Teacher and blogger Mercedes Schneider has written a fantastic article debunking the claims of the American Federation of Teachers’ own president Randi Weingarten on Common Core. We find similar arguments used to support the new “State” standards by our very own leadership in Kings Park (here and here). Randi Weingarten and Mercedes Schneider are to be members of a CCSS panel scheduled for Sunday, March 2, 2014, as part of the Network for Public Education conference in Austin, Texas, (March 1 and 2).
AFT’s 10 Myths: Unyielding Devotion to the Common Core
In my hands I am holding the latest issue of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) quarterly publication, American Educator. It is open to page 43, Tools for Teachers: 10 Myths About the Common Core State Standards (CCSS).
The piece was written by AFT’s Educational Issues Department.
Their position is one of unreserved support for CCSS.
I find it remarkable the degree to which AFT and Randi Weingarten will go in order to protect and promote CCSS. One of the more telling pieces is a post Weingarten wrote for Huffington Post entitled, Will States Fail the Common Core?– As though CCSS is a personality, complete with feelings that will be hurt by states’ betrayal.
In that post, Weingarten maintains that CCSS is “not a silver bullet” but that the problem is not with CCSS but with “bad execution.”
Here’s a question– How can Weingarten state with such certainty that CCSS is not the issue? Has she or anyone else piloted these so-called standards?
If CCSS is “not a silver bullet,” why have neither AFT nor Weingarten herself published anything remotely appearing to be a critical evaluation of CCSS, standard by standard, grade level by grade level, for both English Language Arts (ELA) and math?
Now that would be a critical examination.
Instead, the AFT/Weingarten tact resembles that of the Fordham Institute’s President Chester Finn, who states that CCSS is “not perfect” and even grades it accordingly– then promotes it without reservation.
Ergo, the AFT propaganda, 10 Myths about the Common Core State Standards.
CCSS Is Not Meant to Stand Alone
An important component to making this propaganda work involves divorcing CCSS from other reforms. After all, by itself, CCSS more easily appears innocuous. However, do not forget that in June 2009, the National Governors Association (NGA) promoted a set of “internationally benchmarked standards and assessments” as part of a larger reform package that includes teacher evaluation/pay for performance, “turning around” schools (i.e., handing traditional public schools over for charter operation), and building data systems.
These reforms are meant to be a set.
The federal government was at that 2009 NGA symposium. US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan endorsed the spectrum of reforms and even commented about “more enlightened union leadership” in regard to the NGA effort.
CCSS is a critical component in the vehicle of American education privatization. So, don’t be distracted by AFT/Weingarten insistence of the innocence of this single reform component.
No carburetor alone ever drove a car off of a cliff. No flint alone ever burned down a building. No bullet alone ever shot a human being.
However, introduce the carburetor, the flint, and the bullet as components of a given destructive system, and each contributes toward an end result of destruction.
That, my friends, is CCSS: A component of a dangerous, NGA- and Duncan- (and Aft/Weingarten-) promoted system.
In its 10 Myths, AFT steers readers away from CCSS as part of an intended reform system. I cannot emphasize this enough.
For now, let us consider what AFT is promoting in each of its 10 “myths.”
AFT Myth One
In Myth One, AFT maintains that “the standards tell us what to teach” is a myth. AFT regurgitates the oft-heard CCSS slogan that CCSS “defines what students need to know.”
Where is the evidence for this? What students need to know for what? The outcome assessments that PARCC and Smarter Balanced consortia are throwing together? PARCC is supposed to field testthis school year, as is Smarter Balanced. Florida dropped out as PARCC’s fiscal agent. Maryland took over, as a “favor to Obama.”
AFT maintains, “Teachers will have as much control over how they teach as they ever have.”
Says who? AFT cannot guarantee this, and AFT cannot prove this. What they are trying to say is that the inflexible, copyrighted CCSS allows for teacher freedom within the classroom.
On one level, AFT is right:
Most prisoners are allowed to pace inside their cells.
What teachers don’t get to do is modify CCSS based upon their own expertise and for a given set of students in a given class in a given school in a given district in a given state.
One size fits all. And AFT’s answer: You could always pace, and you still get to do so. Pay no attention to the fact that you’ve been placed in a cell.
AFT Myth Two
The second so-called myth is that CCSS “amount(s) to a national curriculum.” Here AFT goes for the “voluntary adoption” of CCSS.
For the sake of space, let me outline only one key point here:
If CCSS were truly “voluntarily adopted,” it could easily be “voluntarily un-adopted.” However, CCSS “adoption” is primarily tied to federal, Race to the Top (RTTT) funding, the contract for which is quite detailed.
If CCSS adoption is truly voluntary, why is Weingarten partnering with former Michigan Governor (and businessman) John Engler to tell governors to “stay the course” with CCSS?
Note that Weingarten and Engler offer no cautions about governors signing on for CCSS before it was finished. They offer no encouragement for governors to critically consider what exactly they have signed onto with the now-completed, inflexible CCSS, especially as concerns the cost of implementing CCSS, monetary and otherwise.
On to so-called Myth Three.
AFT Myth Three
Here’s AFT’s Myth Three: “The standards intrude on student privacy.”
One reminder here: Carburetors don’t drive cars off of cliffs. CCSS is part of the package of reforms that includes increased data collection efforts– Data Quality Campaign.
Consider this excerpt from a 2009 speech by Duncan:
The Data Quality Campaign, DQC, lists 10 elements of a good data system. Six states, Alabama, Arizona, Delaware, Florida, Louisiana, and Utah, have all 10 elements. Other states are also making progress. For example, Arkansas has a data warehouse that integrates school fiscal information, teacher credentials, and student coursework, assessments, and even extracurricular activities.
The system has allowed for better student tracking to enable the state to identify double-count enrollments and is saving it more than $2 million in its first year.
We want to see more states build comprehensive systems that track students from pre-K through college and then link school data to workforce data. We want to know whether Johnny participated in an early learning program and completed college on time and whether those things have any bearing on his earnings as an adult. [Emphasis added.]
AFT wants to downplay this issue of unprecedented data collection and tracking by observing that “some states already had data systems.”
Never before has any group of general-populous Americans run the risk of being tracked by the federal government from cradle to grave like this current cohort of American citizens of ages preschool through young adulthood.
The public should be concerned.
AFT Myth Four
Now, for Myth Four: “The English standards emphasize nonfiction and informational text so much that students will be reading how-to manuals instead of great literature.”
Here AFT gets it right. However, the idiocy behind CCSS proportions of nonfiction and fiction amazes me every time I write about it.
In order to determine proportions of nonfiction and fiction present in CCSS, some CCSS “architect” decided to model these proportions after the proportion of nonfiction vs. fiction questions on the 2009 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP).
For example, since 70 percent of the questions for grade 12 on the 2009 NAEP involve nonfiction, inexperienced CCSS creators decided that there would be some magic in having seniors exposed to 70 percent nonfiction and 30 percent fiction across all subjects, that these proportions would somehow guarantee that seniors would graduate (tongue in cheek) “college and career ready” with “the knowledge and skills to help students succeed.”
Now keep in mind that NAEP is not the CCSS assessment. Keep in mind that even if NAEP were the CCSS assessment, this attempt to match proportions with NAEP is a partial-lobotomy rationale for proportions of nonfiction vs. fiction included in CCSS.
AFT offers no explanation for how the above “logic” supposedly “prepar(es) them (students) for college and work.” However, AFT insists that it does.