Anthony Cody: Our union leaders are in denial.

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The NEA Representative Assembly in Atlanta last July. Delegates tried to separate Common Core and high stakes testing.

At the NEA Representative Assembly held last July in Atlanta, delegates refused to put the union on record opposing Common Core Standards (CCSS), but were willing to denounce the high stakes assessments that were driven by the standards.

This was an attempt by delegates to reach a pragmatic if educationally impossible compartmentalized compromise.

I said so at the time.

The compromise can be reached when passing New Business Items at a convention. But in schools curriculum, instruction and assessment are inseparable.

Responding to NEA President Dennis Van Roekels cheerleading the Common Core Standards, Anthony Cody writes in EdWeek:

Mr. Van Roekel seems to want us to inhabit some alternative universe where teachers can teach according broad guidelines, and high stakes tests are on hold until we somehow have perfected their ability to fully capture student learning. Yet in New York, Common Core tests were given just a short five months ago, and only 30% of the students were rated proficient. Governor Cuomo is calling for the “death penalty” for low scoring schools. Teacher evaluations are required to include test scores. There will be more pressure brought to bear at every level, and once again, schools in African American and Latino communities will be the first closed.

As the tests are brought to bear, we already see ads of companies offering Common Core test preparation materials. Fear of failure will motivate their purchase. There will be beginning of the year tests to find out where students are starting from, and frequent benchmark tests to make sure they (and their teachers) are on track. Teachers are finding the lessons they have designed and used successfully for years jettisoned and replaced with district-mandated Common Core-aligned lessons. Here is what New York teacher Katie Lapham reports:

Both the content and purpose of the CCSS test prep materials we were given, which consisted of a random selection of reading passages, disconnected from a larger, more meaningful unit of study, contrast with our own teacher-created materials and performance tasks. Unlike our thought-provoking social justice curriculum, the test prep materials were largely devoid of any real world knowledge that we find our students crave. I recently examined Pearson’s scripted NYC ReadyGEN Common Core curriculum that my school is using for ELA this year, and, like the test prep materials we were given for the spring tests, it closely resembles the content and skills assessed on Pearson’s NYS Common Core exams.While schools can choose from a menu of options, there is financial pressure to choose the curricula that the District has paid for, and even more pressure to choose materials which are approved as being aligned to the new tests.

Mr. Van Roekel acknowledges these concerns, but something does not make sense here. He writes:

If this all sounds too good to be true, well, there is a catch. Some teachers are wary of the Common Core. In most cases, I believe their anxiety arises from a fear of the unknown, because we haven’t yet determined how to assess student learning under these new standards. Many teachers understand the what of Common Core, and now need to understand more of the how to implement it in the classroom.I truly do not understand. Are we not already getting tests based on the Common Core? This is hardly “unknown” to teachers, students, administrators and parents in the state of New York. I think what we have here is a fear of the known, and a fear of the what and the how as well.

Our union leaders have suggested that we can praise the standards and condemn the high stakes tests that are being abused in our schools. In this column Mr. Van Roekel seems to be in denial about the fact that tests are already being implemented – this is no longer some unknown out there. The tests are very real, and our political leaders like Governor Cuomo are making it clear that they will be used to further stigmatize and punish teachers, students and schools.

Read the entire article here.

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