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NCTE Allegiance to the Common Core Is Burying Us

NOTE: I tend to be quite tolerant of people holding pedagogies differing from mine: critical, maybe, but tolerant. But the Common Core Curriculum issue isn't about pedagogy. It is about power. Who's in charge? And who's going to lie down and play dead?

My quarrel with various NCTE powerbrokers is not that they and their spouses write textbook series or offer staff development. My quarrel is that they are systematically silencing us, encouraging teachers to accept a systematic de-professionalization. My frustration is with the 99% of NCTE members who allow themselves to be silenced by the 1%.

Wake up, NCTE people. Your dues are paying for your professional destruction.

And if you don't think teachers face a dire emergency, then take a look at the films being shipped out to state departments of education from Hunt Institute Videos. An Albuquerque educator put me on to this, and look what I found for Vermont. You can bet your bippy other states are doing likewise.

In 2009, the Hunt Institute received $5,068,671 from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation "to provide state-level policy and communications support to states seeking to rapidly implement the Common Core." In 2011, the Hunt Institute received $500,906 "to create the Hunt Fellows program to develop a strong cadre of state leaders who both care deeply about and have the knowledge and skills to ensure effective policies and practices to support improved educational outcomes." You can see a full list of Hunt Institute partners and collaborators here.

Teachers, ask yourself why NCTE isn't protecting you from David Coleman and his chilling rules for literacy. Kudos to Leslie S. Rush and Lisa Scherff for their editorial in English Education, January 2012. The good news is that they warned readers about Coleman, pointing out that he's offering lessons based on New Criticism tenets hardly suitable to young readers' needs. The bad news is that they failed to give any specific references. Advising readers to do a web search for Coleman is hardly sufficient.

I looked for other NCTE mention of David Coleman. I learned that then-NCTE president Kylene Beers met him. This, too, is woefully insufficient.

by Susan Ohanian

I don't quite know what set me off on rehashing the bad behavior of the National Council of Teachers of English leadership. Maybe it was the Houghton Mifflin Harcourt catalogue describing Holt McDougal Literature 2012. Surely this is the penultimate Standardisto text. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt announced it in March 2011 as "the Common Core literature anthology. . . a comprehensive solution aligned with Common Core State Standards in English Language Arts."

Beware of anybody offering you a Solution.

The Holt McDougal Literature 2012 text series even offers a Common Core Solutions website.

I've searched the press releases; I've searched the catalog. Nowhere is there any mention of an author. But my oh my, are there bells and whistles. It would take a staff of 16 just to manage all the frippery available for the classroom teacher to use with her students. Here's one example:

The Resource Manager contains all the support materials needed to plan and teach the Holt McDougal Literature, Common Core Edition units including lesson plans, selection summaries in four languages, ideas for extension lessons and activities, skills pages, and leveled selection tests that help teachers ensure students meet the Common Core State Standards. Also included are a Big Questions Transparency Book and the complete collection of Big Questions that appear throughout the Student Edition.
I didn't find the author[s] but I did find a few NCTE connections.

NCTE Past-President Kylene Beers, a Holt, Rinehart, Wintston textbook author, was featured in this 2010 Houghton event: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Hosts Unprecedented Education Summit in Washington, D.C.. She, William Bennett, and Sam Chaltain were keynote speakers at the event, speaking on driving 21st century education reform.

According to the Orlando Sentinel School Zone Kylene Beers is also busy delivering training on the Common Core to school leaders in Florida.

It was this bit of information that made me realize that NCTE's Common Core allegiance has been a done deal long before a few of us tried to submit a resolution in 2010 denouncing the Common Core.

This information also makes me realize that the NCTE Executive Director is never going to offer the courtesy of a response to my question of just what violation to the NCTE Code of Conduct I committed that caused me to be censored by the online community. I wrote about the affair at Daily Censored. But of course the issue is bigger than me, bigger than the online community. Even NCTE itself is just a pawn in the bigger cause--the national curriculum known as the Common Core State Standards. They put the "State" in there to pretend that each state is charting its own course.

Bill Gates has won, and NCTE is doing its part to help him get the national standards he wants.

The NCTE Common Core State Standards Resource page includes: an NCTE Book Series, a Virtual Conference, & Consulting Services on Implementing the Common Core State Standards.

Take a look at the books and their authors:

  • Supporting Students in a Time of Core Standards: English Language Arts, Grades PreK-2 by Susi Long with William Hutchinson and Justine Neiderhiser. Susi Long is a member of NCTE's Professional Development Consulting Network and past assistant chair of the NCTE Elementary Section Steering Committee.

  • Supporting Students in a Time of Core Standards: English Language Arts, Grades 3-5 by Jeff Williams with Elizabeth Homan and Sarah Swofford. Jeff Williams has been Chair of NCTE Review Team for the Common Core State Standards for K-12 English Language, assistant chair of the NCTE Elementary Section Steering Committee, serves on the NCTE Executive Committee and is 2011 chair of the Governance Subcommittee. The National Writing Project featured his Open Letter to NCTE Members about the Release of the Public Draft of the Common Core State Standards for K-12 English Language Arts. In 2011 Williams was a speaker at the NASBE Western CCSS Conference: Implementing Common Core Standards in ELA; in 2012, Reading Recovering and the Common Core Standards In the conference program he is identified as "an editor of NCTE's series of books on implementing the standards."

  • Supporting Students in a Time of Core Standards: English Language Arts, Grades 6-8 by Tonya Perry with Rebecca Manery. Perry served on the NCTE Conference on English Education Executive Board, Trustee of the NCTE Research Foundation, NCTE Representatives-at-Large. National Writing Project radio featured Perry on topic of Supporting Teachers in Working with the Common Core State Standards.

  • Supporting Students in a Time of Core Standards: English Language Arts, Grades 9-12 by Sarah Brown Wessling with Danielle Lillge and Crystal VanKooten. Sarah Brown Wessling was 2010 Teacher of the Year. She has given presentations supporting the Common Core to the National Association of School Boards, the National Writing Project, and the Iowa Department of Education,and the Teaching Channel, among others. Her vignette for teaching RL.11-12.9. Demonstrate knowledge of eighteenth-, nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century foundational works of American literature, including how two or more texts from the is part of the P21 Common Core Toolkit: A Guide to Aligning the Common Core State Standards with the Framework for 21st Century Skills package, produced by Partnership for 21st Century Skills.

  • I write books. Lots of them (25 and counting). I'm married to someone who writes books. So I'm fascinated by the ins and outs of the publishing process. Ignoring the subject matter, two things about these NCTE publications caused me to stop in my tracks: Most of them are written by first-time authors and all of them are written "with" one or two graduate students at University of Michigan, where the book series editor Anne Ruggles Gere is chair of the Joint PhD Program in the Department of English and the School of Education. Gere has served as President of the National Council of Teachers of English and as Chair of the Conference on College Composition and Communication. With celebrity books, "with" means "as told to." I haven't a clue what it means with these volumes. As someone who writes alone--just me and my shadow--I wonder how this "with" deal works.

    Another series of teacher resource books on the Common Core, appearing in October 2011, describes itself as being "the first books to present specific guidance for teaching the Common Core State Standards." No volume admits to an author but each has a foreword by former NCTE President Carol Jago, who is a Trustee for the Common Core Curriculum Mapping Project. She is credited with helping "shape the core of many units." Diana Senechal, Diane Ravitch's editor for the popular The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education, "laid the groundwork for the grade 10 and 12 maps." The books were published in October 2011:

    Common Core Curriculum Maps in English Language Arts, Grades K-5

    Common Core Curriculum Maps in English Language Arts: Grades 6-8

    Common Core Curriculum Maps in English Language Arts: Grades 9-12.

    The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation funded The Common Core Mapping Project. Here is a sample of the online content--before they started selling books.

    According to the Common Core Curriculum Maps website, the maps were distributed by state and regional NCTE chapters to all ELA teachers in Los Angeles and New Jersey.

    In her Acknowledgements introduction to the Common Core Curriculum Mapping Project online, Lynn Munson thanks David Coleman and Susan Pimentel, among others:
    Acknowledgements Common Core and I, personally, have many people to thank for their support of and contribution to our mapping project. Jamie McKee and her peers at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation were tremendously supportive throughout this effort. Dane Linn from NGA encouraged this project all along. David Coleman and Sue Pimentel of the Common Core State Standards ELA writing team have become wonderful colleagues in the course of this work. Our expert advisors--Russ Whitehurst, David Driscoll, Diane Ravitch, and Toni Cortese--all provided crucial guidance. We are tremendously grateful to the AFT teachers, Milken educators, NABSE representatives, and the many others who reviewed our maps with care, thoroughness, and honesty. I also thank Common Core's trustees for their steadfast support, and research assistant James Elias, whose investigatory skills are surpassed only by his ability to keep track of these seventy-six maps. Thanks to Ed Alton for converting our maps into a navigable, digital feast.
    The above was captured online in 2010 when the Common Core Curriculum Mapping Project was launched. Munson's acknowledgements have changed a bit in the book version. You can see that at Amazon.com. Note that these people don't go through the charade of calling these the Common Core State Curriculum. This is what Bill Gates paid for--a national curriculum.

    NCTE Business as Usual

    I persist in documenting all this because I think the NCTE connections to the Common Core are very relevant to what happened to two attempts at submitting a resolution to NCTE. I happened to be part of both.

    Submitting a Resolution to NCTE

    We tried to submit a resolution at the 2010 NCTE convention in Orlando but they blocked us on technical grounds. So we went to the business meeting and submitted a Sense of the House Motion, calling for NCTE to oppose the Common Core Standards. This was passed handily by the NCTE members sitting in the room--a few hundred people.

    And NCTE ignored this Sense of the House Motion. Actually, they did worse than ignore it. They launched their book and professional development series on the Common Core.

    So we decided to try again in 2011. NCTE actually goes through the motions of inviting members submit resolution proposals--to be voted on at the business meeting at the annual convention. Here is part of the official, friendly invitation:

    The 2011 NCTE Committee on Resolutions encourages NCTE members to propose a resolution for consideration during the Annual Convention in Chicago, Illinois.

    If you have concerns about issues that affect your teaching, or positions you would like to support, and you think NCTE should take a stand, you have an opportunity to be heard! You can initiate action to deal with these issues by proposing resolutions which may be voted on and passed at NCTE's Annual Convention. The Committee on Resolutions urges individual members and affiliate groups to begin preparing and submitting their resolutions now.

    Two of the resolutions proposers may attend the meeting of the Committee on Resolutions at the annual convention. Before this meeting, the NCTE committee "edits the resolution for consistency of form and quality of writing stye," not allowing the proposers to see this rewrite until they show up at the meeting.

    After this meeting of the Resolutions Committee NCTE rewrites the revised resolution, and proposers don't see this revised revision until they go to the business meeting late in the day.

    Get it? Those unnamed NCTE functionaries opposed to the resolution have ALL DAY to strategize and to plan subtle ways of adding loopholes (They are very good at Doublespeak. . . oops they call it "editing for consistency of form and quality of writing style.")

    Somehow, I think something besides consistency of form and quality of writing style is going on when our Resolution: NCTE will oppose common core standards and national tests gets changed to Resolution on Challenging Current Education Policy and Affirming Literacy Educators' Expertise

    As usual, Stephen Krashen nicely sums up the matter. I echo his sentiments about NCTE's official behavior-- Really pissed off.

    Reminder: Here's the resolution we presented to NCTE. Please notice the clear, direct language: Oppose common core standards and national tests. The NCTE version, which purports to join two resolutions, avoids mentioning the Common Core, instead circumlocating to actions of the National Governors Association and Council of Chief State School Officers. So we end up with a resolution the public will interpret as "teachers not wanting to be evaluated"--instead of a resolution concerned with students being robbed of an education. Our resolution pointed out the very high cost of national testing. NCTE's resolution asks for more money. And so on.

    Read this part of NCTE's resolution very carefully:

    publicly voice its critique of and opposition to educational reform policies that mandate standards, curriculum, and means of student assessments that adversely affect social and educational equity

    This is weasel language and comes very close to qualifying NCTE for the Doublespeak Award.

    I am as concerned about equity as anybody but NCTE uses it here as a red herring. So mandated standards, curriculum, and assessments are okay if we can't hire a panel of lawyers to prove they adversely affect equity? Ask teachers in New York City, who won the equity issue (filed in 1993) in the courts, how the paper victory is working out for them. The Common Core adversely affects all students. Get that? We don't need to prove inequity. Our resolution expressed direct concern for all students: The standards that have been proposed and the kinds of testing they entail rob students of appropriate teaching, a broad-based education, and the time to learn well. [emphasis added]

    Resolution on National Standards and Tests

    Submitted to National Council of Teachers of English, Committee on Resolutions, via e-mail, on October 10, 2011.

    The movement for national standards and tests is based on these claims: (1) Our educational system is broken, as revealed by US students' scores on international tests; (2) We must improve education to improve the economy; (3) The way to improve education is to have national standards and national tests to reveal whether standards are being met.

    Each of these claims is false.
    (1) Our schools are not broken. The problem is poverty. Test scores of students from middle-class homes who attend well-funded schools are among the best in world. Our mediocre scores are due to the fact that the US has the highest level of child poverty among all industrialized countries.
    (2) Existing evidence strongly suggests that improving the economy improves the status of families and children's educational outcomes. (3) There is no evidence that national standards and national tests have improved student learning in the past.

    No educator is opposed to assessments that help students to improve their learning. We are, however, opposed to excessive and inappropriate assessments. The amount of testing proposed by the US Department of Education in connection to national standards is excessive, inappropriate and fruitless.

    The standards that have been proposed and the kinds of testing they entail rob students of appropriate teaching, a broad-based education, and the time to learn well. Moreover, the cost of implementing standards and electronically delivered national tests will be enormous, bleeding money from legitimate and valuable school activities. Even if the standards and tests were of high quality, they would not serve educational excellence or the American economy.


    Resolved that the National Council of Teachers of English

  • oppose the adoption of national standards as a concept and specifically the standards written by the National Governors Association and Council of Chief State School Officers

  • alert its members to the counter-productiveness of devoting time, energy and funds to implementing student standards and the intensive testing that would be required.

  • Carol Mikoda

    Susan Ohanian, recipient of NCTE's George Orwell Award for Distinguished Contribution to Honesty and Clarity in Public Language

    Bess Altwerger

    Stephen Krashen

    Joanne Yatvin, NCTE Past President

    Richard J Meyer, Incoming president of Whole Language Umbrella

    The only place this resolution saw the light of day was at http://www.susanohanian.org--and in places where Paul Thomas posts his on-target essays:


    Schools Matter

    Daily Kos

    [Paul Thomas is among the 1% of NCTE members who speaks out about these concerns. Follow him on Twitter (plthomasEdD). Follow Stephen Krashen (skrashen) and follow me (susanoha). We try to keep things moving--and never tell you what we ate for breakfast.]

    The Revised Revision

    Here is the revised revision of our Resolution submitted to NCTE members attending the business meeting. Any similarity to the original is coincidental.

    Resolution adopted at NCTE Business Meeting

    Resolution on Challenging Current Education Policy and Affirming Literacy Educators' Expertise

    2011 Annual Business Meeting in Chicago, Illinois


    The National Council of Teachers of English has a long history of taking strong positions on the best practices in the teaching of literacy. It has a long history as well of voicing its opposition and proposing alternatives to educational reform based primarily on so-called "standards" of performance as measured by high-stakes testing. That approach has become the de facto law of the land as both state and federal government have pressured school districts and teachers to submit to accountability measures based on a narrow range of criteria.

    In particular, the "standards" approach fails to include myriad conditions of education, including the gap between rich and poor, public support for education, and the day-to-day conditions of teaching. From the Reagan administration through the Bush, Clinton, and Bush administrations, key elements of educational reform have been ignored.

    The consequences of the standards-and-tests approach have been exacerbated by the policies of No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top. These policies run counter to the great body of NCTE position statements and have been further reinforced by the actions of the National Governors Association and Council of Chief State School Officers, who devalued teachers' wisdom while proceeding with undifferentiated descriptions of what all students should know and be able to do.

    The 2009 Standards for the Assessment of Reading and Writing, states, "Quality assessment is a process of inquiry. It requires gathering information and setting conditions so that the classroom, school, and community become centers of inquiry where students, teachers, and other stakeholders can examine their learning--individually and collaboratively--and find ways to improve their practice." Be it therefore


    RESOLVED, that the National Council of Teachers of English call upon the Obama administration, the National Governors' Association, and the Council for Chief State School Officers to support policies that

    end high-stakes testing and the evaluation of teachers and schools based on students' test scores;

    support ongoing classroom-based assessments consistent with the NCTE/IRA 2009 Standards for the Assessment of Reading and Writing;

    evaluate teachers based on comprehensive measures of effectiveness, such as observations of instruction, teacher portfolios, parent response, and increases in achievement as evidenced by curriculum-based authentic assessments;

    promote school/home/community partnerships by valuing the voices of all stakeholders who take part in the education of children;

    support curriculum that develops every student's intellectual, creative, and physical potential; and

    provide equitable funding for all schools.

    Be it further resolved that NCTE

    publicly voice its critique of and opposition to educational reform policies that mandate standards, curriculum, and means of student assessments that adversely affect social and educational equity;

    reaffirm its commitment to supporting all literacy educators so that pedagogical and subject matter knowledge, as well as an understanding of the school community and students, are primary influences in school and district plans to advance literacy learning; and

    work assiduously to make the wisdom of NCTE members with deep knowledge of effective teaching and assessment practices influential at every stage of curricula, assessment, and standards development.

    A lot more could be said here about the two resolutions, but what's the point?

    NCTE buried us. People in high level positions are deeply committed to the Common Core, and there is no redress. When the membership votes a Sense of the House, NCTE can ignore it and continue with Common Core business as usual. And many of the membership stalwarts feel it isn't polite--or important enough--to complain.

    Modest Proposal: NCTE staff and officials should spend less time censoring NCTE members' communications to online discussion groups called "open forums" and more time worrying about what David Colman is up to.

    — Susan Ohanian




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