David Coleman to our kids. “Nobody gives a shit what you think.”

David Coleman is head of the College Board and the brain behind the Common Core State Standards.

Earlier today I posted a video of Coleman’s critique of the teaching of writing:


“Nobody gives a shit what you think.”

I thought of this today because Friday we saw a performance of Feast at the Goodman Theater in Chicago.

Feast is performed by a couple dozen young people from Albany Park on the northwest side. It is a performance of their stories of their immigrant lives.

Albany Park is one of the most diverse communities in Chicago, home to first and generation immigrants and their children.

The cast and authors are drawn from Chicago students in 8th to 12th grade, mostly from immigrant families.

You can’t watch Feast without giving a shit although David Coleman would characterize them as personal narratives.

The play is at the Goodman until August 16th. Tickets are from $10 to $25.

“Rage against the Common Core?” Never mind.


At last year’s IEA Representative Assembly my old teaching pal and Park Ridge Education Association colleague Jerry Mulvihill tried to introduce a New Business Item which called on the IEA leadership to oppose Common Core State Standards.

It wasn’t going to pass, of course. And Jerry knew that.

But good ideas always start with a minority of people. The idea is that through democratic debate, ideas can change and minority views can become majority views.

Or not.

That’s the value of debate.

But the IEA leadership shut Jerry down. President Cinda Clickna ruled his item out-of-order.

There would be no debate about Common Core at the IEA RA.

The RA is frequently not what democracy looks like.

That is why I was surprised to see this op-ed piece from the New York Times linked yesterday on the IEA’s Facebook feed. It was posted without comment. I linked to it on my Sunday reads, pointing out that I was surprised to see it.

And secretly a little hopeful that this presaged a more open debate at the RA in April, where I will be an elected delegate.

Hopeful. But doubtful.

It would be unlikely that the IEA leadership, which is thisclose to the Duncan Department of Education, would take an anti-Common Core position even before the national union has.

Which they haven’t.

As last summer’s NEA Representative Assembly in Denver (I was also an elected retired delegate to that convention) the delegates voted strong language calling for Duncan’s removal, opposing high-stakes testing both for students and for the purpose of teacher evaluations, and elected three strong women of color as the national union’s leadership.

But the NEA was not willing to fully break with the Democrats on education policy. The leadership has so far built a wall around Common Core.

Maybe things will change next July in Orlando.

In any case, the link to the New York Times now seems to be gone from the IEA Facebook feed.

It always goes away.


David Coleman, author of the Common Core standards.

Some guy named Bruce Taylor has a post on Catalyst right now that tells teachers to get used to Common Core.

In spite of some current efforts to derail the implementation of Common Core, the train has left the station. If past precedents regarding educational reform are any indication, Common Core, or some manifestation of it, is on track to remain with us for at least the next decade.

Says Taylor:

David Coleman and his team developed the Common Core State Standards in slightly less than a year between 2009 and 2010.  That quick turnaround time begs the question, “How complicated can this be?” 

This is the latest version of what I have heard over the 30-year life of my entire teaching career.

Some new stupid idea comes down from above and we are told, “Go along. Use your common sense. It’s not going away.”

It always goes away.

Often to be replaced by some new stupid idea that comes down from above.

In my final year of teaching we would meet during our professional development time to unpack existing curriculum and rewrite it using new sentence construction.

The goal appeared to be to have all the curriculum outcome statements sounding exactly the same.

The impact that this had on our teaching?


Unfortunately, that is not the case with Common Core.

From what my colleagues tell me, Common Core has had very real negative impact on their teaching.

Back in my early days the Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction once again decided we needed to revamp our written subject area curriculum.

Again this consisted of rewriting what was already written. The old written curriculum guide was kept in a white extra-wide three-ring binder on a shelf behind my desk, collecting dust.

The latest project had a new name: Curriculum Frameworks.

They hired a consultant to guide us through the process. It took all year.

Sometime in April we were rounded up in the LRC and the product of our efforts was handed out: A red extra-wide three-ring binder.

The consultant looked at us sternly and said, “Now, don’t just put this on a shelf to collect dust.”

I turned to Mary, a teacher sitting next to me and stage-whispered, “The thing is, I’m going to put it on the shelf and if I put it there it’s going to collect dust.”

The consultant turned to me and said, “Hush, hush!”

I went for my great imitation of Robert DeNiro in Taxi Driver.

“Are you talking to me? Are you talking to me?!”

The day before I retired was a records and planning day. No student attendance. I used the time to clean out some stuff. There on the shelf were 30 years of different colored extra-wide three-ring binders.

I took them all down off the shelf, clicked open the rings and dumped thirty years of stupid top-down curriculum re-writes and unpacking into the garbage.

I stacked the binders up and planned to take them down to the teachers lounge in case anybody could use them.

But as I walked down the hall, one teacher after another came out  of their rooms and grabbed an empty binder. By the time I got to the lounge my hands were empty.

Trust me, Bruce. They all go away.

Adam Heenan. Common Core threatens good teaching.


– Adam Heenan is a social studies teacher at Curie Metropolitan High School in Chicago.

I teach Financial Literacy as a semester-long social studies course in a Chicago public high school. This quarter we focused on professional skills. My students must find living arrangements on a fixed salary, then explain their plan to the class.

Students must calculate their biweekly net pay (based on last quarter’s grades, e.g. an “A” earns you $42,000 a year), and living expenses and search for a place to live on websites such as Craigslist. They quickly realize that students who earn a higher income have an easier time finding a good place to live, while those who didn’t fare as well had better find a roommate. Some might even have to live in their parents’ attic — and explain that in their presentation!

This is one of the most popular lessons I teach each year. They will (hopefully) be moving out of their parents’ homes soon, and this lesson is usually the first time they have considered how well they might, or might not, fare. They love comparing who got the “better deal” on the “coolest” apartment.

Students must use core math skills; computer literacy and community mapping to find a place to live; and communication skills in their presentation and negotiations of “what’s fair” between roommates. Some students argue that since their partners/roommates might be contributing unequal amounts of money, then that person’s bedroom should be the size of a walk-in closet. We all get a good laugh and move on to Real World Budgeting.

It’s a tremendous shame, then, that this style of teaching is quickly going out of style.

I’m teaching an inherently valuable lesson, but the new Common Core learning standards and the related College and Career Readiness standards — which tell teachers what topics should be covered each year in reading and math and are being implemented in schools across America — are threatening my ability to teach this unit and others like it, including resume-writing, civics education and budgeting.

The English standards, the ones I am supposed to cover, do not encourage teaching in this way — a way that is developed with student input — and some of the skills imparted are not emphasized on the all-important standardized tests. The consequence? As they say, what’s tested gets taught.

Most of my lessons prioritize what is relevant to the content and valuable to my students. But this is changing across the country, with pressure either to align current curricula to the standards, or to design different activities that justify the high-stakes standardized assessments. When I choose as a lesson-planner to consider what “the standards say I should teach” I risk compromising my students’ voices in the learning process, which sets students on a path toward disengagement in activities, then classes, and finally school in general.

What happens to valuable lessons like the one I’ve described? They’re relegated to “extra credit” instead of everyday learning.

This is not an appeal for help implementing the standards. I could ask my union or my principal. I could attend any number of professional development sessions, or sign on for webinars in my pajamas any night of the week.

I don’t want support for Common Core. I believe we must actively resist it because it does not prioritize the needs of students and teachers. Instead educators need autonomy and support to design engaging lessons for and with students.


Chicago Teachers Union adopts resolution opposing the Common Core State Standards.

Today the Chicago Teachers Union House of Delegates passed a resolution opposing the Common Core standards.

A similar New Business Item was not permitted to be voted on at the recent Illinois Education Association state convention. It was ruled out of order by IEA President Cinda Klickna. The NBI had been introduced by veteran Park Ridge fifth grade teacher and delegate, Jerry Mulvihill.

From CTUnet:

Today, members of the House of Delegates (HOD) of the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) passed the following resolution that enjoins the city’s educators to growing national opposition to the Common Core State Standards, saying the assessments disrupt student learning and consume tremendous amounts of time and resources for test preparation and administration.

Now that the resolution has passed, the CTU will lobby the Illinois Board of Education to eliminate the use of the Common Core for teaching and assessment; and be it further and will work to organize other members and affiliates to increase opposition to the law that increases the expansion of nationwide controls over educational issues.

Common Core’s origins can be traced to the 2009 Stimulus Bill which gave $4.35 billion to the federal Department of Education which created the “Race to the Top” competition between states. In order to qualify for funding, the states needed to adopt Common Core with the added incentive that participating states would be exempted from many of the more onerous provisions of George Bush’s “No child left behind” program.

“I agree with educators and parents from across the country, the Common Core mandate represents an overreach of federal power into personal privacy as well as into state educational autonomy,” said CTU President Karen Lewis, a nationally board certified teacher. “Common Core eliminates creativity in the classroom and impedes collaboration. We also know that high-stakes standardized testing is designed to rank and sort our children and it contributes significantly to racial discrimination and the achievement gap among students in America’s schools.”

The official text of the resolution follows:

Resolution to Oppose the Common Core State Standards

WHEREAS, the purpose of education is to educate a populace of critical thinkers who are capable of shaping a just and equitable society in order to lead good and purpose-filled lives, not solely preparation for college and career; and

WHEREAS, instructional and curricular decisions should be in the hands of classroom professionals who understand the context and interests of their students; and

WHEREAS, the education of children should be grounded in developmentally appropriate practice; and

WHEREAS, high quality education requires adequate resources to provide a rich and varied course of instruction, individual and small group attention, and wrap-around services for students; and

WHEREAS, the Common Core State Standards were developed by non-practitioners, such as test and curriculum publishers, as well as education reform foundations, such as the Gates and Broad Foundations, and as a result the CCSS better reflect the interests and priorities of corporate education reformers than the best interests and priorities of teachers and students; and

WHEREAS, the Common Core State Standards were piloted incorrectly, have been implemented too quickly, and as a result have produced numerous developmentally inappropriate expectations that do not reflect the learning needs of many students; and

WHEREAS, imposition of the Common Core State Standards adversely impacts students of highest need, including students of color, impoverished students, English language learners, and students with disabilities; and

WHEREAS, the Common Core State Standards emphasize pedagogical techniques, such as close reading, out of proportion to the actual value of these methods – and as a result distort instruction and remove instructional materials from their social context; and

WHEREAS, despite the efforts of our union to provide support to teachers, the significant time, effort, and expense associated with modifying curricula to the Common Core State Standards interferes and takes resources away from work developing appropriate and engaging courses of study; and

WHEREAS, the assessments that accompany the Common Core State Standards (PARCC and Smarter Balance) are not transparent in that –teachers and parents are not allowed to view the tests and item analysis will likely not be made available given the nature of computer adaptive tests; and

WHEREAS, Common Core assessments disrupt student learning, consuming tremendous amounts of time and resources for test preparation and administration; and

WHEREAS, the assessment practices that accompany Common Core State Standards – including the political manipulation of test scores – are used as justification to label and close schools, fail students, and evaluate educators; therefore be it

RESOLVED that the Chicago Teachers Union opposes the Common Core State Standards (and the aligned tests) as a framework for teaching and learning; and be it further

RESOLVED, the Chicago Teachers Union advocates for an engaged and socially relevant curriculum that is student-based and supported by research, as well as for supports such as those described in the Chicago Teachers Union report, The Schools Chicago’s Students Deserve; and be it further

RESOLVED, the Chicago Teachers Union will embark on internal discussions to educate and seek feedback from members regarding the Common Core and its impact on our students; and be it further

RESOLVED, the Chicago Teachers Union will lobby the Illinois Board of Education to eliminate the use of the Common Core State Standards for teaching and assessment; and be it further

RESOLVED, the Chicago Teachers Union will organize other members and affiliates to increase opposition to the Common Core State Standards; and be it further

RESOLVED, that a copy of this resolution be sent to the Illinois State Board of Education, the Chicago Board of Education, the Governor of Illinois, and all members of the Illinois legislative branch; and be it finally

RESOLVED, that should this resolution be passed by the CTU House of Delegates, an appropriate version will be submitted to the American Federation of Teachers for consideration at the 2014 Convention.

Union Democracy. Part II.


The microphone is missing. A symbol of democracy in the IEA. Photo: Jerry Mulvihill.

Jerry Mulvihill, a fifth grade teacher and IEA RA delegate tried to bring up the issue of the NEA and IEA’s support for the Common Core.

But IEA President Cinda Klickna shut off the debate.

There was no need for debate, she explained. The leadership had taken a private poll of 500 of the 130,000 IEA members and sixty-five percent of them supported the Common Core.

End of discussion.

This all was pretty disturbing to many delegates who watched and listened to this exercise in one-party rule. Even among those who remain committed to the goals of Common Core State Standards.

It is often true that those who complain about process are just unhappy about the outcome.

But that shutting off of debate over our union’s support for Common Core was so over-the-top that even those who sympathize with the leadership’s position – that the problem is with testing and implementation and not with the idea of common national standards – shook their heads.

A few even took to the floor to express that concern.

A brave thing considering what we know to be the scorched earth policy of current and former IEA leaders to those who express dissenting opinions.

Let’s be clear.

There has not been a debate about the Common Core in the IEA in spite of it being the most controversial education program in the country.

NEA and IEA leaders have argued that teachers must be leaders in the fight for quality education. We can’t  be narrowly concerned with wages and benefits.

Yet we are not allowed to discuss top-down mandated curriculum and instruction at our own state meeting.

Presentations by President Klickna and Executive Director Audrey Soglin are no substitutes for debate.

To those who are concerned that debate will be taken as a sign of weakness by the enemies of teacher unions, I know only this:

The suppression of minority views never creates unity.

All good ideas start with just a few people.

The irony is that many of those who have been the most strident in supporting Common Core at the top are starting to run from it.

In a hearing before a House appropriations subcommittee Tuesday, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan defended the competitive grants built into his fiscal 2015 budget request, gave no substantive details about a proposed Race to the Top for equity contest, and continued to distance himself from the Common Core State Standards.

“I’m just a big proponent of high standards. Whether they’re common or not is secondary,” he told members of the House appropriations subcommittee that works on health, education, and other related issues.

Don’t be surprised if at next year’s IEA RA the poll will be presented that shows most IEA members now oppose CCSS.

And we will abandon it.

Without debate.

No Common Core debate allowed at the IEA RA.

There may not be a debate of the Common Core at the IEA Representative Assembly meeting at the Hilton on Michigan Avenue.

Yesterday the IEA Board of Directors offered up New Business Item #1. It was adopted.

“The IEA RA directs the IEA Executive Director with assistance form the Government Relations department to advocate for a moratorium on accountability measures related to the PARCC exam. The IEA RA supports the Illinois Learning Standards (Common Core); however, the moratorium would prevent PARCC results for the next several years from being used as accountability measures for students, educators, or schools.”

President Klickna noted that this NBI was not supposed to prompt a debate over the Common Core. The NBI was focused only on the testing component.

Delegate Jerry Mulvihill offered New Business Item #4.

“The RA directs the IEA to withdraw its support of the Common Core State Standards.”

Mulvihill was informed that Cinda Klickna would rule his NBI out of order since it would contradict NB1 #1.

When I left the hall, efforts were underway to offer a motion to reconsider NBI #1 or overrule Klickna’s decision to rule NBI #4 out of order.

But that is unlikely to happen.

Meaning there will be no debate of the Common Core allowed at the IEA RA.

Debate is required in a democratic organization.

IEA leaders claim that have done internal polling of members and have determined there is widespread support among members for the Common Core.

But when pressed for details about the polling they will offer none.

IEA Region leaders that I have spoken with tell me they have received surveys asking if there have been problems with Common Core implementation. They have seen nothing that would constitute a survey or poll of teacher satisfaction with the Common Core.


I spoke with PREA RA delegate Jerry Mulvihill this afternoon, Saturday.

Things went as expected.

The attempt to reconsider NBI #1 was voted down.

NBI #4 was ruled out of order by IEA President Cinda Klickna.

A vote to challenge Klickna’s ruling was defeated by a floor vote.

At a statewide convention of the largest organization of educators in the state of Illinois, no discussion of Common Core was allowed.

Classroom teachers will be heard. Updated.


AFT President Randi Weingarten.

For years leaders of the American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association have claimed that their members support Common Core State Standards.

There never was much evidence provided for the claim. Yet they continued.

At last year’s NEA Representative Assembly delegates refrained from resolutions opposing CCSS. But they did vote on ones that condemned the misuse of Common Core Assessments.

AFT President Randi Weingarten also began criticizing the use and misuse of assessments and poor implementation and training.

Last month NEA President Dennis Van Roekel called for a course correction in CCSS implementation.

In January Weingarten supported the New York State United Teachers’ vote against CCSS, also calling for course corrections.

Yesterday Weingarten announced that the AFT would no longer accept money from the Gates Foundation for its Innovation Fund. Gates has been a major backer of Common Core and the AFT Fund had received over $4 million dollars from Gates.

[Updated: This morning, AFT President Weingarten Tweeted: As I said when @AFTunion exec council voted: we’re not ending relationship w/ Gates, just making our member driven Inn Fund more independent.]

NEA also received $4 million from Gates. But they have not indicated any immediate intention of stopping the flow of Gates dollars.

Still, the shift at the top of our teacher unions suggest that claims of membership support for CCSS is not quite as secure as they once claimed.

Teachers will be heard.