Wednesday, May 21, 2014

EWA Holds Common Core Pep Rally

The Education Writer's Association has carried lots of water for the pro-test, pro-corporate, pro-Core, anti-public ed crowd, so there's no real surprise when it was time for a discussion about the state of CCSS, their convention panel of "experts" includes six CCSS shills and one actual voice for public education.

Monday's panel included Dennis van Roekel (NEA president and CCSS fan), Terry Holliday (KY Ed Commissioner), Patrick McGuinn (Drew University), Sandra Alberti (from profiteering group Student Achievement Partners), Frederick Hess (American Enterprise Insitute), Michael Cohen (pres of Achieve) and, all by her loneseome, Carol Burris, outspoken principal and CCSS critic. What has been reported is a medley of old classic talking points and some nifty new ones.

It's Not Federal

Cohen said, "There are a lot of myths out there," and then proceeded to deal with some of the wackiest ones. Do any serious people believe "the standards were entirely a project of President Barack Obama's administration"? I doubt it, just as I doubt serious people believe that the Core will turn children gay or [insert pretty much anything from Glen Beck's book here]. Conspiracy by Gates et al? Beginnings of K-12 curriculum? Those two are more believable by serious people, but he didn't appear to actually refute them-- just lump them in with wacky ones, like a couple of valuable homes bundled in with bad mortgages so they could all fail together.

This is my favorite Cohen quote: "If federal money equaled a federal curriculum, we would have had a federal curriculum since about 1990." Well, yes. If we could have ignored that whole Constitutional law thing which calls any such federal action illegal. So that might have created a bit of an obstacle. I wonder if there is way around all of that...? Hmmm.....

Holliday's contribution to the old standard was that Kentucky was doing just fine on the state level "until the President and secretary of education took credit for the Common Core," at which point all Southern political holy conservative hell broke loose. 

It's All Politics

McGuinn characterized the brouhaha as "a lot of smoke but little fire," by which he meant that for all the sturm and drang, only one state has officially withdrawn from the standards (and that only in name; the substance of Indiana's standards looks oddly familiar). 

This is one of the New Classic talking points-- the arguments are all about politics, and have nothing to do with professional educators seeing real issues of substance in the standards themselves (nor does it have anything to do with the fact that there is no mechanism at all by which those sorts of substantive issues can be addressed or adapted). Nope-- this is all just about the politics, the right's hatred of Obama, the left's hatred of corporations. Nothing at all to do with teachers saying, "In our professional judgment, these standards have serious problems."

Ghost Stories

NCLB reared its head at the panel discussion many times, most oddly in the remarks of Dennis Van Roekel. Van Roekel, you may have heard, is the president of something called the National Education Association, a group which used to represent rank and file teachers across the country but now exists to maintain the political connections of a handful of lobbyists and former teachers in DC. 

Van Roekel is finally ready to follow the crowd in condemning VAM, but is certain that we can't scrap CCSS because we don't want to go back to NCLB, because....? I don't know. DVR has a short term memory problem so his powers of recall stretch back only a decade? But DVR is afraid that dumping the core will leave us stuck in NCLB which, as you know, results only in memorization and bubble tests.

Honestly, I sometimes forget how deeply disappointing my union leader is. Does he think we are not drowning in test prep and bubbling out the wazoo under CCSS? Memo to DVR: If you want a position to take that isn't stupid, try this one--

We demand that Congress get off its large collective butt and finally reauthorize the ESEA in a non-stupid form.

See how easy that was, DVR? I came up with that policy in the time it takes to type it. Stop saying stupid things with my dues money. Thank you.

Self-Serving Baloney

God, I wonder what people who work at places like SAP tell themselves when they get up in the morning. Alberti offered that CCSS is "a professional opportunity to shape education policy in this country, and teachers across the country are taking on this challenge with energy and commitment."

Because if there's one thing that has characterized the CCSS-based status quo, it's the enthusiastic embrace of teacher input and opinion. But Alberti says that teachers need support, and thank goodness there are corporate profiteers ready to sell all the support they can get a buck for. You're doing God's work, SAP-- thanks for your philanthropic, public-spirited desire to cash in on the new status quo.

Carol Burris

God bless Burris, who often wanders into these dens of Reformsters and just patiently hammers away armed with nothing more than her wits, her honesty, her ability to speak clearly, and facts. I would like to write her an epic poem of thanks here, but I'll stick to her Best Quote of the Day:

This is authentic pushback. Teachers are the canaries in the coal mine and the canaries are not doing well.

In other words, it's NOT just politics and teachers aren't just little leftie/rightie tools, but actual professionals who are the first to deal with, see, and experience the real results of these policies that Reformsters like to promote from their comfy offices somewhere high atop not-schools.

Burris's quote underlines the most bizarre feature of the EWA panels. They wanted to find out how Common Core is doing, and to find out they decided to talk to everyone except actual classroom teachers. It's extraordinary. It's as if a medical convention wanted to find out how a new surgical technique with artificial kidneys is working, and they called the salesmen from the company, the accountant from the hospital, and a few hospital board members-- but not a single surgeon or patient.

I'll give them one credit-- they gave Anthony Cody a nice award that he totally earned. But their panel skills are weak.

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