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NEA’s Involvement in the Common Core State Standards

How and Why NEA Has Been Involved in the Development and Implementation of the Standards

The partnership that developed the Common Core State Standards is headed by the National Governor’s Association (NGA) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO).  The group invited NEA to be a partner in the enterprise.  NEA decided to join the partnership for two major reasons.

First, it is clear that that there is broad support from many groups of stakeholders for common standards.  Second, NEA wanted to be sure that the concerns and voices of teachers were considered as these standards were developed.  That has happened as the project staff met with groups of mathematics and English language arts teachers who were NEA members and National Board Certified.

There is evidence that they listened carefully to our members and incorporated many of their suggestions into the subsequent drafts of the standards.  Three of our teachers from the review group were on official review committees for the standards.

When the first drafts of the Common Core State Standards for College and Workplace Readiness in mathematics and English language arts were released, the Common Core State Standards staff and writers met with two groups of NEA members.  One was a group of mathematics teachers and the other was a group of English language arts teachers.  All the teachers in the groups were National Board Certified Teachers. 

The standards project staff listened carefully to our teachers and made substantive changes in the standards based on the recommendations of our teachers as well as those of teachers from other organizations including the American Federation of Teachers, the International Reading Association, the National Council of Teachers of English, and the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics.

NEA believes that this work on Common Standards has the potential to provide teachers with far more manageable curriculum goals.  Their breadth allows teachers to exercise professional judgment in planning instruction that promotes student success.

As the standards are extended to grades k-12, NEA is optimistic that they will continue to be fewer, broader, and more challenging than most of the current state standards.  They will give teachers flexibility and a common, general focus that will extend across states.

After the standards are completed and adopted, there will be the task of developing assessments related to the standards.  The potential to vastly improve the quality of assessments and increase the role of teachers in the development, scoring, and use of assessments is an important rationale for NEA’s continued involvement in the project.

Examination of the education systems of high performing countries such as Singapore and New Zealand indicates that those countries have common standards or curriculum that articulate broad, high goals for students, provide adequate preparation and support to teachers, allow teachers to exercise professional judgment, and involve teachers in all aspects of the education enterprise including curriculum, standards, and assessments as well as instruction. 

The Common Core State Standards Initiative has the potential to begin to move education in the U.S. along this path.

  1. NEA supports the Common Core State Standards Initiative as a potential means of providing access to a complete and challenging education to all children.  Currently, some states are not providing sufficient resources for students to meet standards and acquire a quality education.
  2. The initiative is promising also because it will involve input from states and a wide range of stakeholders.  Most importantly, the standards will be voluntary.  NEA has consistently opposed mandatory national standards developed through a top down process.  The Common Core Standards Initiative has the potential to encourage states to participate, but not be coercive or rigid.
  3. The effort to construct the common core of standards so that it is a manageable list of broad goals rather than an exhaustive list of bits of learning is another aspect of the initiative that NEA applauds.  This new notion of how standards should be articulated can allow for high goals while providing for instructional flexibility in reaching those goals.
  4. The development of a bank of sample assessment items has the potential to provide states with flexibility and control while establishing concrete ways to determine student achievement.
  5. The initiative has provided educators, parents, and a wide range of stakeholders and experts the opportunity to provide input.
  6. Our current notion of content standards has been corrupted to be almost completely dominated by what can be tested rather than by the deep understandings and 21st century skills that students need.  The initiative is attempting to bring the focus back to the components of a quality education.
  7. NEA remains committed to ensuring attention be given to what lies between standards and assessments—curriculum, instruction, and supports for learning.  The movement to revisit and revise standards in light of what we have learned from experience the past 20 years will not bring us closer to either improved achievement or quality education if those middle factors are not addressed.
  8. NEA contends that Great Public Schools for Every Student will come from working on the policies and resources that enable students to come to school healthy, walk into safe, healthy, inviting buildings, have tools for 21st century learning, and have knowledgeable teachers who are respected and supported in their work.
  9. NEA will work to ensure that any sets of content standards provide for key core expectations that can be used to gauge the achievement of students with disabilities and other students with special needs. Further, assessment tasks based on common standards should take into account Universal Design for Learning (UDL) principles and would include the development of an aligned alternate assessment tasks.
  10. Another essential area for the initiative to address is professional development that will allow educators to make informed decisions about which formative assessments are the most appropriate for each student and to accurately provide standard accommodations to summative assessment tasks.

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