Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Strange Education Bedfellows

Posted By on Tue, May 27, 2014 at 5:30 PM

  • Image courtesy of shutterstock.com

Here's a line you rarely see, from a New York Times article, Unlikely Allies Uniting to Fight School Changes: "Conservative lawmakers also sponsored a bill, co-written by the teachers union . . ." Things are getting weird in Education Land.

The article should be required reading for journalists who write about education. Any reporters who have fashioned simplistic political dichotomies around the Common Core — you see a lot of this in Arizona reporting — that the far right hates it but moderate Republicans and Democrats love it, end of story, need to look deeper.

Here's the rest of the paragraph I quoted from earlier.

During the most recent legislative session in Tennessee, conservative Republicans, including Mr. Womick, joined the teachers union in supporting a bill to delay the administration of a standardized test aligned to the Common Core. Conservative lawmakers also sponsored a bill, co-written by the teachers union, that overturned a State Board of Education policy tying decisions about teacher licenses to student test scores.

The more common linkage between the far right and progressive educators is one where the right despises the Common Core standards themselves while progressives dislike the high stakes tests more than the standards, but sometimes it gets more complicated than that, like in Tennessee. And in Oklahoma,

[T]eachers unions gave strong support to a bill, sponsored by Republicans, that would overturn a law requiring third graders to be held back simply on the basis of the results of one standardized test.

Arizona's right wing, goaded by the "Florida Miracle"-loving Goldwater Institute, supports the idea of having students flunk third grade if their reading test scores are low, an idea begun during ex-Governor Jeb Bush's reign, but that's not true everywhere.

The educational right and left distrust each other, because their goals are usually wildly different, but the two sides find themselves forging some unusual, uneasy alliances. And often, standing together against the left-right coalition are business-oriented Republican conservatives (think Jan Brewer and John Huppenthal), the Democratic establishment (think Obama, his Ed Supe Arne Duncan and a whole lot of Democratic legislators) and teachers unions. Yes, teachers unions. Many of them bought into the Common Core for a variety of political and financial reasons and are just now beginning to wonder if they bet on the wrong pony as they see teachers who are members and parents who are their natural allies peeling off. An example:

When Tennessee applied for the Race to the Top grant, the teachers union signed on in support of the Common Core and committed teachers to the new evaluations and tests.

Some teachers said they had reservations from the start. “We’re not going to look at what’s inside the Trojan horse,” said Lucianna Sanson, an English teacher at Franklin County High School in Winchester, Tenn. “We’re just going to look at the horse and say how pretty it is. My first instinct was that this was going to be bad, and the more I learned about it, the worse it got.”

I can't think of another area where there's as much political mix-and-match, slice-and-dice as you find in the current education scene. If reporters hope to cover the subject of education with anything approximating accuracy, they need to educate themselves about what's going on.

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