Here we see a group of California Teachers Association employees outside union headquarters with signs reading “CTA Unfair,” “Due Process” and “CTA: Practice What You Preach.”
For those who are in – or, in my case, marginally associated with – the business of public education, it is easy to assume that others share your enthusiasm equally. We are constantly told that education is one of the nation’s top issues, we spend vast amounts of money on it, and we argue about it incessantly.
The delicious irony is that time and again we discover that the general public is paying virtually no attention to any of it. They are highly uneducated about education.
Poll after poll over the years have indicated that Americans don’t know how much we spend on education, don’t know what a charter school is, don’t know what teachers make, and now, don’t know what the Common Core State Standards are.
The Public Policy Institute of California surveyed public school parents on a variety of education topics and here’s what they learned about Common Core:
A year after the Common Core State Standards were implemented, 66 percent of public school parents have heard of them (43% a little, 23% a lot), while a third (32%) say they have heard nothing at all. White public school parents are nearly three times as likely as Latinos to say they have heard a lot (38% vs. 13%).
A third of public school parents (34%) say their child’s school or district has provided them with information about the Common Core standards and that this information has been adequate. But 20 percent say they have received inadequate information, and the largest share of parents (42%) say they received no information about the standards.
That’s not much of an improvement over the results of a similar nationwide survey in February 2014.
None of this tells us anything about whether Common Core is good or bad. What it says is that the policy battle doesn’t include positions taken by “parents” or “the public.” It is a contest between competing groups of people who “know,” trying to win the support – or at least the neutrality – of people who “don’t know.” The debate over Common Core is a debate between education aristocrats.
We’re hearing some unusual arguments from the teachers’ unions recently. There’s a kerfuffle going on about whether the opt-out movement is parent-driven or union-driven, with the union insisting it’s parent-driven.
It’s a rare acknowledgment that parents should have a powerful say in the running of the school system, but the same argument applies when they want more charters, or an end to LIFO, or the right to be present during collective bargaining.
The Connecticut Education Association and AFT Connecticut will hold a rally next month in an effort to replace the state’s standardized testing system with something they have developed on their own. Some in the opt-out movement are distressed by this, and note that the union plan calls for each student to be assessed according to a “creativity indicator” that would account for 15 percent of a student’s score.
I don’t dismiss this out of hand because it adds a necessary subjective measure to each student’s performance. I do wonder, however, if the unions would be so eager to support a creativity indicator for each teacher’s performance. Having an administrator tell you that you are doing insufficient test prep in your classroom is galling. Having that administrator downgrade you on creativity might not sit so well either.
The CEA testimony before the Education Committee spells out the advantages of a new system. It also mentions a previously unmentioned fact about the No Child Left Behind Act: “NCLB doesn’t require a single, annual test.”
Huh? They need to pass that news up the chain of command.
Under No Child Left Behind, accountability has hinged entirely on standardized test scores, a single number that has been used to determine whether students graduate or teachers keep their jobs. The problem is, a single test score is like a blinking “check engine” light on the dashboard. It can tell us something’s wrong but not how to fix it.
It makes me wonder if in their attempt to win on single issues, the unions are undermining their own case in general.
Over on Flypaper, Michael J. Petrilli takes a look at the U.S. birth rate and comes to a conclusion that will either please or horrify classroom teachers.
Fewer first-graders, lower enrollment, and one of two things happens. Either class sizes shrink of their own accord, or education employees are laid off. Let’s hope we’re not in for another round of frenzied teacher hiring only to let them go two to three years later.
A proposal was made at the California Teachers Association State Council and referred to the union’s board of directors that CTA “offer free information and testing for Sexually Transmitted Diseases and the prevention thereof.”
No further details about exactly what this would entail were provided, but I hope it is supposed to take the form of some sort of voucher to pay for testing at a hospital, clinic or lab. There is no mention in the staff contract or job descriptions of CTA employees being required to check members for herpes, so I’m sure a grievance would be filed.