Members’ Voice Is Behind NEA’s Criticism of Common Core Rollout

The National Education Association, a strong supporter of the Common Core State Standards, heard grumblings among members about how the standards were being implemented. NEA spoke up on their behalf last week.

The Common Core State Standards (CCSS) Initiative has been a hot topic in the education community. The K-12 education effort, aimed at creating consistent standards across the country for preparing students for college, has taken its fair share of criticism.

One group that has stood behind the initiative from the beginning is the National Education Association, the nation’s largest teachers union.

“We were very much involved from the very beginning on this,” said NEA President Dennis Van Roekel. “We believe that the standards were well written, and we know that they had input from educators.”

Despite that support, Van Roekel wrote a critical commentary published last week by NEAToday, the association’s news website, saying the rollout of the standards, which have been adopted in 45 states, was “completely botched.”

“Seven of 10 teachers believe that implementation of the standards is going poorly in their schools,” Van Roekel wrote. “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.”

That assessment came out of focus group discussions with over 10,000 NEA members. “As an organization, I firmly believe that when you make a statement, you better be sure that you’re going to have the support of your members and that your statement is in line with the way they feel about an issue,” Van Roekel said. “We made sure we did that.”

The discussions with members are part of an ongoing process to understand how educators view the Common Core standards and how they are adapting to the changes in the classroom. It started last summer, before the rollout began in the fall, and will continue through the end of the school year.

Van Roekel said the effort to collect teacher input on the standards has helped ensure alignment between NEA leaders and members on the issue.

“I took hundreds of pages of that script of those focus groups, and I read through every one so I could really hear what they said. I’m reading verbatim what was discussed,” he said. “We can’t just assume that what we as leaders believe is exactly what our members believe. When you can interact with them and hear from them directly, that enables us to make better decisions.”

Beyond listening to members, Van Roekel said NEA’s ability to be open-minded and flexible will be critical when looking at how to improve implementation of the new standards.

“Too often, in discussions both inside education and out, people immediately move to positions—‘I’m for this,’ and ‘I’m against this’—instead of focusing on the purpose of what you’re doing and what you’re trying to accomplish,” he said. “By saying the rollout was botched, we’re not trying to change our main purpose. We still believe in the Common Core. Rather, we’re saying that if what we’re doing to try and achieve that goal isn’t working, we need to try something different.”


Rob Stott

By Rob Stott

Rob Stott is a contributing editor for Associations Now. MORE

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