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NEA Delegates Endorse Common-Core Supports, But Not Testing

The National Education Association's Representative Assembly seems to like the Common Core State Standards, but is much more wary of the tests aligned to the standards.

Delegates have approved New Business Item A, which requires the NEA to support and guide affiliates, parent organizations, and community stakeholders in advocating, and transitioning to, the Common Core State Standards. As I wrote yesterday, this is probably the union's strongest and most public statement of support for the common core, though it has been on board since 2009-10.

Said Eric Champy of Massachusetts: "Why should students in the best schools in Massachusetts have more opportunity than students in underprivileged neighborhoods in our country? Why wouldn't we create a level playing field for all students? ... This is not about curriculum and assessments. It's about a common set of rigorous expectations for all children."

A handful of other delegates spoke against the item, echoing key common-standards foes Diane Ravitch, Stephen Krashen, and Nancy Carlsson-Paige. Among other things, they worried about philanthropist Bill Gates' support for the standards and whether the standards are "developmentally appropriate" for young children.

"As long as the CC exists, corporate interests will use it as a national base to standardize products and profit from it," said delegate Becca Ritchie of Washington state. "This will lead to overtesting of our children followed by diminished instruction time." (Ritchie went on to say that the "RNC recognized that the standards were an overreach," which has to be the first time a delegate has cited the Republican National Committee to back his or her position. Union delegates are overwhelmingly Democratic.)

The item passed comfortably by voice vote.

Meanwhile, New Business Item 3, which was also approved, requires the union to "join with AFT" in calling for a moratorium on the "outcomes" linked to testing associated with the common core. Instead, it would limit consequences to "informing instruction" and would support only tests that are developed locally.

That essentially rules out the statewide, standardized tests being created by the two federally funded consortia, Smarter-Balanced and PARCC.

Said Dean Vogel, the president of the California Teachers' Association: "There's nobody in this room, in any town in the whole country, that doesn't understand that this high-stakes testing has raged way out of control. It's time for NEA to tell the truth and be that voice. We have to come out strong and be very clear with people that this high-stakes-testing mania has got to stop."

The idea of a moratorium has been hotly debated among policy folks. And although the U.S. Department of Education has already offered some flexibility regarding teacher evaluations, states are all over the place in whether they're going to apply for it.

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