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Common Core and the New Guard: Alex Caputo-Pearl and the Future of the UTLA

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The education landscape in Los Angeles is undoubtedly in a moment of transition. Our teacher's union is transitioning to a new leader, President-elect Alex Caputo-Pearl. At the same time, our schools are transitioning to a set of new education standards. We conclude our blog series on the policy perspectives of education leaders and UTLA presidential candidates with a rich conversation about transitioning to Common Core.

In 2010, California adopted the Common Core State Standards, which focus on higher-order critical thinking skills, collaboration and complex problem solving. Throughout California, district and union leaders, as well as state legislators, school leaders, teachers, students, and parents are grappling with how we ensure these rigorous standards are being implemented faithfully, with proper resources and training for all stakeholders. In Los Angeles Unified, President-elect Caputo-Pearl will need to engage those same critical thinking, collaboration, and problem solving skills to help lead Los Angeles teachers in this seismic shift.

Teachers and other stakeholders need to know what to expect from the new UTLA President, and so Educators 4 Excellence will continue to present Mr. Caputo-Pearl's positions on this high-impact policy issue. These answers are drawn from his responses in "Your Union, Your Voice," E4E's voter guide for the 2014 UTLA Presidential election. We've also been highlighting the perspectives of E4E teacher-leaders and key community leaders on these crucial topics. Find the first two entries, on union-district collaboration and school funding, here and here. This week, for our final issue in this series, I'll be presenting perspectives on an issue that is top-of-mind for every teacher in California: how can we get from here to Common Core?

Here is the question we asked Alex Caputo-Pearl:
The Common Core State Standards were adopted in California in 2010, and yet many teachers feel underprepared and under-resourced for this transition. Do you support the Common Core State Standards? What role, if any, should the union take in the transition to Common Core?

Over 85% of E4E teacher-leaders identified this as an important or critical policy issue for the next UTLA president to undertake.

Mr. Caputo-Pearl responded that he does not support the Common Core State Standards as currently formulated. Although he qualifies that he "supports the goals of CCSS to make curriculum and instruction more critical thinking-rich," he calls for UTLA to "aggressively organize against high-stakes testing." He would like to see the union demand more teacher control, particularly over "professional development and school improvement." Read Mr. Caputo-Pearl's full response at the E4E UTLA Presidential Election hub.

Veteran UTLA and E4E member Laurie Walters said she wants to see her union take a proactive lead in expanding professional development around Common Core. "There should be a push for a Common Core Standards Coach at each school site who creates the professional development," she said. "This would help generate more buy-in and make the professional development more specific for each school site." She sees the Common Core as an opportunity to learn more about how we are doing across schools, districts, and even states. "These standards are the first time that I have ever seen a consistent set of guidelines across the entire country. It will allow us to learn best practices from each other, which benefits all our students."

California State Senator Carol Liu expressed a feeling that Common Core requires collaboration from all stakeholders. "Common Core is a major change for teaching and learning. It requires significant professional development for our work force of over 300,000 teachers and administrators. It requires new technology and connectivity. And it needs to be anchored in a collaborative culture that exists in some but not all of our school systems," she said. "Our teachers unions can play an effective role in helping transmit information about best practices in Common Core implementation and pushing for effective collaboration between teachers and administrators to roll out this priority initiative."

Teachers across the country are excited about how Common Core is transforming their classrooms. For the first time, we are looking more critically at the skills and knowledge our children need to compete and thrive in a 21st century, international economy. This transition is not quick or easy, and there will almost certainly be bumps in the road. Teachers are looking to our union, district and even our state leaders to support us. We will need professional development, financial investment and, more than anything else, true leadership and grit to make this transition a success.

With the election over, UTLA and LAUSD will be tackling some important transitions in how we teach and lead in public education. Visit our voter guide, "Your Union, Your Voice," to learn more about President-elect Alex Caputo-Pearl--the teacher and organizer--who will be leading our nation's second largest teacher's union.