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NEA Calls for Course Correction on 'Botched' Common Core

In a letter just sent to members of the National Education Association, the union's president argues that in too many places, states and districts have "completely botched" implementation of the Common Core State Standards and must do a better job of listening to teachers and revising policies in order to fulfill the standards' promise.

"Seven of ten teachers believe that implementation of the standards is going poorly in their schools. Worse yet, teachers report that there has been little to no attempt to allow educators to share what's needed to get CCSS implementation right. In fact, two-thirds of all teachers report that they have not even been asked how to implement these new standards in their classrooms," NEA President Dennis Van Roekel writes in the Feb. 19 letter. "Consequently, NEA members have a right to feel frustrated, upset, and angry about the poor commitment to implementing the standards correctly." 

In all, the letter is more evidence of a phenomenon my colleague Andrew Ujifusa of State EdWatch fame and I wrote about in this week's edition of Education Week: Unions are in tricky situation on the common core. They've been among its greatest champions, and are now faced with rank-and-file members' gripes as it's implemented, especially in New York.

The NEA won't oppose the standards, Van Roekel writes in the letter. "[S]cuttling these standards will simply return us to the failed days of No Child Left Behind, where rote memorization and bubble tests drove teaching and learning," he says.

But teachers must be given more time to grapple with the standards, and more supports to introduce them into teaching and learning, the union says. Tests not aligned to the standards should no longer be given, and stakes should not be attached to new, common-core-aligned tests until 2015-16 at the earliest. 

The union spells out seven steps to improve implementation of the standards. Of these, the most interesting is the first, in which the union says it's open to modifications of the standards—a possible acknowledgement to those who say they are "developmentally inappropriate" in the early grades.

"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," the letter says.

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