NEA President: We Need a Course Correction on Common Core

NEA President: We Need a Course Correction on Common Core

By Dennis Van Roekel

During my 23 years as a high school math teacher, I learned some important lessons.  One of the most important was that effective teaching and learning required me at times to be the teacher and at other times, the student. I listened closely to my students because they were the ones who told me what was working and what wasn’t.  I don’t believe I am any different than any other NEA member—we all want the best for every student in our classrooms and schools. So when 45 states adopted the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), we as educators saw the wonderful potential of these standards to correct many of the inequities in our education system that currently exist.  Educators embraced the promise of providing equal access to high standards for all students, regardless of their zip code or family background.

We believed the standards would help students develop the critical thinking and problem-solving skills they need to succeed in the fast-changing world. NEA members overwhelmingly supported the goals of the standards because we knew they could provide a better path forward for each and every student. The promise of these high standards for all students is extraordinary.  And we owe it to our students to fulfill that promise.

As educators, we also had high hopes that our policymakers would make an equal commitment to implement the standards correctly by providing students, educators, and schools with the time, supports, and resources that are absolutely crucial in order to make changes of this magnitude to our education system.

So over the last few months I have done what my students and fellow educators have taught me:  I have been listening closely. I have joined our state leaders in member listening sessions around the country, observed dozens of member focus groups, and invited hundreds of thousands of NEA members to share their views about how CCSS implementation is going.

I am sure it won’t come as a surprise to hear that in far too many states, implementation has been completely botched.  Seven of ten teachers believe that implementation of the standards is going poorly in their schools. Worse yet, teachers report that there has been little to no attempt to allow educators to share what’s needed to get CCSS implementation right.  In fact, two thirds of all teachers report that they have not even been asked how to implement these new standards in their classrooms.

Imagine that:  The very people expected to deliver universal access to high quality standards with high quality instruction have not had the opportunity to share their expertise and advice about how to make CCSS implementation work for all students, educators, and parents.

Consequently, NEA members have a right to feel frustrated, upset, and angry about the poor commitment to implementing the standards correctly.

So, where do we go from here? ….

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