Quality control at the NEA RA by Fred Klonsky

“That with the defeat of collective bargaining in states like Michigan and Wisconsin, the NEA will focus less on those kind of issues and focus more on issues of teaching quality, particularly the implementation of the Common Core.” – Dennis Van Roekel


The incredible importance of President Dennis Van Roekel’s statement to the NEA Retired Assembly at the NEA Conference in Georgia today must be read directly from attendee and Illinois RA Representative Fred Klonsky. See it, in full, below.


Quality control at the NEA RA by Fred Klonsky

The Retired Conference is over and now I have moved to an upper story room at the Omni at CNN Center.

Tomorrow afternoon is the first Illinois and other state caucus meetings. The first general meeting of the NEA RA will be Tuesday.

This morning retirees listened to speeches by VP Lily Eskelsen and NEA President Dennis Van Roekel.

I posted on Facebook about DVR’s remarks.

And it has caused something of a stir as my short remarks were reposted and reposted.

Some have asked me for a written transcript. I don’t have one because there is none.

I only have my memory of what DVR said. I asked many others in the hall if they heard what I heard.

And, for the most part, they did.

Some who I asked differed over interpretation.

Yet here is what I heard DVR say: That with the defeat of collective bargaining in states like Michigan and Wisconsin, the NEA will focus less on those kind of issues and focus more on issues of teaching quality, particularly the implementation of the Common Core.

He was quite aggressive in his advocacy of the Common Core, throwing down the challenge to those on the Right and the Left who have been critical of it. DVR said that if you have nothing better to offer, step back.

Putting aside the content for a moment, I found his tone incredibly belligerent.

It is for DVR to speak and explain what he means by his statements about collective bargaining. There was not nearly enough explanation in his speech to retirees. But I have been told by those who have been involved in talks at the national level that this will be a recurring theme at this RA and after.

The theme being that the NEA must be seen as the leading advocate of quality, as opposed to a defender of the status quo.

That this echoes the attacks on teacher unions by those like Chicago’s Democratic Mayor Rahm Emanuel is apparently lost on DVR and the NEA top brass.

After over a decade of No Child Left Behind, Races to the Top and demands for accountability that have been turned into nothing less than witch hunts of teachers, who is the defender of the status quo?

And why on earth would the President of the nation’s largest union pit collective bargaining against quality?

In any case, the message delivered to retirees today was no slip of the tongue. It may have been more crassly expressed than it might have been had DVR read it off of a teleprompter from the RA dais.

Given the attacks on teachers, pensions, school closings and turnaround, a glut of standardized testing and job losses, it will be a disaster if this RA becomes nothing more than an ad for Common Core standards.

And should a fight break out over it on the floor, the message carried from Atlanta to the rest of the country will be that teachers were fighting over whether we are for quality or not.

Fred Klonsky (Direct link HERE.)


About Ken Previti

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8 Responses to Quality control at the NEA RA by Fred Klonsky

  1. Patricia Herrmann says:

    The Common Core is a way to standardize students and back it up with high stakes testing that will crush many students. They say it is to make an innovative competitive society. But tests that have a single right answer called convergent thinking push out not only critical thinking but divergent thinking that is the heart of innovation. They say its about innovation but its the opposite. It is about creating a compliant workforce. And the NEA which should be for defending students is leading them into an Orwellian sameness like “1984.” Factories standardize, but for humans and especially children, standardization is inhumane.

    • kenpreviti says:

      You said it all. May I please use your words on Facebook tomorrow as I re-post Fred’s blog? I’ll put your initials or your name after it – whichever you prefer.
      I would also like to use it on a meme I will create for future use. OK?

  2. retiredbutmissthekids says:

    Beyond reprehensible, and Dennis’ opinions (& I do mean opinions, for this is in no way representative of the thinking of the rank-and-file) most CERTAINLY not befitting someone who is the (supposed–how about making it “deposed?!”) leader of the National Education Association.
    Additionally, to second your excellent summation, Pat, this was a comment I recently posted in response to “Diane Ravitch’s Blog” post, “The Reformy-to-English Dictionary You Have Been Waiting For” (which was–BTW–written by a CPS Parent, Karen McKeegan Fraid, who has posted 3 volumes, already, on tumblr). My definition follows–
    I think the term “21st Century Skills” need be further clarified to read,
    “Actually, none–no need for creative thinking, critical analysis or any kind of tool needed to
    question authority and right wrongs. Skills (?) acquired from education in the 21st century
    actually include:
    1. Ability to accept minimum wages, with no questions asked.
    2. Ability to accept job(s) with no benefits, no questions asked.
    3. Ability to apply for food stamps and/or to stand in long lines to receive food from food banks,
    no questions asked.

    In other words, ability to work at WalMart, and don’t ask any questions!!”
    (Hannah wrote in reply to me: “I was WONDERING what those 21st Century Skills were!
    Thanks for the clarification! LOL”)

    • kenpreviti says:

      Nearly every twenty-something I know is living 1-2-3. In addition they have debt degrees. They are not starting from zero; they are in a deep hole that deepens. Their loans are handed off yearly and “fees” are collected. Skills? They are beaten. What skills do you need when you are beaten? It is horrendous. They talk happy talk and play online games. They all say the future will be better for them. However, when the talk takes a serious turn, they admit to being beaten down. Horrendous.

      • retiredbutmissthekids says:

        Agreed, Ken.The “21st Century Skills” are like all the leaders & reformers who wear the emperor’s clothes–in reality, no skills at all. Exactly what the emperors want. Which is why you are out their on the lines in Florida–kudos to you, Ken, and others who do the same. We need a logo–“not really retired,” just like the guy at a CPS/CTU march with the sign, “It’s 2013, and we’re STILL protesting this @#$%?!”

  3. John Young says:

    Reblogged this on Transparent Christina.

  4. kavips says:

    This is truly the beginning of the end of the world… Why does it feel like we are living in one of the later Harry Potter books, and Voldermort is taking over institutions one by one?

  5. Patricia Herrmann says:

    The privatization of public schools is the Civil Rights issue of our time. Over the past 60 years education has overcome “separate but equal” to integrate minorities into our schools. Then the disabled many of whom had been excluded from education entirely were educated using changes in law backed up by court decisions. Girls were included in more programs and educated even if they were pregnant. And then English Language Learners were accommodated and educated. Equity in opportunity is not the same as sameness of outcomes and a canned scripted instruction and the Common Core. And high stakes testing which narrows the curriculum and the Common Core which is a national curriculum in fact if not in framing will not serve the needs of students, or communities. Our nation’s students will thrive if we celebrate the differences in students and see them as the creators of knowledge, deserving of academic freedom, instead of compliant vessels of what is already known. The privatizers want to monetize our children, and use zero tolerance policies to push out those who are different or won’t comply; want to control teachers and students with a canned curriculum, standardized testing, in a factory model of education. They re-segregate our schools along racial and economic lines, push out those who are expensive to educate, raise class size, replace veteran teachers with warm bodies through de-certification are doing so in part in a backlash against the Civil Rights of minorities, disabled, women, and immigrants. And it is an opportunity to get a compliant workforce for the 1%.

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