Lesson for Our Leaders: The Best Defense is a Good Offense

By Anthony Cody, Education Week Teacher, June 3, 2013

Educators and our representatives have been on the defensive for so long, many of us have forgotten one of the lessons of the great strategist Sun Tzu – the best defense is a good offense.

No Child Left Behind was a frontal assault on the teaching profession. We were accused of “the soft bigotry of low expectations.” One Bush era secretary of education even called a teacher union a “terrorist organization.”

The phony accountability regime that NCLB brought us was collapsing in 2008. The biggest applause lines at both Clinton and Obama campaign rallies came when they pointed out how NCLB was pushing us to teach to the test, and promised to get rid of it. Of course we all know what happened after Obama was elected.

The Common Core could be called a “High Tech Rehabilitation of High Stakes Tests.” The major goal of the project has been to overcome objections to data-driven school reform, by offering standards and tests that are so new and different that we will not mind having our schools driven by them. They are heavily supported by a coalition of corporate entities that stand to make billions from the privatization of education. If we cannot mount a coherent counterproposal, we will be stuck objecting piecemeal to the worst elements of this regime, just as we did with NCLB. This may give us some small victories, but the entire project will remain intact.

Our union leadership has, for the most part, been timid about confronting the basic tenets of corporate reform, especially in regards to “accountability.” There is a reason for this. The corporate offense has led with the charge that unions are vehicles by which teachers avoid accountability for poor performance. Union leaders have responded by rushing to assure everyone that “Oh no, we do embrace accountability.” We even have NEA President Dennis Van Roekel co-signing an op-ed on teacher preparation with TFA founder Wendy Kopp, calling for the use of data in teacher preparation. And AFT President Randi Weingarten co-signing one on teacher evaluation with the Gates Foundations’ Vicki Phillips.

We are operating on defense, and we are steadily losing ground. Those who wish to wipe out or completely disempower our unions, replace public schools with private and charter schools supported by vouchers, and put schools of education out of the field of teacher preparation, are setting the terms of the debate….

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