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Saturday, February 7, 2015

Just Cause

From INSIDE 3020-a Teachers' Trials:

Arbitration decisions: Are They in Compliance With The JUST CAUSE STANDARD - or is the Penalty Determined Under the JUST 'CAUSE Someone Dislikes You Standard?

If you are working in disciplinary hearings or 3020-a arbitration, or you want to appeal an arbitrator's decision, you should use JUST CAUSE in your argument.

Betsy Combier


Did You Know as a union member your employer can not discipline you or fire you without Just Cause?

The U.S. labor movement has secured a number of important rights for unionized workers. Among such rights, just cause provides important protections against arbitrary or unfair termination and other forms of inappropriate workplace discipline. Just cause has become a common standard in labor arbitration, and is included in labor union contracts as a form of job security. Typically, an employer must prove just cause before an arbitrator to sustain an employee's termination, suspension, or other discipline. Usually, the employer has the burden of proof in discharge cases or if the employee is in the wrong.
Employees are expected to meet performance standards and behave appropriately in the workplace. Disciplinary or corrective action taken by the employer is supposed to be a process of communicating with the employee to improve unacceptable behavior or performance. There is a set of guidelines, called the “Seven Tests of Just Cause” that employers are expected to follow when imposing discipline; that Unions need to assure have been applied to their members; and that arbitrators use as a basis to form their decisions.


For decades, professional arbitrators struggled to reach consistent decisions in discipline cases, because they recognized that inconsistent results produced chaos in both the arbitration process and the work place. Finally, noted arbitrator Carroll R. Daugherty decided to take the bull by the horns by combining the many concepts employed by arbitrators in discipline cases into a single theory which he called “a sort of ‘common law definition” of just cause. It set out specific guidelines to be applied to the facts of any one case which we now refer to as the seven tests of just cause.

The award by Arbitrator Daugherty which is generally recognized as the first decision to formally set out all of the seven tests of just cause was in the matter of Enterprise Wire Co. and Enterprise Independent Union and was issued March 28,1966 (46 LA 359).

You can read Daugherty’s full Arbitration Decision
 This was a discharge case involving absenteeism and unsatisfactory work. Unfortunately, in this case, Arbitrator Daugherty ruled in favor of the employer; the union lost the case and the employee was fired. This historic case set the rules for Just Cause and is still being used today by employers, labor unions, and arbitrators.

Using the Seven Tests

Here are the "Seven Tests" as to whether the boss has used "just cause" in discipline and discharge cases.


* Our main contractual weapon in discipline and discharge cases is usually the requirement that the boss must have "just cause" (or "fair cause" or "proper cause") to take action against an employee. Even if these words are missing from the contract, many arbitrators use this standard, anyway.

* But, what is "just cause"? Simply put: it means the employer must have a reason (he or she must have "cause") for imposing discipline and the reason must be fair ("just").

* It is commonly accepted that there are seven tests as to whether the boss has used "just cause" in handing out discipline.

One of the main reasons workers join unions is to gain protection against unfair and unjust discipline that employers hand out. Stewards must be ready to handle all sorts of discipline cases, from warnings to suspensions to firings. Stewards must be ready to deal with situations of gross discrimination by the boss on who gets disciplined, to dealing with union members who sometimes seem to go out of their way to get themselves fired.

Our main contractual weapon is often times summed up in one short sentence, "Employees shall be disciplined or discharged only for just cause". In some contracts the words used are "proper cause" or "fair cause". The importance of a sentence like this is that it binds the employer to imposing discipline not just for any reason (cause) but the reason has to be a "just" reason. Many arbitrators have gone so far as to hold all employers to a "just cause" standard, whether the contract uses the words or not.

What is a "just cause" standard? It is commonly accepted that there are seven tests as to whether a boss has used "just cause" in handing out discipline. The Bureau of National Affairs lists them as follows:

1. NOTICE – Was the employee adequately warned of the consequences of his conduct?

Prior to imposition of discipline, employees must have notice of rules and expectations. The warning may be given orally or in printed form. An exception may be made for certain conduct, such as insubordination, coming to work drunk, drinking on the job, or stealing employer property, that is so serious that the employee is expected to know it will be punishable.

Example: If an employee is told to stop using vulgar language and told that if he continues he will be disciplined, that may be adequate warning. However if a boss comes up to an employee and says "I'm tired of your swearing, cut it out", and then the next day fires the employee for swearing again, that may not be adequate warning.

2. REASONABLE RULES OR ORDERS – Was the employer's rule or order reasonably related to efficient and safe operations?

Was the employer’s rule reasonably related to (a) the orderly, efficient, and safe operation of the employer’s business, and (b) the performance that the employer should properly expect of the employee?

Example: A boss makes a rule that all employees must wear red tee shirts and they must be tucked in so they don't get caught in machinery. An employee is fired for wearing a blue tee shirt that was tucked in. Making a rule that tee shirts must be tucked in so they won't get caught in machinery may be reasonable and related to safety, but demanding the tee shirt be red isn't related to safety or efficiency.

3. INVESTIGATION – Did management investigate before administering the discipline?

Did the employer, before administering the discipline to an employee, make an effort to discover whether the employee did in fact violate or disobey a rule of management? The investigation normally should be made before the decision to discipline is made. Where immediate action is required, however, the best course is to suspend the employee pending investigation with the understanding that he will be restored to his job and paid for time lost if he is found not guilty.

Example: The boss fires a worker for stealing and then demands evidence from the union that the worker isn't guilty. At the grievance meeting the boss admits he never investigated the incident, just took another employee's word. This probably wouldn't hold up. If the union has facts to prove the employee's innocence they should be presented to the boss, even though he failed to properly investigate the case.

4. FAIR INVESTIGATION - Was the investigation fair and objective?
Example: If an incident happened does the employer interview everyone present or only management people who were present. If the employer refuses to interview nonmanagement workers then the investigation may not be fair.

5. PROOF - Did the investigation produce substantial evidence or proof of guilt?

It is not required that the evidence be preponderant, conclusive, or "beyond reasonable doubt," except where the alleged misconduct is of such a criminal or reprehensible nature as to stigmatize the employee and seriously impair his chances for future employment.
Example: Here it is obvious that workers have fewer rights inside the workplace than they would have in civil court, but still the boss must have real evidence, not guesses. Again the boss cannot just try to make a worker prove his or her innocence, without presenting proof of guilt.

6. EQUAL TREATMENT - Were the rules, orders, and penalties applied evenhandedly and without discrimination?

If enforcement has been lax in the past, management cannot suddenly reverse its course and begin to crack down without first warning employees of its intent.

Example: This is the most common form of discrimination. An employer decides to suspend Mary for taking too long at lunch, but lets the employees who eat lunch with a supervisor take extra time every day. This would not hold up. However, if the employer tells everyone that starting on Monday employees will be disciplined for taking too long at lunch and on Tuesday Mary comes back late and everyone else has been on time, she may be disciplined.

7. PENALTY - Was the penalty reasonably related to the seriousness of the offense and the past record?

Was the degree of discipline administered by the employer in a particular case reasonably related to (a) the seriousness of the employee’s proven offense, and (b) the record of the employee in his or her service with the employer?

If employee A's past record is significantly better than that of employee B, the employer properly may give employee A lighter punishment than employee B for the same offense. The degree of discipline, is important because arbitrators want to ensure that the "punishment fits the crime." An employer's use of progressive discipline often gives the employer an advantage in arbitration.

Example: The classic example is two employees get in an argument and shove each other. One has 25 years service with a clean record. The other has 3 years service with lots of warnings and discipline. Based upon the workers seniority and records, the employer may give the older worker less punishment than the other worker.

Tips for Handling Discipline & Discharge Cases

Here are some basic tips for stewards handling discipline and discharge cases:

Use the "seven tests" as an outline. Did the employer meet the seven tests? Remember that just because an employer messes up on one of the seven tests, this doesn't mean we automatically win, but proving they screwed up helps a lot.
Make sure that an employee's Weingarten rights aren't or weren't violated during the employer's investigation.
Try to stop the employer from suspending or firing a worker. Try to get a cooling off period if necessary. The case becomes harder once a worker is out the door, now we not only have to fight about what happened but over back pay, etc.
Ask for all the employers’ notes and records they used to make a decision. Get any notes or records a foreman or supervisor might keep, even informal records. The union has a right to them. On the other hand the employer has no right to the notes or records that the union makes when investigating a case.
* Do a thorough investigation of the case. DON'T take the employers word on anything.
In a grievance meeting make the employer prove their case first. Make them present all the facts and don't assume anything. Don't let the boss start the meeting by saying to the union, “OK tell me why I shouldn't fire Joe". Make the boss justify firing Joe.
There are two parts to every discipline case. Did the employee violate a known rule and what should the punishment be? Sometimes we lose the first part but then we have to make sure the punishment fits the offense.
If the employer refuses to back down from a written warning and the case doesn't merit arbitration make sure the employer receives from the union a written statement disputing the facts and the discipline. Have this letter also put into the employees personnel file.

In closing, we should all be aware of the JUST CAUSE principles; and we all need to know what PROGRESSIVE DISCIPLINE looks like.

Within any workers career they will face at least one episode that could be discipline. Has your supervisor discussed a matter with you that he or she has asked you to change? It may sound like a friendly suggestion; and it might be. But it also is Step one of Progressive Discipline.

Tom Hoffman on Common Core ELA/Literacy Standards hate testing not standards
Eric Palmer

Tom Hoffman

I’ll Be Happy to Tell You What I Don’t Like About specific Common Core ELA/Literacy

For some time now, I have been asking haters to tell me exactly which standard they don’t like. You don’t like “Determine the main idea of a text; recount the key details and explain how they support the main idea?” You don’t like “Gather relevant information from multiple print and digital sources, using search terms effectively; assess the credibility and accuracy of each source; and quote or paraphrase the data and conclusions of others while avoiding plagiarism and following a standard format for citation?” You don’t like “Adapt speech to a variety of contexts and tasks, demonstrating command of formal English when indicated or appropriate?” Well then, tell me exactly which ones need to be tossed out? NOT ONE PERSON HAS EVER ANSWERED THIS QUESTION. Only a fool sees things in black and white; all good or all bad; everything or nothing. Aren’t there some good ideas here?

OK, I’ll bite (however, I can’t get to let me leave a comment on the original post).

Determine the main idea of a text; recount the key details and explain how they support the main idea.

This is standard CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.3.2. One problem with it is that it is embedded in a densely overlapping nest of similar standards mapped across grade levels.

At the second grade level for reading informational texts, we have six of 10 standards addressing aspects of main ideas and various types of details:

Ask and answer such questions as 
who, what, where, when, why, and how to demonstrate understanding of key details in a text.

Identify the main topic of a multiparagraph text as well as the focus of specific paragraphs within the text.

Describe the connection between a series of historical events, scientific ideas or concepts, or steps in technical procedures in a text.

Identify the main purpose of a text, including what the author wants to answer, explain, or describe.

Describe how reasons support specific points the author makes in a text.

Compare and contrast the most important points presented by two texts on the same topic.

Since these are second grade standards, it suggests that it is possible to do all those things without also being able to explain how key details support the main idea, which is what differentiates the third grade standard. That’s some fine hair-splitting.

Also, one can only wonder what is the significance might be of the choice of the word “recount” in only the third grade version of standard 3.

The fourth grade version of the same standard is:

Determine the main idea of a text and explain how it is supported by key details; summarize the text.

Summarization is added in fourth grade, but is it possible to complete even the second grade standards without also being able to summarize the text? Or if second grade students in fact can “Compare and contrast the most important points presented by two texts on the same topic” without summarizing either, is that a reading issue or a writing issue?

The standards are also quite clear and specific that in 4th grade students should flip their perspective and explain how the main idea is supported bykey details. Is that the same thing? If so, why is the wording different?

Questions about overlap and sequencing aside, is this a good reading standard for third graders? I would question the importance and utility of asking eight and nine year olds to “explain how (key details) support the main idea.” Like many individual bits of the Common Core standards, this sounds pretty good, but… what is even the possible range of answers to that question, particularly for “informational texts” read by third graders?

Simply look at the exemplar texts cited in Appendix B of the standards and consider how each key detail supports the main idea, for example, Boy, Were We Wrong About Dinosaurs. As is the case in many “informational texts” at this level, the main idea is basically the title: People in the past were wrong about what dinosaurs. Here’s a key detail:

Some of our mistakes were little ones. When the first fossil bones of Iguanodon were found, one was shaped like a rhino’s horn. Scientists guessed that the strange horn fit like a spike on Iguanodon’s nose.

Boy, were we wrong about Iguanodon!

When a full set of fossil bones was found later, there were two pointed bones, they were part of Iguanodon’s hands, not its nose!

So… that key detail is an example of how people were wrong about dinosaurs.

The main point of A Medieval Feast is, in my judgement, that a royal feast was a major operation for everyone in a manor. For example:

The manor house had to be cleaned, the rooms readied, tents set up for the horsemen, fields fenced for the horses.
And above all, provisions had to be gathered for the great feast.
The Royal Suite was redecorated.
Silk was spun, new fabric was woven.
The Royal Crest was embroidered on linen and painted on the King’s chair.
The lord and his party went hunting and hawking for fresh meat.

Those are all examples again.

Here’s another, From Seed to Plant:

How to raise bean plants
1. Find a clean glass jar. Take a piece of black construction paper and roll it up.
2. Slide the paper into the jar. Fill the jar with water.
3. Wedge the bean seeds between the black paper and the glass. Put the jar in a warm place.

Are steps “key details?” Yes? Is the answer to “how” they support the main idea just “by being steps?” Is it important that we know that steps are different than examples? Is that the point of all this? Are you starting to think this standard is an excuse to churn out banal multiple choice questions?

How does this key detail support the main idea?

1.      as an example;

2.      as a step in a procedure;

3.      as a statistic;

4.      as an illustration.

(I can’t help but also note that CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.2.3 would ask an 8 year old to “describe the connection between” the steps in the bean planting process. How would you “describe the connection between” the steps above, especially since each “step” includes multiple processes which seem arbitrarily grouped? Still wonder why people are complaining about New York’s Common Core tests?)

From A Drop of Water: A Book of Science and Wonder:

There are few objects you can make that have both the dazzling beauty and delicate precision of a soap bubble. Shown here at actual size, this bubble is a nearly perfect sphere. Its shimmering liquid skin is five hundred times thinner than a human hair.

Right there you have the main idea (bubbles are amazing!) and several key details. How, exactly, does the latter support the former? Is it really necessary to do anything other than point out that these are supporting details? What does it even mean in this context to consider how it supports?

I am not seeking out edge cases; I’m just trying to apply the standard as written to the exemplar texts provided. Try it yourself.

And I am not reading pedantic detail into the standard — pedantic detail was explicitly put there by the authors. They chose each word with specific intention (or with careless indifference, take your pick). The unambiguous message is that in third grade, precisely, teachers, textbook authors and testing companies should focus students on explaining how key details support the main idea.

Would you ever, while reading a book on dinosaurs with your child, pause to ask how a detail supports the “main idea” of the book? Could you blame her if she looked at you as if you were an idiot? What is the opportunity cost of steering 3rd grade teachers all over the country to spend time with their students not discussing the wonders of dinosaurs, medieval feasts, sprouting seeds and soap bubbles, but instead dragging their students through inane pseudo textual analysis? Does anyone really believe this is necessary to get them ready for college courses a decade in the students’ future?
Moving on:

Gather relevant information from multiple print and digital sources, using search terms effectively; assess the credibility and accuracy of each source;
and quote or paraphrase the data and conclusions of others while avoiding plagiarism and following a standard format for citation.

This is CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.7.8, as well as CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.8.8and CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.WHST.6-8.8. This standard is both fragmentary and an amalgamation of several distinct tasks of greatly varying complexity. It is also redundant with other standards, including with the multiple identical versions of itself at the same grade level.

This group of standards suffers from a complete organizational breakdown. Here are the three seventh grade standards in the Research to Build and Present Knowledge cluster:

Conduct short research projects to answer a question, drawing on several sources and generating additional related, focused questions for further research and investigation.

Gather relevant information from multiple print and digital sources, using search terms effectively; assess the credibility and accuracy of each source; and quote or paraphrase the data and conclusions of others while avoiding plagiarism and following a standard format for citation.

Draw evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research.

grade 7 Reading standards to literature (e.g., “Compare and contrast a fictional portrayal of a time, place, or character and a historical account of the same period as a means of understanding how authors of fiction use or alter history”).

grade 7 Reading standards to literary nonfiction (e.g. “Trace and evaluate the argument and specific claims in a text, assessing whether the reasoning is sound and the evidence is relevant and sufficient to support the claims”).

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.7.8 seems intended to be a subsidiary part ofCCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.7.7. For some reason CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.7.7 — the “conduct a research project” standard — is arbitrarily split in two.CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.7.1 through CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.7.3 are complex writing tasks with a list of enumerated requirements, so there is no structural reason that the distinct parts of CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.7.8could not be listed under CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.7.7.

As it is now, CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.7.8 requires the student to “gather relevant information” without specifying what the information should be relevant to. The standard suggests that a mere sequence of quotes, paraphrases and a bibliography but not a completed research paper would be sufficient to meet the standard, but it is not clear if that is intended. This also implies that CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.7.7 could be met without meetingCCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.7.8, which seems highly unlikely in practice.

Nor is it clear — at all — how to handle the amalgam of specific skills and tasks mashed together in CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.7.8. Since they are not separately enumerated, does this indicate that these disparate clauses should be evaluated wholistically? Using search terms effectively is important, and requires experience to do very well, but ultimately relies on the application of a pretty small number of rules of thumb. Is that of the same weight as “assessing the accuracy of each source,” which tends to be tossed around as if determining what is true is a straightforward process, the beginning and not the end of the educational process? If, boy! were the experts wrong about dinosaurs before, how is a student to determine if the latest book about dinosaurs is accurate?

It is impossible to sort out what the relationship between this writing standard and the reading standards is supposed to be. For example, citation is also the centerpiece of CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.7.1:

Cite several pieces of textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text.

One should wonder why we need citation in two places. One might also wonder why “gather relevant information” is considered a writing task and not a reading task. Is citation in reading different than citation in writing?

The neighboring standard, CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.7.9.B, represents an event horizon of recursion in the Common Core ELA/Literacy standards.

Apply grade 7 Reading standards to literary nonfiction (e.g. “Trace and evaluate the argument and specific claims in a text, assessing whether the reasoning is sound and the evidence is relevant and sufficient to support the claims”).

Does one have to meet all the reading standards to achieve that single writing standard?

This pervasive redundancy and recursion between reading and writing would not have been difficult to sort out. Particularly if one draws ideas from the state and international counterpart standards to which CCSSI supposedly benchmarked the Common Core.

The inclusion of the exact same standard in the “regular” grade 7 and 8 writing standards (e.g., CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.7.8)and the “Writing Standards for Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science, and Technical Subjects” (CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.WHST.6-8.8) is particularly baffling and would seem to violate what would be a fundamental rule of learning standards design if standards design was considered a serious academic and technical pursuit and such rules existed. That is, the Common Core contains two separate, enumerated, but identical standards at the same grade level. The only difference is that one standard applies specifically to research in history, social studies, science and technical studies while the other presumably applies to all research, but what other subjects are there in middle school in which one can do research beyond history, social studies, science and technical subjects? Is research in English class different than research in History class? If so, why are the standards identical?

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.7.8 and the entire set of research standards are an utter mess.

Adapt speech to a variety of contexts and communicative tasks, demonstrating command of formal English when indicated or appropriate.

This is anchor standard CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.SL.6. It also appears as a grade level standard for grades 5-12. This standard suffers from two common issues in the Common Core ELA/Literacy standards: it is a misleading political double headfake, and it is redundant with several other standards.

This standard seems to be a descendent of NCTE/IRA standard four, dating back to 1996:

Students adjust their use of spoken, written, and visual language (e.g., conventions, style, vocabulary) to communicate effectively with a variety of audiences and for different purposes.

Those standards were loudly derided for being too general, not rigorous enough, and not objectively assessable, and the American style of standards writing has evolved over the past 18 years into the form taken by the Common Core. Nonetheless, allusions to or reminders of the NCTE/IRA standards are likely useful to gain acceptance by teachers of English and Reading.

On the other hand, opponents of the NCTE/IRA standards were particularly concerned about the squishy relativism they perceived in standards like:

Students develop an understanding of and respect for diversity in language use, patterns, and dialects across cultures, ethnic groups, geographic regions, and social roles.

Thus, formal English is now explicitly emphasized.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.SL.6 offers less than it appears on the surface, however. In the context of the Common Core — “college and career-readiness” — it is impossible to think of a context or task for which formal English is not appropriate, particularly in any task that would conceivably be used for assessment. At best, this standard recapitulates a practical weakness of the NCTE/IRA standard — nobody is really going to fail because of an overabundance of formality and propriety.

If then, in practice, CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.SL.6 is simply asking the student to use formal English in a variety of academic contexts, it is redundant. Most of the remaining Speaking and Listening standards explicitly specify a “variety of… communicative tasks” which also require that “…style (is) appropriate to task, purpose, and audience,” or the equivalent.

Beyond that, each grade level version of this standard refers to the relevant grade level Language standards, e.g.:

Adapt speech to a variety of contexts and tasks, demonstrating command of formal English when indicated or appropriate. (See grades 9-10 Language standards 1 and 3 here for specific expectations.)


Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English grammar and usage when writing or speaking.

Use parallel structure.*

Use various types of phrases (noun, verb, adjectival, adverbial, participial, prepositional, absolute) and clauses (independent, dependent; noun, relative, adverbial) to convey specific meanings and add variety and interest to writing or presentations.

Apply knowledge of language to understand how language functions in different contexts, to make effective choices for meaning or style, and to comprehend more fully when reading or listening.

Write and edit work so that it conforms to the guidelines in a style manual (e.g.,
MLA Handbook, Turabian’s Manual for Writers) appropriate for the discipline and writing type.

Given Language standards 1 and 3, what on Earth do we need Speaking and Listening standard 6 for? Does anybody actually expect teachers to assess whether students are using adjectival, adverbial and absolute phrases in their spoken language to provide interest and variety when command of formal English when indicated or appropriate?
Standard CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.SL.6 is a nothing burger.
Eric Palmer

I hate testing not standards

Palmer asks us to be satisfied that the Common Core ELA/Literacy standards address several basic tasks in the subject, but just as he points out in his post that we are 20 years into the era of high stakes testing in American schools, we are also 20+ years into the era of academic standards. At this point, we have a right — and a responsibility — to expect that a new set of standards — particularly those adopted nearly nationwide — do more than just check topics off a list and move on.

As Common Core advocates rush to point out, no standards are perfect, and one can always find something to nitpick, but I would argue that the specific issues I’ve described above are surprisingly unique to the Common Core. In particular, forcing “college and career ready” anchor standards to be applied all the way back to kindergarten, with grade by grade progressions (except in high school, where year by year preparation for college becomes less important?) is essentially unprecedented and creates dozens of novel glitches and inconsistencies for no clear benefit.

Compound that with a tight timeframe and unusually high-stakes political requirements and dealmaking, and you end up with the special kind of mess that is the Common Core ELA/Literacy standards.

Where the hell have you been?
Pardon my language, but I do want to ask this to those of you who are vehement about how bad lots of testing is and how horrible high stakes tests are. I have hated all the testing and the Big Test for twenty years now.  Where were all of you?  Why didn’t you ever join me?  This testing mania has been around for decades and now suddenly you figure out that it’s bad for kids? And why do you blame it on Common Core?
A little history.  We have had high stakes testing for about twenty years now.  I was teaching when Colorado adopted the Big Test, the ColoradoStudent Assessment Program.  The governor at the time was sure education would improve if we had a Big Test For All To Take.  I was outspoken at the time that the test was unnecessary and bad for students. The governor and a congressman who was a big supporter of the test were persuaded to take the 11th grade test.  The governor refused to have his test scored; the congressman said he hoped his test would be shredded.  I was livid and I wrote a guest column for the paper: how valid is the test if very successful people can fail it?  It must measure something that doesn’t matter in life.  And what a waste of time and money!  This was 15 YEARS BEFORE COMMON CORE.
My district purchased test prep packets and we were supposed to go through them for the month leading to the Big Test.  Students and teachers got seriously stressed at CSAP time. I felt the packets were not the best use of instructional time and, in defiance, never used them.  (My students test scores were as high or higher than my peers who used the packet in fear of the big test.) This started 15 YEARS BEFORE COMMON CORE.

I had my son opt out of the Big Test.  I felt it wasted a week of his life, had no instructional value, and told teachers nothing about him that they didn’t already know. This was 10 YEARS BEFORE COMMON CORE.
My district added MAP testing two times a year, DRA testing two times a year, and a district-created writing assessment four times a year.  I gave the first writing assessment and realized that it had no instructional value so I never gave it again.  I was prepared to use the “asking forgiveness is easier than asking permission” defense, but no one ever noticed.  I was livid again.  Why all this testing?  No one can keep up with it!  This started 8 YEARS BEFORE COMMON CORE.
I was teaching 8th grade when the district added the EXPLORE test.  The EXPLORE test predicts how well kids will do on the PLAN test which predicts how well kids will do on the ACT test which has almost no predictive value about how well kids will do in college.  I was an outspoken critic.  More money wasted, more instructional time gone, no information that I didn’t already have.  This started 4 YEARS BEFORE COMMON CORE.
Where was the outrage all of this time?  Why was I the only voice against non-stop testing, test prep, and the Big Test?  If you think this is a Common Core issue, you are way wrong. If you hate the Common Core because of testing, you are way off base.
Are people making money from new tests? Probably, but I never hear a peep from you about the insane SAT or ACT preparation industries. Are there glitches in the new online tests? Of course, but at least testing is finally getting into the 21st century instead of looking exactly like the Iowa Test of Basic Skills I took half a century ago (46 YEARS BEFORE COMMON CORE!). But still, I agree: this testing mania is insane!
And here is the mind-blowing part: I don’t hate the Common Core State Standards.
For some time now, I have been asking haters to tell me exactly which standard they don’t like. You don’t like “Determine the main idea of a text; recount the key details and explain how they support the main idea?” You don’t like “Gather relevant information from multiple print and digital sources, using search terms effectively; assess the credibility and accuracy of each source; and quote or paraphrase the data and conclusions of others while avoiding plagiarism and following a standard format for citation?” You don’t like “Adapt speech to a variety of contexts and tasks, demonstrating command of formal English when indicated or appropriate?” Well then, tell me exactly which ones need to be tossed out? NOT ONE PERSON HAS EVER ANSWERED THIS QUESTION. Only a fool sees things in black and white; all good or all bad; everything or nothing. Aren’t there some good ideas here?
More history. When I started teaching, I was told to teach language arts. I had some ideas of things to do, but I never had a clear idea of what the end result was supposed to be. I was told to assign book reports and teach topic sentences and other things, but everyone was weak on where we were all supposed to be headed. I would not have minded at all someone saying, “At the end of this year, see if you can get kids to recognize and correct vague pronouns (i.e., ones with unclear or ambiguous antecedents).” Ah, that’s what appropriate for this age! That’s my goal. We’ll shoot for that.
And that is all a standard is.
No drama.
No all or nothing.
No “I hate Bill Gates.”
And definitely no “But testing is horrible!!!!”
I am happy that after twenty years, people are joining me on the Too Much Testing Bandwagon. I am seriously disappointed, however, that people can’t see a distinction between a standard and a test. And I am shocked at the number of folks who haven’t figured out that you can have standards and not have ridiculous amounts of tests. They do not logically have to go together. You can (and should?) hate testing but not standards.