“Smart Options” & the Revolving Door of Common Core

Remember The Great Recession? Did you know that, while Main Street was struggling to stay financially alive, there was a group meeting to determine the “smart options” for our schools? These people were smart all right…in looking out for their own self-interests.

Relatively few people knew about this meeting. So it’s understandable that most people did not see Common Core as the weapon of mass destruction that it is. In pursuit of the truth, please read on.

The following is a revised and updated version of a 2014 DailyKOS post. The original details more of the people involved in the plot to take advantage of a hurting nation. …  This is where the Smart Options saga began. … D.C.

How smart people kicked public schools when they were down.

Washington D.C. is known for its revolving door of political influence. Behind-closed-doors deals are the norm. That made it the perfect place for this group to hatch a blueprint for spending our American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) education dollars.

But when this meeting took place in April of 2009, few people were talking about how a common core of standards could be used against public school children. After all, WE were in The Great Recession. And THEY were not feeling our pain.

The fact is that education “reformers,” philanthropic organizations, venture capitalists, and politicians followed the dogma expressed by then Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, “You never let a serious crisis go to waste.”… They didn’t.

And their plan was written up as Smart Options: Investing the Recovery Funds for Student Success. The Bill & Melinda Gates and Eli & Edythe Broad Foundations sponsored the publication (among other things). The Gates influence over education policy is well-known while Eli Broad probably requires a bit of introduction for many.

Eli Broad made his billions mainly through real estate dealings and SunAmerica, which was sold and re-branded as AIG (yes, the same AIG that was too big to fail).

The Broad Foundation focuses on governance of schools, management training of leaders, and hands out generous “prizes” to charter management organizations.

Opportunity knocked; the Smart Options group answered.

Open the door on this one meeting and you will see how the country was purposely duped into financially supporting the education and technology INDUSTRIES ahead of schools.

Entered —the Core support team — the Coalition for Student Achievement, Aka College and Career-Ready America.

These Smart Options participants set the spending priorities and claimed that if states focused on their collection of “big ideas” the country would see “real educational results” by 2012.

Priority #1 “A common core of fewer, clearer, higher, evidence-based, college-and career-ready standards adopted by at least 40 states…”

Priority #2 “More robust and user-friendly data and information systems.”

Priority #3  “A meaningful professional teacher evaluation system in every state and school district.”

Priority #4By 2012, states and districts should have shut down at least 500 of these [low-performing] schools and replaced them with new, higher-performing schools…including charter schools.” — That is a quote.

Priority #5 “Targeted interventions provided to the students who are at least two years behind academically in reading, writing, and mathematics.”

Priority #1 became Common Core Standards even though the claims of being “evidence-based” were never substantiated. Priorities 2,3, and 4 caused chaos.

It wasn’t just one district that used Recovery funds “inappropriately.” The scenario across the country was money spent on standards, testing, and technology. The statement above is from the largest district in Eli Broad’s backyard, LA. Source: Recovery Act & Chaos.

What about the last priority, helping students?

Usually the devil is in the details. But with this, the specifics were few and the Recovery dollars didn’t materialize into the promised “results.” But, despite Bill Gate’s claim that Common Core failed, it didn’t. The core federal plan did work.

Instead of fully stabilizing funding for schools, the “smart option” became a “race to the top.” The collection of data and establishment of state longitudinal data systems became the core priority. And the core system is close to completion. … How?…

Look at who was at this table set for 40.

The Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation had three foundation employees there. Additionally, there were seven other people who were either graduates of the Broad leadership training, or had a role in governing the Broad training center.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation had four representatives directly from their parent organization. But seated at this table, just about everyone else had connections with Gates. Plus, among those many Gates’ associates were three groups essential to launching the Common Core State Standards Initiative (CCSSI, as Common Core was originally called):

P-20W is Preschool through Workforce.

Data Quality Campaign: They proudly state, “In 2009, 8 states used state funds to support their P–20W data systems. In 2013, despite difficult economic times, 41 states committed state funds to ensure the long-term sustainability.

Council of the Great City Schools: With outreach to 67 of the largest urban districts, they had  received a Gates grant to assist in implementing Common Core.

Student Achievement Partners (Aka Achieve the Core): The lead writers of the Common Core Standards, David Coleman, Susan Pimentel, and Jason Zimba, created this organization. David Coleman represented them at this meeting.

Common Core was central to the plot but a distraction from the bigger issue.

Now, the essential and basic question in need of answering is, after seeing how these people met and planned….

is this how we should govern the education of America’s children?

Let’s look closer at THEIR process for transforming OUR schools. Here are some of the other smart people AT THE TABLE.

KSA–Plus Communications, Inc. was present for their expertise in providing “education communications and strategic consulting to set education agendas in motion.”

McKinsey & Co. provides services including data analysis and transformation — boasting about having the ability to “drive adoption throughout the organization.”

Last but not least in the area of transformation was Alvarez & Marsal. They are known for “restructuring” and “turnaround” for companies including Enron and the failed Lehman Brothers. “Mavericks” on the ready “when conventional approaches are not enough to activate change,” they promise to “accelerate results through decisive action.”

But for these smart, self-interested dictators of reform to succeed, they needed to dictate education policy. — They needed to direct our public dollars by directing our laws.

So also in attendance was a representative from Education Counsel LLC with their “track record of forging the kind of partnerships needed to bring about meaningful and systemic change.”

In addition, there were two representatives from Education Sector (Aka American Institutes for Research – AIR), a D.C. non-profit education policy think tank. And as they state on their website;

“The reauthorization of ESEA (No Child Left Behind) is the nexus of all of our K-12 work, including testing, accountability, teacher quality, finance, data, and school choice.”

COMMON CORE STANDARDS provide COMMON DATA. They were never JUST standards. The Core was always about their SYSTEM.

And No Child Left Behind became the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) as planned EXCEPT the name was supposed to be the Every Child Ready for College or Career Act.

Words have been changed but the core principles remain deeply embedded in FEDERAL law. Yet, the selling point for ESSA was the false claim of a return to state and local control. Or by the term “state” did Congress mean the Special Interest State?

Who governs our schools?

Did this system of exchange of COMMON student data evolve “IN A CLIMATE OF TRUST”? For “MUTUAL BENEFITS”?

Are we ready to put our trust in philanthropic venture capitalists to train our teachers, our leaders, and educate our children? Is the public even aware that the private education industry is already doing all these things? And do people know the extent to which children’s data is being gathered and tracked? Do you know why?

The system our Recovery Act dollars helped build is called a “human capital development data system.”

Now, do we close the door on what we have allowed to transpire and let the Smart Options dictators proceed with their plan?

Do we turn a blind eye and a deaf ear to OUR public education system and let it become a casualty of the Special Interest State? Do we let it become their human capital development system?

Do we really think this is our smartest option?

Common Core Tests & Teachers

One piece of the Common Core “system” is the Common Core “next generation” tests. It was the creators’ intention that test scores be used in teacher evaluations. It is high-stakes testing.

To understand why I came to this conclusion, it’s essential that people clearly understand the words used in official documents.

“State assessments” means Common Core assessments unless otherwise designated. “College and Career Ready” now means Common Core aligned. “Local control” means control over what local people are allowed to have input on after the schools have complied with federal and state laws. Your local school board? That is another topic.

“Autonomy” in the face of a system controlled by profiteers working the political strings means nothing.

Early on in the Common Core States Standards Initiative (CCSSI), the National Parent Teacher Association (PTA) accepted money for purposes they outlined very well. Their document Educating & Training Parents to Support Education Reform looks and sounds great on page one. Page two begins to layout the system. Screen Shot 2015-04-11 at 1.55.36 PM

Think about it. Outreach to the parents and the public to “increase awareness”? Alright. Plot to align Common Core Standards to curriculum, assessments, policies, budgets, college admissions and financial aid? The initiative was about more than national standards.

And we can’t forget accountability. “Accountability systems” are brought up repeatedly. But, what does that mean?

Ask the architect of Common Core, David Coleman. When he was the head of The Coalition for Student Achievement group, there was a gathering in Washington D.C. to decide how to use OUR American Reinvestment and Recovery Act dollars. In addition to common standards, it was decided that “…at least 50% of teacher ratings…” should be based on “academic progress.” Many state policymakers jumped aboard that train.

If teachers are “rated” individually by student progress on Common Core aligned assessments, don’t we have to do these assessments at least twice a year to measure real growth due to a teacher? Double the testing money?

But when this group left their little meeting in D.C., it was the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) and National Governors Association (NGA) who brought this “initiative” forward as “state-led.” Here’s the BIG GUN in the Common Core plan.

It was quite a meeting of the minds in the Spring of 2009 in D.C.

It was quite a meeting of the minds in the Spring of 2009 in D.C.

CCSSO and NGA prepared their ESEA Reauthorization Principles and Recommendations. What’s the big deal?

They called it their "new deal."

They call it their “new deal.”

Once revisions to ESEA (currently called No Child Left Behind) are put in place, it will be extremely difficult to change. My proof? No Child Left Behind was due to be rewritten in 2007. It didn’t happen even in the face of knowing with certainty that it was detrimental to a generation of already under-served children. Change? Outcry? Action? By the People, yes. By Congress? Not soon enough.

If CCSSO and NGA are allowed to be leaders of the pack on ESEA, one principle upon which this law will stand for another decade is that ESEA will “set the baseline for state policy (in assessments, accountability, consequences, etc.)…”Screen Shot 2015-04-21 at 11.51.06 AM

Thus far, it appears these ideas are leading Federal and State “leaders.” The House Student Success Act (H.R.5) still mandates yearly “state” testing and now shifts “accountability” and teacher evaluations to the State. The draft Senate version applies the same “guiding” principle. This policy ping-pong (partnership), I’ve seen played before when outcome-based education hit the States before being federalized in No Child Left Behind.

So, will the federal government set “baselines” or “just” require federal approval of all state plans? Will federal law mandate that “All accountability systems includes student academic achievement and growth”?

Is federal law being used to uphold a very controversial private/somewhat public partnership “initiative” that the majority of the public did not know was being put in place?

Screen Shot 2015-04-21 at 11.58.24 AM

The addition of “critical thinking skills” has been a major selling point. Working to encourage children to think critically is nothing new to education.

But back to our teachers and include school leaders as these familiar groups did.

CCSSO, with their buddies at NGA, wrote Our Responsibility, Our Promise that aligns all teacher and principal development with the Common Core. These are two non-governmental trade associations. Don’t you think the preparation for teachers and school leaders FOR PUBLIC SCHOOLS should be based on the standards and principles upon which WE —the public— want, believe, stand upon, respect, and trust to guide us well?

When the people behind the development of Common Core and the Core plan decided to transform the system to do their bidding, they needed to set the agenda in motion, drive adoption throughout the system, and accelerate results through divisive action especially if they felt the need to get this done while the Great Recession had the public’s attention. Screen Shot 2015-04-21 at 3.30.01 PMYou see —I hope—that the same people behind the curtain of our TOO BIG TOO FAIL epic story of BIG MONEY laughing all the way to the bank and leaving THE LITTLE PEOPLE scraping by, are some of the same people behind the revolving door of Common Core. Could we please HIT PA– USE?

There are people who see the Common Core standards as just standards because of the “facts” they have heard.

Please stop and ask that person that is so passionately fighting against Common Core what it is that stirred their passion. Please stop and listen to them. Will they mess up some details? Chances are they will because the truth has been hard to find.

But ask yourself, are these “just standards”?

Teachers, are you sure you know what “they” have planned for your profession?

Airing the Dirty Laundry

It rained this morning in the high-mountain desert region of Idaho so that makes it the perfect day to air out the house. First, I’m going to finish airing my grievances with the “Super Supers” presentation.

As most of us commoners know — for leaders to do something we want, they have to believe it is their idea.

So as I listened to Dr. Eric Smith tell a “common” Core story that the Common Core State Initiative hatched in Chicago, I was struck with a notion. What if these people honestly believe this WAS their idea?

I had attended a local Common Core dog-and-pony show and one administrator there enthusiastically believed she had been in on this “state-led” adventure – because Mr. Tom Luna (Idaho’s Chief for Change) had brought her along to… you guessed it…Chicago.

And listening to Dr. Smith tell the same story in his easy, down-home manner really makes it believable.

You can read the Chicago story for yourselves by scrolling down to CORE BEGINNINGS in this Huffington Post article. But it doesn’t tell the whole story. No one seems to be able to do that.

You will hear it told that there was help from some “simultaneous efforts by outside groups.”

Right. Coincidence. And in their efforts to be “credited” with the Core, one group put out their plan ahead of the rest.

No coincidence who was on that planning “committee.” It was once called the Coalition for Student Achievement and none other than the Common Core architect himself, David Coleman, was there. They produced their paper, got their letter to the Obama administration, and got in the news by April 16, 2009.

They met in D.C. in “early” April 2009. “They” work fast.

Oh, but wait; there was the earlier Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano’s part in the Common Core story. She is credited with the “Innovation America” paper written in 2007 and low-and-behold, David Coleman and Jason Zimba joined the effort.

“Coleman and Zimba went to work on a seminal paper for the Carnegie Foundation that called for “math and science standards that are fewer, clearer, higher.” Directors at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation saw the paper and were impressed by its ideas. They funded some of Coleman’s work — and eventually dropped as much as $75 million on what would become the Common Core.” HuffPost

From 2007 to 2009, it appears that David Coleman carried the ball to D.C. through his Student Achievement Partners -to- the Coalition for Student Achievement meetings …. but wait, there are the airport meetings …

This “story” gets better. As Eric Smith explained to the Boise crowd: It was just this casual conversation (I paraphrase because no video yet) — “hey, why should we redo algebra in Florida and you redo it in Kentucky? Algebra is algebra. Let’s work together.” And we were “taking notes on napkins.” Really? You didn’t need to; Coleman had you covered.

But the show must go on … in Chicago

“At one point, Eric Smith, then the head of Florida’s schools, asked CCSSO and NGA to send around an agreement that would allow states to opt into the process of creating new standards.

Lucky for Smith, that document already existed. [Chris] Minnich and [Dane] Linn passed around a “Memorandum of Agreement” they had written hoping that governors and schools chiefs would sign on. The memo committed states to participate in the process of developing common learning standards, but specified that the standards would remain voluntary.”

“A few months later, the project got a sudden boost from the federal government.” HuffPost

Surprise, surprise?

“[Terry ] Holliday, the Kentucky schools chief, said. No one from the federal government attended that meeting, he added, emphasizing that the adoption of the Core was, at least initially, a state-led effort.”  HuffPost

That infamous meeting in Chicago was on April 17, 2009. And it was reported, “A representative of the Education Department was slated to attend the Chicago meeting.”

There must have been a bouncer at the door.

“So NGA and CCSSO representatives lobbied the Education Department several times to get the Common Core standards adoption requirement cut from Race to the Top guidelines. The feds didn’t exactly back off, but they did remove the term “Common Core” from the guidelines, requiring instead that states adopt “college- and career-ready standards.” The administration also allocated $350 million in stimulus cash to fund the development of tests aligned to the Common Core.” HuffPost

Well, at least we know that the government was good at delivering the mail. The coalition’s letter must have gone through.

So much for Rahm Emanuels Quiet Revolution and as far as his statement that “You never want a serious crisis to go to waste,” that is still playing out for education reform. We could come up with a “Fair Shot Agenda.” But no liars allowed in the meeting…so…

Which “leaders” are telling the truth and which have joined the masters of deception?

Until proven otherwise, I’d say the whole damned bunch is trying to pull the wool over our eyes. This is disgusting. Shame on them! Either they are dishonest or just too damned dumb to be leading!

“Our stimulus dollars” went into the hands and pockets of some already well-to-do people while the very schools that we say we want to turnaround are doing without teaching supplies and proper building maintenance. Meanwhile, the public system is being dismantled — parents being told to go homeschool if they don’t like the tests and wish to opt out.

Ladies and gentlemen, the old saying about liars led us to believe that when your laundry is soiled with lies, your pants will catch on fire. I wish.

If only it was so easy to tell.

If only it was so easy to tell.    Source:tnvalleytalks.hoop.la

And to all you Common Core supporters out there: look beyond the end of your noses and beyond your own classroom doors and windows. Look into the future and imagine this system “they” are creating. You are enabling them.

You are selling us out. These are not just standards.

I’d personally prefer to talk about the alternatives for helping struggling schools. I’d rather see us do the right thing.

Professional standards of practice and trust in the institution of public education can’t be built on a rotten foundation or one of sand.

The sun is now shining. #TruthBeTold

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P.S. My original research on Common Core looked at some of the official players on the development team. What I didn’t know at the time I wrote this blog was how INFLUENTIAL the SMART OPTIONS group was. The April dates seem confusing but it was that confusion that made me look further.

I’m not here to convince people what they should think. I’m here to encourage people to look beyond what they first see, seek the truth….really look for it…before taking a firm stance. And think about more than just their own immediate circumstances. Think about the future.

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 wreaked 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.