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Topic: How Chicago Teachers Union Decided to Oppose Common Core
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Jerry P. Becker

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Registered: 12/3/04
How Chicago Teachers Union Decided to Oppose Common Core
Posted: May 10, 2014 5:54 PM
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From Education Week Teacher [Living in Dialogue], Saturday, May 10, 2014. See
Michelle Gunderson: How Chicago Teachers Union Decided to Oppose Common Core

By Anthony Cody

Guest post by Michelle Gunderson.

Wednesday evening I stood before my brothers and sisters at the
Chicago Teachers Union House of Delegates to speak in favor of our
resolution opposing the Common Core State Standards. When I finished
speaking, there was a call for the vote. It was unanimous. It was
resounding - not a single voice raised in opposition.

There are times when the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) seems like an
engine; that we are able to accomplish great and difficult work
seemingly overnight. I would like to pull back the curtain for a
moment, and help others understand the purposeful and deliberate
process we take in order to form our decisions and actions at CTU.

There are those in the media who contend we are being reckless and
blindly following Karen Lewis, the president of our local. Nothing
could be further from the actual case.

As much as we admire Karen Lewis and are grateful for her talents,
this work was not generated from her. In fact, characterizing this
event in such simplistic terms denigrates the social justice
transformation of the Chicago Teachers Union, a long and hard-won
struggle that involves many. We do not act on Karen Lewis' behalf or
her wishes. She acts on ours, with our guidance, and we love her for

It is hard to imagine a union in existence where a full democratic
process is expected by everyone involved - leadership, rank and file,
and union staff. Yet, in Chicago, we hold this ideal in such high
regard we cannot imagine a union working any other way.

Several months prior to the passing of the resolution, the Caucus of
Rank and File Educators began discussing and debating the Common Core
in our open meetings. We read Diane Ravitch's book The Reign of Error
in small study groups. And many of us followed Anthony Cody's work on
this blog. Through conversations and study we came to a strong
conclusion. The authors of the Common Core view the purpose of
education as college and career readiness. We view the purpose of
public education as a means for educating a populace of critical
thinkers who are capable of shaping a just and equitable society in
order to lead good and purpose-filled lives.

With our philosophical underpinning so drastically divergent from
that of the Common Core we did not see any room for common ground.

That is why we say no to Common Core.

Some union locals have asked for a longer roll out of Common Core
implementation. Others ask for the standards to be re-written. We say
no. We are not asking the Bill Gates and Rahm Emanuels of our world
to do a better job controlling the curriculum of our schools. We want
them gone from the process.

Once we decided that we could not support Common Core Standards in
any form, it was time to do the difficult work of taking action. I
made a motion at our caucus meeting that we prepare a resolution
fully opposing Common Core. It was approved after debate and careful

I wrote the first draft, but there is no way that I can be
considered the author. It is crafted through conversations with
dozens of educators in Chicago. It is an outcome of a movement among
educators to countermand the negative impact of corporate education

After a general resolution was in place, the tedious work of writing
draft after draft, presenting the resolution through several union
committees, and bringing the finished version before the CTU
executive board and House of Delegates began. This process took

And there we have it: RESOLVED that the Chicago Teachers Union
opposes the Common Core State Standards (and the aligned tests) as a
framework for teaching and learning.

As we move forward, we need to come together to fight for what we do
believe in. We have it in us to build a better education system for
our children. Let us all consider saying no to Common Core and
reclaiming our classrooms.

What do you think? Are Chicago teachers right in their decision to
oppose the Common Core?
Michelle Gunderson is a 27 year teaching veteran who teaches first
grade in the Chicago Public Schools. She is a doctoral student at
Loyola University in Curriculum and Instruction.

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