Common Core – “A Union Controlled Legislature”

PA solicited input and approval from state teacher’s unions, including the Pennsylvania State Education Association (PSEA), in order to prove to the federal government that PA was ready, willing, and able to implement “college and career ready” standards (a/k/a Common Core).

The PA Department of Education’s website contains links to documents that were part of the Race to the Top federal grant application process.  This directory includes a letter James Testerman, President of the PSEA, sent to local union representatives regarding Phase 2 of the Race to the Top application, in which he wrote (see file PSEA_RTTT_Phase_2_Update-1):

“I believe the fact that Pennsylvania is the only state that required the union’s signature for a district to be eligible is something of which we can all be proud. PSEA, Governor Rendell, and PDE share the belief that the union is a critical component of any education reform agenda.”

Representatives from PA appeared before the federal government on March 17, 2010 to plead their case in support of PA’s Race to the Top Phase 2 federal grant application. In reference to getting local school districts to buy into the new teacher evaluation system, Ms. Donna Cooper, one of PA’s representatives, is on record as saying,

“We are a union state and now we are in Pennsylvania, union-controlled legislature. So, we have to be very careful over the next 15 months to do this right, or we are going to lose the opportunity to do it.”

My, how revealing. In fact the entire transcript is quite revealing.

Governor Rendell lamented in an August 2010  article posted on that if all Pennsylvania State Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers locals in the state had “bought in” to the application, “it would have been very helpful.”

That’s okay, because what Rendell could not do through regulation, the Corbett administration did through the legislature via Act 82 of 2012. And lo and behold, PA was awarded federal government prize money in the third round of Race to the Top.

Among other things, Act 82 of 2012 requires the creation of a evaluation system for classroom teachers (Danielson Framework).  Under the new rating system, student performance is part of the teacher evaluation process and is based upon a variety of measures including graduation rates and standardized testing scores. (See Pennsylvania Bulletin published June 30, 2013 for specifics on the regulations.)  The rating system for principals and non-teacher professionals is expected to be developed and published in the Pennsylvania Bulletin by June 30, 2014.

So teacher’s unions have clout, but parents do not. As parents we weren’t asked to consent to Common Core or the massive data collection system that assigns unique IDs to our children.  Nor were we properly informed of the state’s intention to put information about our children into a statewide database that will track them from the “womb” into college and beyond across the world-wide web and that this data has the potential to be shared across states and made available to “researchers.”  Our input and feedback wasn’t requested regarding the overuse and misuse of standardized testing.  And talk about raising the stakes. Tying how our children perform on these tests to teacher evaluations and changing the tests at the same time just defies logic.

It almost seems as if the mere act of putting our children in a public school negates our rights as parents to be a part of decisions that dramatically impact how our children are taught, tested, and targeted for data collection. No, we’re just expected to pay up and leave the rest to these so-called “experts.”

 Return to Common Core in PA  home page


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