. They love the standards. They would like to have the standards' baby. However most of them don't get to help implement it. Here are some things they would like to have, we hear.

Graf #4) "Our members support the standards because they are the right thing to do for our students..." Then bleep bloop embrace the promise and blurp blorp critical thinking and creative skills. Also, "implementation" many many times. NEA has been working to do stuff.

PS: Here's a link to our resources.

So there you have it. Given the opportunity to send a message of support and solidarity for the teachers of NY, NEA instead played Mad Libs with PR boilerplate and a list of stock phrases from every puff piece written about CCSS. DVR barely mentioned the substance or point of NYSUT's resolution, but instead used it as an excuse to issue one more love song of support for CCSS. Lordy. How many months left till the summer?

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