Teachers Unions Mobilize To Delay The Common Core
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The nation's largest teachers union is calling for a delay in the adoption of the Common Core. That's the name of new math and language arts standards that are supposed to be in place next fall in 45 states. The 3 million-member National Education Association has been a strong supporter. But as NPR's Claudio Sanchez reports, the NEA now says teachers and students haven't had enough time to prepare.
CLAUDIO SANCHEZ, BYLINE: Dennis Van Roekel, president of the National Education Association, says he wants to be clear about what he's saying.
DENNIS VAN ROEKEL: I am not stating any change in our organization's support for the Common Core standards. We believe they're absolutely essential.
SANCHEZ: But, says Van Roekel, 70 percent of his union members believe the implementation of the Common Core standards has been completely botched. According to a new NEA poll, teachers say they've had little or no training, and no say in developing curricula tied to the Common Core.
ROEKEL: And that's why I called for a midcourse correction.
SANCHEZ: Van Roekel, once a cheerleader for the Common Core, last week pulled back and called on state education officials to delay the rollout of the new standards until they get more input and advice from teachers because until now, they've been left out.
CHRIS MINNICH: No, that's not true. They were there from day one.
SANCHEZ: Chris Minnich is head of the Council of Chief State School Officers, which represents state superintendents of education. They, along with the National Governors Association, were behind the development of the Common Core standards.
MINNICH: We never thought we would get it 100 percent right when we were writing them. It's going to take some time to shift to these new standards.
SANCHEZ: Minnich says in states where the Common Core has seen a backlash, a course correction like the one the NEA is calling for would make sense.
MINNICH: Each state should be working on its own timeline, to prepare teachers to teach to these standards.
RANDI WEINGARTEN: I think Chris is right.
SANCHEZ: Randi Weingarten is president of the American Federation of Teachers, the nation's second largest teachers union. Last year, she called for a moratorium on the testing tied to the new standards because state education officials and governors want to use test results to evaluate teachers, even though teaching materials and the new tests are still being developed.
WEINGARTEN: They need to do a reset. And whether it's a midcourse correction, something needs to be done.
SANCHEZ: This week at the opening of the winter meeting in Washington, governors' views about the union's criticism and concerns were mixed. Steve Beshear, a Democrat, is governor of Kentucky, the first state to adopt the Common Core standards.
GOV. STEVE BESHEAR: The teachers in our state are working with us. They bought into it along with our administrators, and we're charging ahead.
SANCHEZ: Not so in Iowa, which until recently did not have state standards at all. Gov. Terry Branstad, a Republican, says Iowa teachers are not interested in the Common Core, and neither is he.
GOV. TERRY BRANSTAD: Common Core is radioactive. We need to have Iowa standards, something that's uniquely designed to meet the needs of Iowans.
SANCHEZ: Branstad says the so-called course correction that the teachers unions are calling for is not the issue. He says local control of what teachers teach and what standards kids are held to, that's the issue. Indiana Gov. Mike Pence agrees. He's one of several Republican governors who are under pressure from Tea Party activists to withdraw entirely from the Common Core.
GOV. MIKE PENCE: We're going to ensure that Indiana standards are written by Hoosiers for Hoosiers, and are uncommonly high.
SANCHEZ: It would not be a huge setback if Indiana withdrew, says Chris Minnich, head of the state's superintendents group. But it would be just as worrisome as the teachers union's growing disaffection. Claudio Sanchez, NPR News.
CORNISH: We'd like to know what questions you have about the Common Core. Go to npr.org and click on contact at the bottom of the page. Just write Common Core in the subject line. You can also tweet your questions, using the hashtag commonQ.
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