Educators Being Heard on Common Core Implementation

In January, New York State United Teachers (NYSUT) rebuked the state’s deeply flawed Common Core implementation by voting to withdraw its support of the standards as implemented. NYSUT’s dramatic decision reverberated across the nation. State officials have been put on notice: Implementation must be done with us, not to us. Without a strong educator voice in the process, the Common Core State Standards cannot succeed.

The Common Core holds tremendous promise for students, but NYSUT’s 600,000 members were left with little choice. Their state has unfortunately become a model on how not to prepare schools for the new standards. Educators have not been afforded the time, training, and resources to properly implement the standards in their classrooms. Coupled with the prospect of looming new evaluations based in part on student test scores — a process that NYSUT said has been corrupted by poor implementation— and the situation reached a breaking point.

“Instead of listening to and trusting parents and teachers to know and do what’s right for students, the commissioner [John King] has offered meaningless rhetoric and token change,” explained NYSUT President Richard C. Iannuzzi. “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.”

NEA and its affiliates have been waving red flags over these concerns since states adopted the Common Core three years ago, calling on states and districts to come up with flexible, common-sense implementation plans.

“NEA and many other leading education organizations have expounded on the importance of getting implementation right,” said NEA President Dennis Van Roekel. “Educators need adequate time to learn the standards. They need the time to develop the tools and curriculums that are aligned to those standards. And assessments must be aligned with the standards.”

‘Tsunami of Education Reform’

Lawmakers are taking notice. In Connecticut, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and legislative leaders have called for the formation of an advisory group composed of a broad group of representatives of education groups, including union leaders. The group would review the challenges posed by a new teacher evaluation system that links teachers’ performance to students’ test scores on the Common Core assessments and issue recommendations on improving it.

Maryland educators are leading the charge for common sense in implementing Common Core, new assessments, and new teacher and principal evaluation systems so they can focus on preparing students and navigating through what Maryland State Education Association (MSEA) President Betty Weller calls the “tsunami of education reform.”

MSEA strongly supports a bill before the General Assembly to establish a workgroup to address Common Core implementation that includes educators and is pushing legislation that would prohibit the State Department of Education from imposing a one-size-fits-all evaluation system that ignores local mutual agreements and depends on student test scores.

MSEA is also championing a bill that would seek a waiver from the US Department of Education to cancel the Maryland School Assessment (MSA), a test taken by students in grades 3-8, because it isn’t aligned to the Common Core. MSEA says time and money spent administering this obsolete test could be better spent on additional instruction time for students and financial resources for districts to prepare for the new standards and assessments.

The stumbling over assessments, said Weller, is unfortunately characteristic of a poorly executed Common Core implementation process.

“Teachers are working hard and doing their best for their students … but they are simply not getting the time and help they need to get these changes right. Frustration is mounting and our schools and students are unfairly paying the price,” said Weller.

Educators in Missouri took similar action to alleviate the pressures of testing. In January, the State Board of Education approved a new state assessment plan – championed by Missouri NEA (MNEA) – that increases classroom instructional time by reducing the time children spend taking state tests.

The reform took root last fall when MNEA met with state education officials and came up with an alternative testing plan. Beginning in the 2014-15 school year, students in grade 5 and 8 will take the full seven-hour battery of new Common Core-aligned Smarter Balanced assessments, along with the state science test. To meet federal requirements, students in grades 3, 4, 6, and 7, however, will only take a computer adaptive survey test of math and English language arts created from Smarter Balanced test items.  Overall, they’ll only spend one hour on a state standardized test instead of seven hours – a significant cutback that should be a great help to teachers and students across the state, said Ann Jarrett, Teaching and Learning director for MNEA.

“The reduction in test time is vital for the many schools with limited access to broadband and devices. Parents and lawmakers are excited about the plan because a portion of the money saved by reducing testing will be used to pay for every junior in high school to take the ACT test,” explains Jarrett.

California Working on Getting Implementation Right

In California, educators, the state superintendent and lawmakers worked together to establish a new statewide student assessment system. In October, Governor Jerry Brown signed into law Assembly Bill 484, which shelved the old State Testing and Report program (STAR) to make way for a trial run of the new Smarter Balanced Assessments. The law also suspends high stakes accountability measures for the first three years of the assessment and requires that any data from field tests be for used test development purposes only.

“Suspending STAR this year allows students and educators to better prepare for the new tests aligned to the Common Core standards,” explained California Teachers Association (CTA) President Dean Vogel. “It makes no sense to test students on material they haven’t been taught or to force them to take an outdated test. At the same time, this bill will give more kids the opportunity to do a practice run this year on the computer-based tests.”

California also made a major investment in teacher readiness when it administered a $1.25 billion block grant in late 2013 to support the move to the Common Core. Districts were allowed to decide for themselves how to use the funds, be it new materials, teacher training, or classroom technology. CTA also received an NEA grant to develop a program to train mentor teachers who will assist their colleagues learn the skills necessary to implement the standards in the classroom. In addition, local chapters are actively bargaining for the right of teachers to be a part of the implementation process at the district level.

While California and other states are meeting educator concerns head-on, collaborative approaches are still notably absent in many parts of the country.

“When states fail to step up with the needed investments for implementation, NEA and its state affiliates are pushing hard for the resources needed. We all need to work together—parents, education support professionals, teachers, administrators, communities and elected officials—to make sure we get this right,” said Van Roekel.

  • I am pleased to see NEA (finally) publish something at least marginally critical of the Common Core, but that “tremendous promise” you mentioned? That’s debatable….

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  • MOMwithAbrain

    Please do not insult our intelligence. We are seeing the math assignments all over the country (see Inappropriate Common Core Lessons on face book) We know it’s NOT just NY.
    The Common Core Math standards are bad enough and we all know it.
    I’m afraid the GREED of getting paid off by Bill Gates is clouding your judgement.
    Give back the $$ and stand up for teachers & students.

  • Rhee Ali Tee

    The standards are not a bad thing at all actually, and I like the way they encourage text-based answers and research. What is not good is the way they’ve been implemented, as well as the over-emphasis on costly technologies that will need significant upgrades more often than not. If we lived in Eisenhower’s time, then many technology companies would jump at the chance to provide these technologies at no cost to schools, in order to get half of their 91 percent tax rate back. However, those types of Republicans and the care our government once had for American society are all but lost and forgotten. It will be a shock if anything comes of having a “working teacher’s voice” in the discussion.

  • Pat Fisher

    Common Core education is the wrong way to educate our children. I fear for my grandchildren and great grandchildren if it is implemented in my state. Private school enrollment will probably increase.

  • DisappointedDelaware

    I am personally disgusted with Common Core. This is not the time to pick on political parties. Both parties are clearly at fault. The Federal Department of Education wants these standards to federalize education. What is decided best fits for the students of Delaware may not fit the needs of those in other states like New York, California, North Dakota, Ohio, etc. What needs to be done is to follow the Constitution and push back as a union on these standards. The Common Core is a federal mandate that has not even been voted on by our elected Congress. Why are we even tolerating this? It is because there are needed dollars that help fund education behind it all. I think this is a moment for clarity that our government had gotten too large in the last 20 years and we need to stop it. States have the only right to develop and enact educational policy. Read the Constitution everyone, please! We are fighting over regulations that are not even law. All that it would take is for one state union to sue over this and take it all the way to the Supreme Court and it ends. Fight to stop this power grab! There is a reason why we have a government formed under the American principle of Federalism. Multiple centers of power with different levels and branches so that power does not collect into the hands of one small group or individual. Common Core is the result of no one in power within our unions exercising their Constitutional rights.

  • Matthew McKinley

    CC is garbage. The math standards will not prepare students for elite schools like Harvard etc. The English standards kill the spirit with an emphasis on dull material. As a teacher and a parent I’ve been complaining for over a year. It’s nice to see the union waking up even though it’s still not getting it totally right.

  • Moby Jones

    We were promised, as teachers, that the new common core would erase the “mile wide and inch deep” theory and practice of teaching. I have not seen this happen. Perhaps, years down the road, students may acclimate to these new standards, but today, we are rushing through math curricula, pushing kids before we know they are ready, forced to adhere to pacing guides that are no better, if not worse than before. I have yet to have the luxury of teaching “deeply” any concept in math. Before students have a real grasp of fractions, we rush into ratios, decimals, equations, variable, inequalities, integers, rational numbers. And yet there is a percentage of students in every one of our classes that have yet to grasp fractions and all they entail. This promise has NOT come to be. We are smashed into pacing guides that have, as their central driving force, testing. Several times a year, testing. Grow those children. Hit those benchmarks. Make that projected score, every one of you. You must. Our value add depends on it, which is, of course, tied to our funding and state report card.

  • LaFrederick Thirkill

    I am proud to say that the state of Tennessee is doing a fine job of preparing administrators, teachers, and support staff with the implementation of Common Core. As a principal, I am becoming more confident, with the on-going training provided by the state, that my teachers and students will make the transition. Thanks to Emily Barton and her team for the support.

  • Common core is flawed. Someone should have piloted the program for 2-3 years 1st. You would then have seen all the problems. I am considering changing jobs because of Common Core. Politicians screwed up seriously. You cannot mess with kids using an idea that hasn’t been tested out. You should not judge a teacher on a flawed system.

  • Teri Howard

    Having taught 33 years it always amazes me the blood and sweat put into writing the words that teachers and students are to adhere to in the name of “making America’s public schools great”. How did America become the great nation it is ? Our international scores are not much different than they were 20 or even 50 years ago. Yet we were once first in the world in innovations, wealth, and freedoms. Why do we believe words, written in language that had to be “deconstructed” in Kansas, are the answer to public school problems? Society, jobs, hope, creativity, all this is what makes America great. Teachers do need to challenge students. Research does need to be adhered to in teaching students to solve world problems. But living in a small Kansas town, where many children have not even been to a mall and jobs are scarce, living the common core is really just an afterthought. Educators realize the need to produce thinkers, but without a viable society, hope and motivation tend to be lost by high school. So Common Core, we are on board, but we’ve always been on board. I can truthfully admit my school has always been knighted as an excellent school. 70 percent poverty and our math and reading scores climb every year. We are above the state average. The ultimate test is having a world where these learners can thrive. Common Core? Words, just words, these words will only have meaning if we have the support of a world that holds hope for our future. Public schools need to have resources and support of community or these words will be rewritten in the near future. Only words to survive the centuries are those that truly embody a wisdom . The Consitution, Martin Luther King, Robert Frost, Shakespeare-understanding those words , now they will never be rewritten.

  • Paul Durham

    Now that my NEA has published something they dont like (NEA promotes and likes Common Core) maybe you should look into the Smarter Balanced Assessment.
    I have written SBA officials and they REFUSE to answer my questions. One question was..”how do you know that YOUR interpretation of Common Core is the same as ALL of the states and districts?”. Millions of dollars in grants from the US Gov., which they will NOT disclose.
    NEA, are you for child education and supporting teachers or are you politically motivated?

  • Seasoned in Washington

    CCSS were clearly not written by teachers, and are developmentally inappropriate to the elementary grade students. As an educator who has taught thirty plus years in grades k-9, I am so disheartened by the political interference in the public school system. I’ve watched the decline of curriculum that has come with “Educational Reform” and the ridiculous amount of testing across all grades. I have fifteen hours of training in the CCSS, and I am not on board with them, as I don’t see them as “what’s best for kids.”

  • Keith

    The real common core debate will take place in history. Are we one nation with liberty, equality, and justice for all, or is the South going demand equal space and honor for those who committed treason and denied equality to American citizens?
    I doubt common core will survive the history phase. Let’s push it and watch it all fall apart. In the process we’ll expose southern bigotry and perhaps even make some inroads against it.

  • Anmiello

    I’m not sure NEA really completely gets this yet. There is still a stubborn adherence to CCLS as a foundation for learning, when thousands of parents and …wait for it…EDUCATED, CERTIFIED, EXPERIENCED EDUCATORS have repeatedly shared that not only the implementation is botched, but that the STANDARDS THEMSELVES are developmentally inappropriate and the younger end, and woefully inadequate at the higher end.
    Who are you fooling? Being listened to? I think your membership funding is at risk, and you’re just bending enough to placate the frustration and sense of betrayal. I’m convinced that the NEA leadership has been out of the classroom too long to fully comprehend the impact these deforms are having on our students and children.

  • Suzanne

    Thanking my lucky stars that I teach in California!! I am applauding the (long overdue) move toward Common Core & bringing back some common sense to the teaching strategies in the Middle School classroom! Guess we are really blessed to have a governor with the foresight to cancel our CST exams this year, and allow for a slower implementation. Last year, my students got to try the pilot, this year we are practicing for the field test and no formal test results for another school year! They are so excited to be on the computer–still need to learn better typing skills–but their creative thinking cells are WAKING UP and creativity is returning to our campus! YIPPEE!!!!

  • Pomona Pete

    I’m personally asking all public school ‘teachers’ to please resign, so real teachers can be installed. All you leftist stepford pod-people are turning out mindless garbage. Any teacher who exults over each year’s experiments is a charlatan, but let’s face it: you all are.

  • Teka21
  • Amanda Arlington

    We had our first Professional Development on Common Core this week. It lasted 1 hour, and now we are expected to change curriculum to implement it. I can tell you that everyone in our meeting left the group feeling downhearted. The problem is that the test is all on a computer. You can’t take notes as you read, you can’t have a physical test in front of you to refer to, you have to scroll and digest. Then, the questions build on one another. If you get part A wrong, you will mostly get part B wrong. Then, you have to drag over elements of the text and drop them in place. On top of that, the texts are very linguistically challenging because they are in an old form of English that is not used anymore. Kids will be reading a text that has a language that is no longer in use. How is this helpful? Imagine being asked to read a college textbook online and not being able to mark up your book. I had the paper in front of me, and I was confused, overwhelmed and discouraged with the test. Common Core is tying one hand behind our backs. We can foresee that kids who are now testing as proficient, will be scoring not proficient on the new tests, simply because of the format. Plus, we are supposed to have practice tests, and these are nowhere in sight. And we are supposed to be implementing this next year, after one hour of training? Horrible! I thought about leaving the profession after the meeting.

  • Dory McAllister

    Reform? I don’t care what you want to call this year’s reinvention of the wheel, until class sizes are reasonable and the paperwork requirements stop increasing exponentially, no program has a chance of bringing about the increase in student learning that everyone wants. If you want to really make a difference, hire more teachers and make it possible for us to do a good job! I’m an award winning teacher but I’m spread so thin that I can’t do anything as well as I want to anymore. Don’t give us another program, give us a hand.

  • Pomona Pete-
    Crawl back into your hole. Obviously, you have no idea what teachers do, what they care about or what they accomplish in the face of this revolving door of reforms. We are educated and dedicated people who love our content area and the kids we teach.

  • Ed

    There is that old question about the tree falling in the woods. Yes it does make noise but no one hears it. Too much so-called educational reform is about the sound the tree makes and doesn’t address why no one hears it. Our students come to school compromised by poverty, poor nutrition, overworked parent(s), and cultural factors that diminish the importance of education and hardwork. To make another analogy, we are rearranging the furniture on the Titanic and disregarding the icebergs. In a country that values democracy and a government “of the people….”, most educational decisions are made by the few with little input from teachers or parents. It is a daunting task to “fix” education and requires both a cultural and logistical shift. It can be done but not until we , the people, take back the control of our schools.

  • cadenzarose

    Pomona Pete,
    Become a certified teacher and go make a difference.

  • Sonora Sister

    Actually, I firmly believe the composers of these new “Common Core Standards” are seeking to preserve their endangered jobs. After years of increasing opposition to the “No Child Left Behind” debacle, these folks finally realized that they had better try to appease America’s educators. Thus, the seemingly new, innovative, and reasonable “Common Core Standards” were “invented.” However, veteran educators (and their parents, grandparents,…) know that these “new” standards are really not new at all. What they are is a return to the rigorous education of the past, when students were required to think and produce quality work.

    The NEW

  • Sonora Sister

    Actually, I firmly believe the composers of these new “Common Core Standards” are seeking to preserve their endangered jobs. After years of increasing opposition to the “No Child Left Behind” debacle, these folks finally realized that they had better try to appease America’s educators. Thus, the seemingly new, innovative, and reasonable “Common Core Standards” were “invented.” However, veteran educators (and their parents, grandparents,…) know that these “new” standards are really not new at all. What they are is a return to the rigorous education of the past, when students were required to think and produce quality work.

    The NEW aspect of this change, is the mode of testing. The creators of this new fad have managed to set up a “no win” test that will assure the continued failure of students and teachers. What will NOT be tested is student knowledge. However, a student’s ability to navigate a complicated web-based assessment and follow non-intuitive, unusual computer-posted instructions will be tested. Tested, also, will be the students’ typing skills…as low as 3rd grade.

    So, here we are, teaching to the test again, instead of teaching kids to be life-long learners and self-sufficient, successful, learned adults. Yes, the standards sound good, but that is all that is good in this new government plan to squash public education. Teachers, the battle continues; don’t think for a moment, that we have won.

  • Sonora Sister

    Oh, and Pamona Pete, your claim that we “leftist stepford pod-people are turning out mindless garbage” is substantiated by your mindless post.

  • MIchigan Mom and Teacher

    I write this as a teacher of 25+ years. I have a broad experience teaching math at junior high through community college level. I also have several years experience teaching computers including elementary programming skills. So I have seen a lot of proposed change and a lot more failure.

    1) How can any new curriculum be put in place and then changed or abandoned after 1 or 2 years?
    2) Why are so many changes being made?
    3) When we compare our scores (US) to other countries how do you know what you are comparing to? Do the leaders of this country forget that our country educates all as “equals”? Did someone forget that we instituted a “full inclusion” system of education? I beg that leadership and other fact finders research the data provided to see that in almost every other country of the world “full inclusion” does not exist.
    4) Evaluations? Who evaluates those implementing “Balanced” and “Common” curriculum and practices?
    5) No child left behind? I would suggest that it is many children pushed aside. When did teaching students to their strengths based on their abilites become taboo? (Yes I am referring to “tracking”, I was once a Blue Bird what were your?)

    In these many years I have taught I have seen a lot of change. Some good but mostly stagnation. Change for the sake of change is never a good thing. There is no doubt in my mind that 99% of all teachers want to teach to produce children who are innovative and independent thinkers. Teaching however is not a mechanical skill. It requires heart. The heart of teaching is being ripped out of the profession by constant change, demands not related to educating and fear tactics.

    Education is not for profit business, the outcomes are not always tangible nor are they measureable. Asking students to perform to the test is easy, but this does not guarantee that they will perform in life. Lest we forget that education began in 1 room school houses with all grades taught by 1 teacher with education requirements no where near those of todays teachers. Amazingly enough those same schools turned out some of the greatest contributors of United States history.

  • Elementary Teacher

    “Common core” is being discussed as one entity, when in fact it has multiple parts. Discuss with passion but identify which parts you are talking about: the Standards themselves, connection to federal programs (Common Core was initiated by Governors, not the Feds), assessment methods, testing companies, connection to teacher evaluations, etc. Only by talking specifically about the problems that need to be addressed will anything be corrected and the attention pointed in the right place. Generalized complaints make us look like less than the professionals we are and don’t pinpoint the real problems. Nothing gets solved, just more complaints. We need to identify each concern and follow up with, “…and here is what we can do to fix it.” Districts/states and NEA should promote and support this kind of solution-oriented discussion by teachers rather than leaving it to politicians and outside interests who are filling the void right now because we are don’t have release time to participate.