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NEA delegates love Common Core Math – EdWeek

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EdWeek reporter Liana Heitin, wandering the floor at the NEA convention, heard the same thing we hear from New Hampshire teachers about the Common Core math standards:

Among my many duties as the EdWeek correspondent at the event, I spent some time chatting with delegates about their feelings on the Common Core State Standards in mathematics.

Their answers can be summed up as follows: We love the standards. We need more resources. We’re scared about the tests.

The educators I spoke with (all from common-core-adopted states) told me, first and foremost, they are fans of the new standards—and then they quickly made a point of distinguishing between the standards, the implementation, and the tests.

Two veteran 5th grade teachers from Maine gushed about the standards’ focus on conceptual understanding and how excited they were to spend more time helping students grasp big ideas, such as place value, rather than having them memorize. As I’ve written before, the new standards emphasize sense-making and reasoning over math tricks.


Paul Gamboa, previously a 5th grade teacher in Naperville, Ill., and now the leader of his local NEA affiliate, said of the standards, “I love them. I absolutely love them.” In particular, he’s a fan of the real-world connections the standards allow him to make.

“Almost every lesson I did, I could say, ‘This is how this pertains to your life. This is the stuff you need to be a functional adult,'” he said. He’s related common-core lessons to football statistics, building furniture, and shopping at Costco, for instance.

via NEA Delegates Talk Common-Core Math – Curriculum Matters – Education Week.


  1. Some teachers may accept the standards, but the majority of these NEA teachers hate the tests and teacher evaluations based upon these unvalidated tests. They want Duncan to resign because he’s promoting an agenda which throws teachers under the bus.

  2. jcc says:

    re: place value; consider Herb Gross on p.v. physically
    diminutive, yet a giant.

  3. Bill,

    I was a delegate at AFT’s recent convention in Los Angeles. I have to be honest with you, we were very close to abandoning our support of the CCSS. The Chicago Teachers’ Union (the second largest in AFT) submitted a resolution to the Educational Issues Committee that would have withdrawn our support of the CCSS. I was on the committee as were 500 other delegates. The vote was very close and we had to go to a standing vote. They had to count twice even to make sure the total was correct. The resolution was voted down but not because everyone was wild about the CCSS, we just wanted to give them one more chance. We decided instead to go a more diplomatic route and passed a resolution that harshly criticized the way the CCSS has been implemented and the standardized testing associated it. Basically, it said, we’re giving the states two more years to get it right before we meet again. If the implementation remains poor in two years, we’re abandoning our support. At least that’s the way I read it.

    Two years, Bill. If the implementation of the standards doesn’t improve, the NEA and AFT are going to abandon their support of these standards. A lot of locals have already pulled their support. And one of the biggest teacher organizations, the Badass Teachers, is actively protesting the CCSS this week. Personally, I’m willing to give the standards a little more time, but if the implementation doesn’t improve, I’m pulling my support as well. The conservatives already largely oppose these standards and so do many teachers now (although for very different reasons). If the unions pull their support in two years, these standards won’t survive a large Left/Right coalition against them. The CCSS are on critical life support right now, Bill. Those in charge of their implementation need to get them right or more states are just going to opt-out of them. Arne Duncan needs to stop putting his foot in his mouth, too. He’s not helping.


    Gary Hoffman
    Nashua Teachers’ Union
    2014 AFT Delegate

    • Bill Duncan says:

      I appreciate this commentary, Gary. I think you did the right thing in passing the resolution you did. It would be unfortunate for everyone – public education, teachers and children – if the unions pulled out politically and that brought the Common Core down.

      When you say, “if implementation doesn’t improve…,” maybe you could expand on that. You seem to write about CCSS as if there were some central authority driving implementation but, as you know, it’s totally up to each state. There are 40 separate implementations. And implementation is successful in many states. In fact, I would say it’s very successful in New Hampshire, but I’d be interested in your critique of that. The more detailed the better. I understand there’s always a need for more professional development, but I see very successful teacher-led, step-by-step implementations in many school districts. NEA-NH has trained a corps of 30 plus that trains all over the state.

      So there’s probably a range of opinion but, overall, it looks successful in NH to me. And what about the assessment at this point? It seemed as if the field test went pretty well in Nashua. Have those concerns subsided?

      • The field test didn’t really answer any of the big questions regarding the SBAT as it wasn’t scored, or if they were, the scores were not made public. All I know is from the teachers that I spoke to is that the kids had a very tough time answering the questions. We’re very concerned about the public relations nightmare that’s going to hit when the scores come out because everyone who I’ve spoken to says to predict a large drop in test scores. (See this: After the AFT Convention, I also have huge reservations about the developmental appropriateness of the test and the standards (see The Chicago Teachers’ Union’s Position Paper: ). Some say we just have to prepare the public ahead of time before the scores are released, but I doubt it’s going to received well and will probably just convince more parents that the public school systems are a failure increasing the demand for charter schools.

        From what I understand, the main for goal for the field test was to work out the technical issues regarding the test. Sure, this aspect of the testing went fine, but the amount of staff the NSD employed for the field test–which only tested a small fraction of the students the real test will assess in the spring–is impossible to replicate next year when grades 3-8 will be testing rather than just grade 6. We used every IT person and extra Central Office staff member to administer a test to only a small sample of students. It’s not a realistic representation of what will happen in the spring, but you’re right, nothing huge on the technical side went wrong and the District is to be commended for getting through the field test without any major glitches.

        In regards to your comment about how well NH is prepared for the CCSS, I have to disagree. These standards are unlike anything teachers have done before. I have a friend who works for Aptara (in case you don’t know, they make education materials for Pearson and others) and he said that he thinks American schools need to be investing far more into professional development than they are for teachers if these standards are to be implemented correctly. He said that the math standards are similar to those in Japan, and in Japan, the teachers teach less hours but are expected to do several hours a PD a week. He said that these standards, if done correctly, really require teachers to teach a lot differently than they currently are. This requires some big investments in PD that he doubts America schools will be able to do. I doubt this type of PD is happening in many places in NH. School districts are strapped for cash in this state. The NSD had to make some really difficult decisions regarding the budget this year, so I doubt they’ll be a lot of money left over for the type of PD we really need to get the CCSS right. It’s not our District’s fault mind you. They’re doing their best with the limited resources they have; they’re just fighting a losing battle with increased austerity. Sadly, next year’s budget is going to be even tighter. Without this PD, my friend said that CCSS might do more harm than good because he’s afraid teachers will just tweak a few things they’re doing rather than change the way they do things completely. He felt this approach could be worse than the old methods. These are my concerns. Valid?

        • Bill Duncan says:

          I’ve heard from Nashua and administrators that, “Yes, the test is hard, but that’s what we expect. The standards are hard. Now we just need to get down to work to enable our students to be successful.” There is no question that people should expect a drop in scores. The standard is now higher. And you are right, you will need to work with parents to help them understand that. In KY, where they did the work, parents accepted the new lower results – for two years running. In NY, where they didn’t (and, unlike NH, they made the test high stakes), they had a mess on their hands.

          A few months ago, you featured the technology as a big problem and you now seem to be writing off the smooth operation as, what, too much effort by the administration? It worked fine this time but, after another year of preparation, it probably won’t work next time? I don’t buy it.

          I don’t know your friend at Aptara or about his experience in Japan. All I’m saying is many (many, many, many) NH teachers are using the standards successfully in their classrooms as a result of teachers’ commitment and that of their leadership.

      • Here’s AFT’s resolution on the CCSS that was passed a few weeks ago. It should answer any questions you have about our issues with the CCSS:

  4. “It worked fine this time but, after another year of preparation, it probably won’t work next time? I don’t buy it.”

    Dismissive much? Yikes, Bill. Please read what I said again as your comment does not even attempt to address the specific issues I brought up, regarding the field test.

    • Bill Duncan says:

      I don’t mean to be dismissive, Gary, but I still don’t get it. Of course the field test was not scored. What a mistake that would have been. Yes, the kids had a tough time. The new standards are higher. And, in order to identify the difficulty of the questions, that version of the test was not adaptive, as the real test will be. But teachers I talked with said the experience was helpful for both them and their students.

      And then you go on to talk about other states and say that someone is conspiring to make public schools look bad to promote charters.

      So let me put it this way: I do not personally find those arguments persuasive.

      • “And then you go on to talk about other states and say that someone is conspiring to make public schools look bad to promote charters.”

        I did not say this. Perhaps someone else did who you spoke to recently? I don’t believe there’s a conspiracy, Bill. I’m just pointing out some likely outcomes after the results of the SBAT hit the public. If you’re going to have a substantial drop in test scores, it’s probably not going to be received well by the public. The media will have a field day (they love bashing teachers and the SBAT is going to give them a lot of ammunition). This will have consequences for public schools and one might be a push for more charters. You really can’t see that?

        You mentioned earlier about the success Kentucky had with the PARC as a possible model for “coaching” the public about the poor results but they dropped from the PARC consortium. Certainly part of the reason was over the bidding process, but if it went so well, wouldn’t Kentucky have kept it?

        I don’t have a problem with the CCSS. I just have an issue with the testing. Until these tests count towards a GPA or something that “counts”, I don’t feel they’re valid, especially for the older students. And, until there’s more equity in funding for public schools, I’ll always have an issue with comparing poor urban and rural communities’ test scores with those of wealthy suburban schools. I guess that’s where the implementation part comes into play, at least in NH where we’re so dependent on property taxes for revenue. Some communities have tax and spending caps, others do not. Some towns have strong tax bases, others do not. Some communities have large populations with special needs, others do not. This is the opinion of the thousands of delegates who attended the AFT Conference in July.

        “WHEREAS, it is especially outrageous that the equity agenda that includes the Common Core is threatened in many states and districts:

        By flawed and hasty implementation before all the pieces of a comprehensive high-quality education system are in place;
        By inadequate resources and failure to address the wraparound services that many students need to be successful;
        By a political agenda to privatize public education;” An excerpt from the AFT Resolution on the CCSS

        • Bill Duncan says:

          Gary, I think these exchange is running out of juice. To me, if you say test scores will be low in order to drive people to charters, you are postulating people getting together in a conspiracy. Think about it. To me, that just does not make sense.

          I say they “educated” the KY public. You call it “coaching” and speculate (in a way I have never seen from anyone else) that KY dropped PARC because of the low scores. Those views will not be reconciled. You are way down a path that I cannot follow.

          A debate about counting the tests toward GPA (or graduation?) is fine, but has nothing to do with the Common Core. Did you object to the NECAP on that basis? What about NAEP? Or NWEA?

          You say you have no objection to CCSS and then you are set an impossible standard for accepting CCSS (“comprehensive high-quality education system”) when the standards are a step toward that kind of goal. It seems like a debate with no end.

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