Is Common Core a Tool or Weapon?

Will Common Core Standards be a good thing for America? Maybe, but only if we understand the proper use and potential abuse that could easily occur if we aren’t watching closely. After all, WE are the ultimate check-and-balance. WE had better understand the circles of influence because influence is power that can turn to control.

Many think as Bill Gates expressed in the September 23, 2007 Parade Magazine, “It’s incredible that we have no national standards.” And there is some soundness to the idea, but, standards-based “reform” has only been proven NOT to work in America with No Child Left Behind being the most current example.

So, is Common Core a “national” standard? Not yet, but only because some states said “no thank you,” at this time.

So the argument goes:

Common Core is a state initiative. That “fact” you will have to decide for yourself. Is it state-led or Gates-led?

Standards are not curriculum. True. Standards are a teaching guide to help ensure all children are taught what we judge to be most important. But as the sequence of events goes; we develop standards, we develop tests to match those standards, and then what we teach and how (the curriculum) is aligned with the tests. Standards will direct curriculum so that makes it important to see how promoters of Common Core see the role of the federal government as compared to former lawmakers.

Back in 1965, Congress was influential in putting federal education law into place and clearly expressing within it the federal role as investment in children from low-income families whose needs were not being addressed by localities. And the testing of these children was to ensure the extra funds were serving the children’s learning needs. This law carefully explained the federal limits. Section 604 of The Elementary and Secondary Education Act read:

“Federal Control of Education Prohibited

Nothing contained in this Act shall be construed to authorize any department, agency, officer, or employee of the United States to exercise any direction, supervision, or control over the curriculum, program of instruction, administration, or personnel of any educational institution or school system, or over the selection of library resources, textbooks, or other print or published instructional materials by any educational institution or school system.”

Things have changed. By 2006, three circles of influence were explained through the Editorial Projects in Education Research Center in a paper titled – INFLUENCE (see chart page 21). Those organizations most influential were the United States Congress, the U.S. Department of Education, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. In this same report, Mr. Gates was declared the most influential person in education reform — ahead of President George W. Bush.

Since then, the Gates’ tentacles of influence expanded to include not only the National Governors Association and Achieve (a Gate’s supported “standards-setting” service) but also the Council of Chief State School Officers as one of its many corporate partners.

Please note as you read the following that the first line is why “they” call it Common Core “State” Standards

The Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) and The National Governors Association (NGA) state in their Common Core Standards Memorandum of Agreement:

 “Federal Role. The parties support a state-led effort and not a federal effort to develop a common core of state standards; there is, however, an appropriate federal role in supporting this state-led effort. In particular, the federal government can provide key financial support for this effort in developing a common core of state standards and in moving toward common assessments, such as through the Race to the Top Fund authorized in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. Further, the federal government can incentivize this effort through a range of tiered incentives, such as providing states with greater flexibility in the use of existing federal funds, supporting a revised state accountability structure, and offering financial support for states to effectively implement the standards. Additionally, the federal government can provide additional long-term financial support for the development of common assessments, teacher and principal professional development, other related common core standards supports, and a research agenda that can help continually improve the common core over time. Finally, the federal government can revise and align existing federal education laws with the lessons learned from states’ international benchmarking efforts and from federal research.”

“They” redefined the federal role for us, told the federal government what to do, how to spend our federal recovery dollars, and what “they” said was done by the Department of Education; under the influence?

We should probably know who “they” really is. The original 135 member Common Core development group was heavily stacked with people associated with Gates-funded organizations and many members with connections that read like a list of Wall Street financial corporations in addition to global research & development, and technology companies already heavily invested in our defense, security, and energy information.

The two “consortiums” in the country that will offer the “Next Generation Tests” both have associations with Gates and received federal Recovery Act funds. “They” will be directing the show and we are told that “they” are the states; this is “state-led.”

Outside the circle of influence, there is talk about another way to use standards. We can probably all relate to this. A lesson is taught, quizzes are given, an opportunity to self-correct or re-learn is provided and, eventually, a larger test is given —and the student is given a grade. Add periodic standardized tests (4th, 8th, and 12th grade) where the only “test-prep” is reminding kids to make sure they do their best. This is honest testing with honest results and you have an “assessment system” without high costs and with less danger of inappropriate use of data. Back when we were kids, standardized tests were used properly — as a snap-shot for systemic guidance and some comparisons. We can adopt standards without adopting the testing and centralized data collection that is currently planned for us.

With the Department of Education under Gates wing, and federal education law (No Child Left Behind – NCLB) due to be re-written, we should pay attention to the “new deal” CCSSO and NGA have for the last circle of influence — Congress. Their plan for NCLB is to use our federal dollars to improve data systems, assessments, and consolidation of “reporting to a single office in the U.S. Department of Education [ED] that manages all data requests and collections…”(with good intentions, of course – page 9,#10 ). Plus, “they” suggest some new power be given to the Secretary to approve “new policy models” in our states in the name of “innovation.”

Are we setting up a system that is vulnerable to the further corruption of power?

The good and bad of it — Common Core can be one powerful tool for improvement of instruction, or, one ultra-powerful weapon to be used at will.

The last instrument of influence over public education that we the People have – as a nation – is Congress through No Child Left Behind. What is the will of the People?

(Originally posted as an article in April of 2013 on the Federalist Papers Project site under current events. More recently, I found time to go back and look at the origin of Common Core and have had a personal encounter that prompted me to look closer at the Common Core story. )

Twisting the Truth

“The nation’s governors developed Common Core.” That is the Bloomberg View on the development of The Core. Readership? Probably pretty widespread!

And the history of Common Core is being told in this U.S. News & World Report and elsewhere as having been started by former Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano. Her (?) 2008 report is purported to be what has led the way ever since. After that bite of information, this article depends on Rick Hess (resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute) and Dane Linn (VP of the Business Roundtable, Education and Workforce Committee) to tell the story.

Web of Deception

Web of Deception

The article then leads its readers to believe that Achieve (a Bill Gates created organization) stepped in to help. Fact: “they” were in it all along!

And low and behold, “It was decided that ‘the key to advancing any of these recommendations [made by the governors] was to start with the standards,’ Linn says.”

The rest of the story, as told in this article, paints a picture of the arduous work of creating these new “benchmarked” standards by the main stakeholder groups —union and non-union members holding hands— to produce our wondrous “new” standards. The backlash to Common Core is painted as purely political.

The events that unfolded with the unveiling of Common Core and its tests “served as fodder for the federal-overreach debate.”

The real truth; right in the Memorandum of Agreement, which governors and school chiefs signed, it states (page 3):

In particular, the federal government can provide key financial support for this effort in developing a common core of state standards and in moving toward common assessments, such as through the Race to the Top Fund authorized in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. Further, the federal government can incentivize this effort through a range of tiered incentives, such as providing states with greater flexibility in the use of existing federal funds, supporting a revised state accountability structure, and offering financial support for states to effectively implement the standards. Additionally, the federal government can provide additional long-term financial support for the development of common assessments, teacher and principal professional development, other related common core standards supports, and a research agenda that can help continually improve the common core over time. Finally, the federal government can revise and align existing federal education laws with the lessons learned from states’ international benchmarking efforts and from federal research.”

 

Federal involvement appears to be dictated by the Common Core agreement. Governors signed it.

So when did The Core start? 2007 with Bill Gates, the most influential person in education reform policy? 2008 with the governors (and Gates funded Achieve)?

Was it “just” accelerated in 2009 with a group of high-powered “thinkers” getting together in D.C. to produce Smart Options and deciding that “priority 1” is to develop common American standards with our Recovery Act dollars?

At the moment, the truth is our reality. The rest of the story is this — The copyright on Common Core standards are privately held by two D.C. unions of bureaucrats. The National Governors Association (NGA) and Council of Chief States School Officers (CCSSO) are nothing more than that – D.C. unions of government officials with no responsibility for results and with very murky transparency as to the flow of money.

The Chief architect of Common Core – Mr. David Coleman – sat on the Smart Options committee and directs the College Board (SAT testing)….There are lots of private dollar connections….D.C. insiders pushed The Common Core…..The plans have always been to use federal law to make this “work.” Question is; whom is it working for?

#WorkForMe

America, wake up! ———–This isn’t about “just standards.”

If we want national standards for our public schools that prepare students for college, isn’t it public colleges and universities that are most aware of the knowledge and skills gaps they are seeing in their students? Wouldn’t it make more sense to assign them to the task of helping us improve the education of our public school children? Won’t gaps in student preparation differ in degree and areas of concern depending on the current quality of education in a given location?

Run this by me again, why are we redoing the whole system and gearing it towards another one-size-fits –all “fix”? Twisted thinking, me thinks.

Research Made Me Do It

“Research” can be defined as a careful investigation to discover facts…and so my Common Core saga began.

Asked if I would write an article about the Common Core standards, I hesitated because, already having boxes full of “standards,” I had purposely avoided stepping into that pile of manure again. But, I agreed to look at the topic closer and if I felt comfortable about my knowledge of the issue, I’d write something.

I began with the original “development team.” I looked deeply at the people deciding who to focus on based on their current title and place of employment. I looked into individuals that obviously worked for the education industry versus those working for public institutions. With 135 members, I had to narrow my search and this is about PUBLIC education, which is based on a public trust.

Six hours after beginning, I stood up from my desk with dry burning eyes and shaky knees.

It is not alright in my mind to have data collection, mining, and information systems specialists that already hold (therefore control) our information for national energy and defense systems to also hold student information and be part of developing “THE” standards upon which the WHOLE public education system will evolve.

AND, too many of these people also sat on boards of directors for the too-big-to-fail financiers. Recall – THEY DID FAIL! These people’s failures reeked havoc on our lives and they ended up sitting on this “education reform” development team?

I can’t give you the full six hours of findings but here is a sampling.

YOU DECIDE: Developed by a coalition of state governments? NOTE: Those not familiar with the influential in education “reform” might want to follow a map!

The Original Development Team included:
David Coleman – president of Student Achievement Partners (see also Jason Zimba for connections) president of the College Board and McKinsey & Co. consultant

Phil Daro of America’s Choice (acquired by Pearson book publisher) & Strategic Education Research Partnership (SERP) – supplier of Core Curriculum & associated with Goldman Sachs Foundation.

Susan Eddins – Illinois & Science Academy Educational Consultant as well as Fortune 500 consultant.

Sol Garfunkel executive director of COMAP – supplying curriculum materials – with advisers from Decision Systems Inc. ( specializing in “business intelligence” and data mining for IBM & Microsoft, Carnegie Mellon Software Engineering Inst., Proctor Houston & Assoc., Ferrio Assoc. – ed tech marketing firm who work with Dana Center and Istron Group….funding…a long list but includes Exxon, Department of Ed, IBM, Intel…you get the idea.

Jason Zimba – private college professor with association to Student Achievement Partners whose board of advisers include Phil Daro and Jim Rosenthal – associated with Morgan Stanley, Smith Barney, Lehman Brothers & McKinsey & Co.

Andrew Chen president of EduTron Corporation – interactive course ware 6-12.

Uri Treisman executive director of Charles A. Dana Center – associated with the National Governors Assoc., CCSSO – Council of Chief State School Officers, Agile Mind – “internet tools at a fraction of the costs” & the Gates Foundation.

Matthew Davis director of reading program at Core Knowledge Foundation…E.D. Hirsch writer of Core Curriculum Jr.

Both David and Meredith Liben (who they know?) of Liben Education Consulting, L.L.C. – Student Achievement Partner.

Louisa Moats – Moats Associates Consulting, Inc.

Laura Mongello – VP Product Development, The Quarasan Group Inc. – private publishing & content development whose clientele includes Pearson.

Gates funded Achieve members – William McCallum, Laura McGiffert Slover, Douglas Sovde, JoAnne T. Eresh, Susan Pimentel

ACT associations – Ken Mullen, Nina Metzner, Jim Patterson

Private Colleges – you want to trace the funding? – 11 represented.

SO, my mild little article was about the power and control of THE Common Core while deep in my core – based on where my own research took me – the only right thing to do is to help #StopCommonCore

OUR country; OUR schools.

OUR country; OUR schools, too important to let fail.

We never needed THE Common Core to bring back the fostering of critical thinking, better writing, and teaching children how to show their work. We used to do those things before we began marching in the wrong direction.

 

“Just” Standards

“These standards are just that—they are standards.” These are the words used by Luci Willits of Idaho State Department of Education, Chief of Staff to Tom Luna, as she introduced Common Core to our Senate Education Committee (1/19/11). And you will hear that sentiment parroted by others; “The standards are just that: standards.” Bill Gates (2/12/14)

But when you look further, you can find the claim that “When the grant [Race to the Top] was put forth, the State Department of Education went to the colleges to ensure that any student who passes these standards will be able to go to any college without the need of remedial training.”

Standards DON’T “ensure” student success. Somehow, these standards became magical standards. And all of Idaho’s major colleges and universities stood with arms locked in testimony to the Core.

Standards are “just” guides. But these standards —The Common Core Standards — are much, much more. They are the Trojan Horse of systemic transformation.

But Idaho’s department of education went even further in claiming “There is also tremendous cost-savings associated with these standards; Idaho will be able to get the test it has always wanted but never been able to pay for.” Who will pay? The same magician sprinkling fairy dust, or, will we all be paying the pied piper?

Lawmakers across the country are being asked to judge whether this is the change that is best for children, families, and communities. How will they make the call when the horse is so attractive?

Expose what is in the belly of the beast. The foundational principles, or the assumptions that are made by those in power, are what is important to understand.

Look inside!

Look inside!

  • The State will decide what education outcomes are important based on economic data.
  • Local control is a barrier that can be gotten around by training school board members properly (decided by the Broad Foundation?).
  • Lay-citizen participation in governance of schools should be weakened “in favor of control by politicians, especially governors, elected positions in general government.” (Marc Tucker, Governing American Education, page 44)

Real school improvement involves “lay-citizens.” But that is not how it is seen from above.

I know many people believe that private industry can do a better job than public institutions. But, please, think about what happens when private associations and organizations are using the law to their benefit – monetarily or for political power – what will be the true cost to taxpayers?

In Idaho, as it would seem to be the case across the country, the seemingly innocent policy of strategic planning and training of school boards is being put into law. It is putting the governing of schools at the local level in jeopardy.

Strategic planning is not necessarily a school improvement process; it all depends on who does the “training” and what “curriculum” they are using. What will those in control be “leveraging” our board members to do?

Close the gate (so to speak). Keep the Trojan Horse out!

Decide how schools will be governed. It matters!

Mr. Gates & Common Core Myths

Dear Mr. Gates,

About your “myths”:

Myth: Common Core was created without involving parents, teachers or state and local governments.
In calling this a myth, you are making an assumption that governors and school officials represent parents’ views.
“Each of the 45 states that have adopted them used the same process used to adopt previous standards?” NOT true here in Idaho.

Myth: Common Core State Standards means students will have to take even more high-stakes tests.
It isn’t the number of “high-stakes tests” that we dissenters object to; it is the detrimental effects of high-stakes testing. THAT is the biggest problem with the No Child Left Behind philosophy of “education reform.”

Myth: Common Core standards will limit teachers’ creativity and flexibility.
This is the first I have heard this “myth” worded like this so it must not be far-reaching. Standards do limit curriculum when tied to high-stakes testing so that might be where you misinterpret the “myth.”

If you and all others like you, Mr. Gates, understood the real basis – original findings – of Effective Schools Research, you would see that standards aren’t the deciding factor at all in school improvement and how it is accomplished.

There is value in consistency – in national guiding principles (philosophy of pedagogy, school culture, curriculum guidelines, benchmarks, roles of each level of the governance structure, standards of practice, ethics, responsibilities and expectations of each “player” being defined).

Mr. Gates, when you first began focusing on education, you said you would “read up” on the topic. I tried my hardest to be heard by you but your gatekeepers proved formidable. But the reality is, there is a huge problem here in my thinking that I need to be heard by you rather than by MY OWN government.

Common Core is “inspired by a simple and powerful idea: Every American student should leave high school with the knowledge and skills to succeed in college and in the job market.” That is EXACTLY what was being said here in Idaho prior to No Child Left Behind. I still have the old documents to prove it.

Study harder, Mr. Gates. You missed the history of the failures of reforms. Doomed to repeat them?

Regrettably,

The crucial voice of the people?

The crucial voice of the people?

Dr. Young – Parent, former public school patron, long time advocate for public schools, researcher, author – and one more voice unheard by the powerful.