NEA pushing the Common Core Kool-Aid

The National Education Association (NEA) seems to be competing with the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) for the Who-Loves-Common-Core-the-Most Award from the Bill and Melinda Gates enterprise, the National Governors Association, the Chief Council of State School Officers, and Hunter College School of Education Dean David Steiner. Of course, we know that NEA and AFT are $11 million richer for embracing the Common Core. Not to mention pocket change awards from Bill and Melinda Gates. Here's the latest to NEA:

Date: October 2012 Purpose: to build and enhance teacher voice in the development and implementation of the teacher and leader Professional Growth and Effectiveness System and the common core state standards Amount: $99,997 Term: 8 months

July NEA Representative Assembly: New Business Item A, submitted by the NEA board of directors calls on NEA to support and make guidance available "to affiliates, parent organizations, and community stakeholders to assist them in advocating for, and developing implementation plans, to transition to Common Core State Standards and better assessments." Getting ready for the Atlanta meeting, a banner on the NEA website announced Why Common Core is Good for Students.

Of course this is no surprise. NEA Today shakes the Common Core tambourine regularly: Six Ways the Common Core is Good For Students.

It's an old chestnut advertising strategy: Mom, apple pie, and good for students. NEA says, "Despite the challenges of implementation, the new standards promise lasting benefits for today's students."

Got Common Core Curriculum?, NEA Today, June 26, 2013

The NEA Master Teacher Project, through a partnership with, is recruiting the best K-12 math and ELA teachers in the country to document and share what makes them effective. The project will compensate 95 of the highest-performing Common Core teachers to share all of their lessons and practices with their fellow educators. The application deadline is July 15.

NOTE: Better Lesson was founded by Teach for America alum Alex Grodd. Board members are Jennifer Carolan, a partner at NewSchools Venture Fund, and Vinay Seth Mohta, CTO at Kyruus, a Big Data company that enables hospitals and healthcare systems to take a data-driven approach to building, operating, and optimizing their physician networks.

Education entrepreneurs.

Here's the Better Lesson intro to Common Core: The Common Core State Standards (CCSS) represent an exciting opportunity to improve lesson sharing. BetterLesson hopes to help teachers across the country get familiar with these new standards and locate relevant lessons shared by other educators.

This enterprise is kissing kin with AFT's Share My Lesson, and they both suffer from two major faults:

1) They get scared, busy teachers scrambling for more and more lessons. They could — and should — be organizing teachers to fight the Common Core and stand up for their own professionalism.

2) Nobody with knowledge of good, developmentally appropriate practice is monitoring the quality of these lessons. Instead, they drive teachers to collect more and more piffle.

Here's a Better Lesson [sic] Common Core browser of topics for Grade 3:

*RF.3.3 Know and apply grade-level phonics and word analysis skills in decoding words.

*RF.3.3a Identify and know the meaning of the most common prefixes and derivational suffixes.

*RF.3.3b Decode words with common Latin suffixes.

*RF.3.3c Decode multisyllable words.

*RF.3.3d Read grade-appropriate irregularly spelled words.

Hey, NEA members, does this look like developmentally appropriate, good teaching? Find me any research that supports such lessons for third grade. . . or any grade.

NEA members, you were warned. On Jan 7, 2013, NEA president Dennis Van Roekel trumpeted: CCSS offers a vivid, practical example of NEA's Leading the Professions initiative, a three-part plan to transform the teaching profession and accelerate student learning.

He insisted:

*Teacher input is critical to developing CCSS.

(CCSS offers a vivid, practical example of NEA's Leading the Professions initiative.

*Accept this, and embrace the transition.

Translation: Accept this means Drink the Kool-aid and it will result in massive professional suicide.

Remember: NEA received $99,997 from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to repeat this message for eight months.

A point of history. In September 2012, during the critical-to-teachers-everywhere Chicago teachers strike, NEA president Dennis Van Roekel was on the bus with Arne. Literally, on the bus. I don't spend a lot of time on Twitter, but on September 16, I was retweeting messages posted by ChicagoTeachersUnion ‏@CTULocal1, @labornotes, Chicago Teacher Solidarity, and half a dozen Chicago teachers. Also Rebel Diaz's rap Chicago Teacher, which exhibits an understanding of the Chicago issues far better than the understanding shown by most media--and top managers of both teacher unions.

On September 18 I retweeted the messages of 9 Chicago teachers, sent a message to Arne and the U. S. Department of Education that "the greatest obstacle to teachers accomplishing anything, after poverty, is the U.S. Department of Education." retweeted Jo Scott-Coe's message, "Teachers Rock: Until we stand up with demands for better schools. Barefoot & docile at the chalkboard is how politicos want us."

I also retweeted this message from Patrick. J. Sullivan, the one dissenting member of the mayor's New York City Panel for Education Policy, "No one will ever look upon a teacher and think of him or her as a passive person to be bullied and walked on ever again."

Here are two Chicago teachers: @tbfurman: Honored to live in the city where teachers pushed back. @msgunderson: "I was born to teach. I wasn't born to be a doormat."

NEA failed to mention the Chicago Teachers Strike, failed to wish the teachers well, failed to explain the significance of this strike to every teacher in America. Instead, during the strike NEA president Dennis Aan Roekel, who is paid upwards of $500,000 a year by teachers, was on the bus with Arne. Instead, NEA sent out a picture of what Duncan and Van Roekel were eating on the bus.

You can't make this sort of thing up.

Here is the latest from the NEA, explaining what teachers want. Sounds like a book title: What Do Teachers Really Want?

Bringing Common Sense [sic] to Common Core

National Education Association

By Mary Ellen Flannery, Sr Writer/Editor at National Education Association

Teachers want the power to teach creatively and deeply, and to help their students achieve a higher standard of success. They also want to ensure that every child, no matter who they are, where they live or how rich or poor they are, has the same level playing field as they reach to achieve their dreams through a good education. The Common Core State Standards can be a vehicle to achieve that vision but we have to make sure they are done right and that their implementation is driven not by politicians but by the very people who work each day to fulfill the promise of our children’s future--educators. As Common Core begins to unfold across the country, the NEA Representative Assembly is poised to take action this week to ensure that implementation of the new standards is done in ways that support teachers, that ensure we teach first and test later, and that we achieve the Common Core's promise of equity for all students. All students should be expected to learn 21st century skills and content, and the expectations we have for them shouldn't vary based on what state they happen to live in. The standards, which have been adopted by 45 states by governors, Democratic and Republican alike, sets a higher bar for all students, spelling out the skills and information that students should know to be ready for college and career, and to make good on the promise of the American Dream. When the standards were develop [sic] NEA and the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) worked to ensure the voice of teachers was integral to their development. These standards are not a 'federal mandate' as some conservative politicians have espoused. [emphasis added] "The standards are obviously the work of teachers, said NEA President Dennis Van Roekel.

"Number one, they're clear. Number two, there aren't a thousand of them. And number three, they all can't be measured using a bubble test. That was not by accident. It's the input of the people who knew what had to be done."

But the standards -- and their promise of equity for all -- don't exist in a vacuum.

Misinformation and just pure confusion has threatened to set back what could be a giant leap forward to improve teaching and learning in America's schools. What needs to be made clear is that the new standards must go hand in hand with appropriate student assessment and carefully aligned curriculum and it should all be shaped by the educators who everyday connect students with their dreams.

Standards describe WHAT we think students ought to know and be able to do. A curriculum provides suggested ideas about HOW to teach those specific standards. And assessments are the tests used to determine whether students have mastered the standards. To successfully implement any set of standards, we must do it in the right order. And we must do it in a way that is fully aligned. The adoption of the Common Core State Standards was just the start of this process and it is up to us to ensure we get it right.

NEA members made this point loud and clear in Seattle earlier this year when they mounted an energetic (and successful!) community boycott of the district's MAP test, an assessment tool that didn't measure at all what teachers were required to teach in the classroom.

"It wasn't about denying accountability," said Seattle teacher and union leader Jesse Hagopian at NEA's Joint Conference on Concerns of Minorities and Women on Sunday. "It was about doing what parents and teachers knew was best for our students."

In that same spirit and consideration of what's best for students, the NEA educators gathered in Atlanta this week for the annual NEA Representative Assembly (RA) will consider two measures. The first is aptly named "Commonsense Common Core Implementation," and it calls on states and school districts to do this right -- with the support of NEA. The second calls for a moratorium on the consequences of high-stakes testing associated with Common Core until states and districts have worked with educators to create authentic locally developed curriculum and assessments. "We know that not every teacher will be working in buildings or districts where it's done well," said Dennis van Roekel. With that in mind, the RA's anticipated action will ensure that teachers, parents, and community members will be supported in the standards' implementation and the development of assessments that match those standards.[emphasis added] NEA understands that educators will need time to develop new and creative curriculum to teach the standards, plus time to practice new instructional tools that may be necessary or useful, plus time to design authentic assessments that measure the concepts students must master.

NEA's Great Public Schools network and its new Raise Your Hand campaign, which launches Tuesday, promises to provide an avenue for educators to access resources as they make that transition. Consider NEA's new partnership with BetterLesson, a Cambridge-based organization dedicated to working with NEA to distribute educators' teaching expertise across the country to aid in the effective implementation of the Common Core.

In the meantime, critics of Common Core should think hard about what they're criticizing, Van Roekel suggested. "Which standard shouldn't be there? Is there something missing? What isn't important for the students of this country to know?" he asked. "And what would you replace them with? If you say 'the current system,' then I say no. We need to do better for our students."

This is a $98,000 statement, paid for by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.] By saying that ""The standards are obviously the work of teachers" Van Roekel proves he has been bought and sold.


Add your own comment (all fields are necessary)

Substance readers:

You must give your first name and last name under "Name" when you post a comment at We are not operating a blog and do not allow anonymous or pseudonymous comments. Our readers deserve to know who is commenting, just as they deserve to know the source of our news reports and analysis.

Please respect this, and also provide us with an accurate e-mail address.

Thank you,

The Editors of Substance

Your Name

Your Email

What's your comment about?

Your Comment

Please answer this to prove you're not a robot:

1 + 2 =