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The Fizzle of Common Core Face, Student Achievement Partners

The chief purpose of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) initiative was to develop a “common core” of ELA and math standards that states (ideally all) would adopt so that state education might be standardized and therefore comparable using similar assessments.

At the center of CCSS development was Student Achievement Partners (SAP), an organization created in 2007 that became a nonprofit in 2011 (EIN 27-4556045). SAP was founded by David Coleman and Jason Zimba, with Susan Pimentel later grafted in as a founding member– although any mention of her being involved in SAP prior to the emergence of completed CCSS in June 2010 is notably absent from all of her pre-2012, non-SAP bio sketches. (I briefly discuss the Pimentel SAP-founder grafting in this December 2013 post.)

On its 2017 “about” page, SAP offers the following info about its “founders”:

Student Achievement Partners was founded by David Coleman, Susan Pimentel and Jason Zimba, lead writers of the Common Core State Standards.

Prior to SAP, the well-connected Coleman had another ed org, a company called Grow Network, which had a $2 million contract with Chicago Public Schools (CPS) in 2003, when Arne Duncan was CPS CEO. In 2004, Coleman sold Grow Network to McGraw-Hill.

Following the completion of CCSS in June 2010, the SAP website, achievethecore.org, began promoting CCSS. At the time, it seemed like CCSS would be the next golden chariot for many with careers tied to ed reform, and for Coleman, it was, sort of. In May 2012, Coleman became president of the College Board, another organization on the inside of CCSS development. Zimba and Pimentel remained with SAP, and other CCSS “lead writers” (Phil Daro and Bill McCallum) boarded the SAP ship, as did former Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) CEO, Gene Wilhoit. (It was Wilhoit who, with Coleman, approached billionaire Bill Gates in 2008 and asked him to finance CCSS.)

It is one thing to become College Board president; it is another to succeed at it. Under Coleman, the College Board has been riddled with difficulty and dysfunction, not the least of which is Coleman’s sloppy SAT revamp. Coleman has not been removed as College Board president. Not yet, at least.

As for Pimentel and Zimba: They are still listed on the SAP website, as “staff,” but nothing notable seems to have become of them (or of the CCSS they championed, for that matter). According to SAP’s 2014 tax form (the most recent one available), Pimentel and Zimba were SAP “executive directors” and were paid $338,491 and $331,813 in total compensation, respectively.

It remains to be seen what compensation the two pulled in 2015. Perhaps the grant money was still rolling in at that time. Perhaps it had not yet tapered off. (An aside: In 2014, SAP had $9.5 million in total assets at the beginning of the year and $6.5 million at the end.)

Zimba has a blog, the bio on which betrays no job beyond defunct SAP. Zimba’s blog is the most recent contribution available by Zimba via a Google search of his name. Everything else written by Zimba appears to be years old.

As for Pimentel, it looks like she is serving on the board of an organization she founded, StandardsWork. However, the StandardsWork “in the news” page has not been updated since June 2015. Like Zimba, Pimentel is likely continuing to draw money from SAP.

Pimentel’s current StandardsWork bio has her as a founding partner of SAP; however, an archived copy of her StandardsWork bio from 2010– three years after the 2007 founding of SAP– doesn’t mention SAP at all.

A Google search of Susan Pimentel reveals no recent (i.e., in 2016) writing or other professional productivity or employment.

On SAP’s 2014 tax form, Wilhoit was listed as a “partner”; he drew $145,577 in total compensation. Wilhoit is still with SAP as a board member and is also with the University of Kentucky (UK) National Center for Innovation in Education (NCIE), which Gates paid one million dollars in February 2013 to help launch expressly “to advance implementation of the common core.”

NCIE continues to promote CCSS, with Wilhoit “spearheading” it:

The National Center for Innovation in Education was established in 2013 at the University of Kentucky College of Education with funding from two of the country’s leading foundations — the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation.

The center is directed by Gene Wilhoit, a former Kentucky Department of Education commissioner who is a highly regarded figure in national education circles. Wilhoit most recently spent six years as director of the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) in Washington D.C. During his tenure at CCSSO, Wilhoit spearheaded the development and adoption by 45 states of the Common Core State Standards.

“The Hewlett Foundation has been pleased to support ongoing deeper learning initiatives across the country. We are excited now to partner with the Gates Foundation to help Gene Wilhoit establish this important center at the University of Kentucky,” said Barbara Chow, director of the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation’s Education Program. “States from around the nation will benefit from Gene’s wisdom, experience, and vision for ensuring that U.S. education delivers and measures the knowledge, skills, and dispositions students will need to succeed in work, life, and citizenship.”

The National Center for Innovation in Education contributes to the national education reform agenda with a focus on ensuring more states are adopting and implementing a standard definition of college and career readiness that embodies “deeper learning” outcomes, implementing meaningful measures of those outcomes, and holding all levels of the system accountable for results. [Emphasis added.]

In November 2016, Gates gave UK another $5 million “to support system-wide shifts, working with both state and local levels, around the implementation of the Common Core, and the adoption of personalized and deeper learning strategies.”

Gates has not given up on CCSS, but he has considerably curbed his CCSS spending. Of the 10 CCSS-related grants Gates paid in 2016, only 3 are for national organizations to promote CCSS nationally; in July 2016, the Center for American Progress was given $1 million “to increase support for and reduce opposition to the Common Core and high-quality assessments, and to promote high-quality early childhood education through strategic advocacy efforts that bring new voices into the early childhood movement,” and in August 2016, New Venture Fund garnered $7.6 million “to support national communications work around Common Core, high-quality and aligned assessments, and ESSA implementation.”

As for SAP, well, its message about the Common Core actually being a “core” has been modified to return to what the Common Core was supposed to replace– variety among states when it comes to academic standards in ELA and math.

Here is how SAP stated its purpose in September 2013:

Student Achievement Partners was founded by members of the same team that played a leading role in the development of the new Common Core State Standards. We are a non- profit organization with one purpose: to help all students and teachers see their hard work lead to greater student achievement.

As educators, as researchers, and as citizens, we view the changes brought by the college and career readiness focus of the Common Core State Standards as a once-in-a-generation opportunity for kids of all backgrounds and ability levels to better fulfill their potential. Like the standards themselves, we are evidence-based in our approach. Our work is aimed at ensuring that teachers across the country are able to put the standards to work, quickly and effectively, to help their students and colleagues aspire to a higher standard and reach it. Accordingly, the content available on this site is assembled by and for educators and is freely available to everyone to use, modify and share.

We invite educators and people curious about the Common Core State Standards to explore what the site has to offer, including hundreds of math and literacy resources for teachers, resources for leaders who are putting college and career readiness standards into action in their own schools, and opportunities to become an advocate for the Common Core. [Emphasis added.]

SAP’s purpose page remained the same in September 2014, January 2015, February 2015, and March 2015, but by June 2015, the SAP story of “the Common Core State Standards as a once-in-a-generation opportunity for kids of all backgrounds and ability levels to better fulfill their potential” was modified to make room for cries to dump CCSS:

Student Achievement Partners was founded by David Coleman, Susan Pimentel and Jason Zimba, lead writers of the Common Core State Standards. We are a non-profit organization with one purpose: to help all students and teachers see their hard work lead to greater student achievement.

As educators, as researchers, and as citizens, we view the changes brought by the Common Core and other state standards with a similar focus on college and career readiness as a once-in-a-generation opportunity for kids of all backgrounds and ability levels to better fulfill their potential. Like the standards themselves [Schneider’s note: “The” standards? Which standards?], we are evidence-based in our approach. Our work is aimed at ensuring that teachers across the country are able to put the standards to work, quickly and effectively, to help their students and colleagues aspire to a higher standard and reach it. Accordingly, the content available on this site is assembled by and for educators and is freely available to everyone to use, modify and share.

We invite educators and people curious about the Common Core State Standards to explore what the site has to offer, including hundreds of math and literacy resources for teachers, resources for leaders who are putting college and career readiness standards into action in their own schools, and opportunities to become an advocate for the Common Core and college and career readiness for all students. [Emphasis added.]

 So, the SAP purpose went from promoting “common” to promoting common and not common, as well. 

Moreover, SAP appears stagnant.

SAP’s last “in the news” release is from March 2015– almost two years old as of this writing. An excerpt:

  • 2015-03-17 | STUDENT ACHIEVEMENT PARTNERS
New Teaching the Core Video Library Created

Student Achievement Partners is delighted to announce the launch of the Teaching the Core Video Library, a project supported by the Danielson Group and funded by The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust.

The previous SAP “in the news” entry is two years old, from January 2015:

Jason Zimba: The Common Core and Different Instructional Approaches

Jason Zimba, one of the lead writers of the Common Core and co-founder of SAP, has written a blog post entitled: When the Standard Algorithm Is the Only Algorithm Taught. The blog addresses the relationship between the Common Core and pedagogy, specifically looking at the way in which the Standards allow for different instructional approaches.

The SAP website appears to have modest traffic, especially given that it offers free CCSS materials. According to the web traffic tracker, Similarweb, achievethecore.org has not received as much traffic for any two-weeks over a 6-month period (July 11 thru November 28, 2016) as has education historian, Diane Ravitch’s site, dianeravitch.net.

Readers are still visiting the SAP website; however, it seems that visits to the site are more like visits to a museum. The SAP home page has a “new and notable” sidebar with its most recent entry dated February 2016– almost a year old.

Thus, the organization at the center of CCSS development in 2009– Student Achievement Partners– is at best in 2017 a once-well-funded fizzle.

RELATED ARTICLE: How Colorado parents were threatened, ignored, and deceived by school officials after exposing hardcore pornography available via middle school’s Internet portal.

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Changing Minds

Two of the finest institutions of higher education in the United States, Columbia and Cornell, have been identified as leading the list of “most anti-Semitic,” as they continue to host Jew hatred events on campus.  By the time our students enter this new phase in their education, they have been well primed for the venomous climate, having been molded into frustrated, resentful, disrespectful, demanding, angry young adults, ill prepared for anything, unable to accept responsibility, and ripe to lash out at others. These young people have already been activated and prepared to join any group that uses “social justice” language, whether warranted or not.

The K-12 classes provide the first toxic element.  Education is being restructured according to a radical political ideology promoted by the White House, Bill and Melinda Gates, and other supporters of a federal takeover of education. The purpose is to produce workers for a Global Economy (aka Agenda 21).  The major players are Valerie Jarrett’s mother, Barbara Taylor Bowman, a member of the Muslim Sisterhood; native-born terrorists Bill Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn Ayers (Weather Underground) who support a radical network to defeat America; and Secretary of Education (ret.) Arne Duncan, who promoted the Common Core Standards, with its drastic, untried curriculum overhaul that has lowered school standards to ensure that no child is left behind or excels at the expense of others. This is accompanied by the disturbing data mining that profiles the children (into adulthood) and their families. 

Classical literature, known to improve vocabulary and foster creative expression, thinking, speaking, and writing skills, has been jettisoned in favor of dry, uninspiring informational texts and Dystopian, sexualized, disheartening novels for children whose pre-frontal cortex is insufficiently developed to cope with the dark situations and mature content. The result is depression. Mary Calamia, licensed clinical social worker and psychotherapist in Stony Brook, NY, has reported that children have come to hate school, cry, wet the bed, experience insomnia, and engage in self-mutilation – an increase of 200 to 300 percent more children with serious trauma than before the new curriculum’s introduction.

Math problems once solved in a few steps now require a convoluted system. Karen Lamoreaux, mother of three and member of Arkansas Against Common Core, presented a simple 4th grade division problem to the Board of Education that one could solve in two steps, but now requires 108 steps to completion.  In New York, principals have reported that some students are severely stressed and even vomit during testing.

History has become another endangered learning experience. A popular textbook is Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States,” which focuses on “the exploitation of the majority by an elite minority,” designed to inspire a “quiet revolution.”  Historians heavily criticize the book’s concentration on slavery, racism, and colonialism while omitting America’s enormous achievements for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,. Students do not learn America’s founding documents – The Declaration of Independence, The Articles of Confederation, the Constitution, The Bill of Rights, or the Ten Commandments.  A new vocabulary is in use to give new meaning to old ideas, including “framers” for “founders,” indicating a flexible and distorted view of our history and heritage, and a turn to global governance. 

True history has been replaced with a counterfeit version, introducing the second toxic element. History Alive, another oft-used textbook, contains multiple chapters on Islam (whitewashed of its 1400 years of ongoing bloodshed and conquest), without equal time for Judaism and Christianity. Such studies may also include unscheduled trips to mosques, simulating a hajj to Mecca, girls’ donning traditional Muslim clothing, learning Arabic calligraphy, memorizing the Five Pillars of Islam and the Shahada, the testimony required to become Muslim. And, as if these approaches were insufficient, political indoctrination is included, using the Palestinian narrative to vilify the State of Israel and world Jewry.

To whom do we owe this new development? America’s educational institutions receive significant donations to create Middle Eastern and political science study programs that ensure the installation of anti-American professors. The students are besieged by Islamic and leftist indoctrination that demonize Israel, Jewish and American history, and disallows opposing views. The hate agenda is presented as scholarly and the West is blamed for Islam’s self-imposed or invented ills. Scheduled anti-Israel events are designed to promote the narrative of Israeli colonialism, and to delegitimize and erode support for Israel by advocating a boycott-divestment-sanctions (BDS) effort.

The propaganda campaign is global, well-financed and well-organized but the biggest focus is college campuses, where Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) and the Muslim Student Union use the rhetoric of social justice and human rights, historic Palestine, genocide, apartheid and oppression, to motivate the boycott movement and support the Islamic ideology of conquest. Jewish children are harassed and harmed. Our colleges are becoming breeding grounds for future jihadists who are turned against Israel and will one day soon turn against America.

The groups within the colleges are well-funded arms of the Muslim Brotherhood,  menacingly delivering their accusations and claims of apartheid, maltreatment of women, death to homosexuals, etc against the Jewish state, when, in fact, these are descriptive of the Muslim cultures. Islam allows homosexuality and pedophilia – sexual pleasure with pre-pubescent boys and infants, kidnapping for sexual slavery, polygamy, wife beating, stoning women, disfiguring their daughters with FGM and acid, chopping off hands and feet, death for apostasy, murder of Jewish and Christian civilians – and, quite recently, beheading a 15-year-old Iraqi boy for listening to pop music.  With the complicity of liberal instructors, a crisis is being nurtured for the purpose of acquiring power, diminishing freedom of speech, and promoting an increase of immigrating non-integrating Muslims who, throughhijra, will transform our Western countries. 

The situation has become so critical that schools are providing “safe spaces.” This is a concept not unlike “sacred space,” from Sharia, which Islam has established as an aggressive territorial system that holds all land on earth as given by Allah to Muhammad in perpetuity.  Kent State University invites students and community to a safe environment for ongoing interaction and conversation on diverse subjects.  The University of California Berkeley has adopted a policy requiring all “Caucasian” students to purchase mandatory Free Speech Insurance at $1,000 per semester “to cover the cost of therapy and rehabilitation of victims of unregulated, freely expressed Caucasian ideas.” Thus the schools encourage a mentality of victimization, anger and vengeance along with feelings of shame and White guilt.

This is social engineering, a force that is being cynically employed to restructure the soul of an entire generation of young people and render it vulnerable to the globalist one world order, in which none of the traditional values will have survived. With value and context stripped from books, a generation is being denied the aptitude to discern fact from fiction or right from wrong. Thus deprived of the ability to think critically, they are ripe for joining any number of hate groups on campus, the Occupy movements, Black Lives Matter, and those that favor a Palestinian state to the destruction of Israel. But, most significantly, they become easily malleable by and for the ruling class.

The pathway to the final destination goes by the Orwellian term, Agenda 21, the schema that indoctrinates to retrofit our children for future global citizenship, to overtake properties and communities, and to transform America with the enticing promise of social and economic development in a competitive (not free) marketplace. The all-powerful government will determine the equitable distribution of the fruits of all labor, meaning the successful countries will distribute its profits to third world countries until there is nothing left to share – except, perhaps, destitution and illness.  Only then will the elite bask in a society in which thinking has been obliterated and every spark of creativity trampled into the dust.

We are standing at a crucial time in history and working against the clock.

RELATED ARTICLE: Why Have Universities Been Overtaken by Mob Rule?

RELATED VIDEO: Ann Corcoran on Refugee Resettlement

james okeefe project veritas common core

Catching Up with some Common Core Profiteers: Beyond the Project Veritas Videos

The Big Government-Big Education alliance has also had positive trickle-down effects for professors, who have benefited with publishing contracts and grants for their institutions.  The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the biggest funder of Common Core, continues to support universities that help in implementing their education initiatives.  Professors hopped on the Common Core gravy train at the get-go. There was the curious fact that Bill Ayers gave a keynote address at the 2009 convention of the Renaissance Group, “a national consortium of colleges, universities and professional organizations” dedicated to teaching and education.  Now if we could only learn how much Bill Ayers was paid for that keynote speech in Washington in 2009.

James O’Keefe’s undercover videos reveal what activists have been saying for years: Common Core is a set of standards written not for the benefit of students, but to enrich crony capitalists, such as mega-curriculum companies, Houghton Mifflin-Harcourt, Pearson, and National Geographic Education.

The latest, the fourth video, records former Houghton Mifflin-Harcourt executive Gilbert Garcia describing the constant “politicking” among school board members and superintendents, and former Pearson employee Kim Koerber describing how the 2013 $1.3 billion contract for supplying I-Pads to the Los Angeles school district was “written for Pearson to win.”  After an FBI investigation into bid-rigging, Pearson, in 2015, agreed to pay the district $6.4 million in a settlement.

Pearson issued a statement calling remarks in the videos “offensive,” asserting that they do not reflect the values of the company’s 40,000 employees.

But the Big Government-Big Education alliance has also had positive trickle-down effects for professors, who have benefited with publishing contracts and grants for their institutions.  The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the biggest funder of Common Core, continues to support universities that help in implementing their education initiatives.  To name a few, in November, the Foundation announced a grant of $34.7 million for “transformation centers” to improve teacher preparation programs on the campuses of the University of Michigan, Texas Tech University, and the Relay Graduate School of Education, as well as at the National Center for Teacher Residencies, and the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.  That same month, a grant of $1,799,710 was awarded to “support collaboration between Vanderbilt [University] and the Tennessee Department of Education in the area of education research and improvement,” and $764,553 was awarded to the University of Florida for “teacher leader fellows.”

Professors hopped on the Common Core gravy train at the get-go, as I described in 2012, in my report for Accuracy in Media, “Terrorist Professor Bill Ayers and Obama’s Federal School Curriculum.” There was the curious fact that Bill Ayers gave a keynote address at the 2009 convention of the Renaissance Group, “a national consortium of colleges, universities and professional organizations” dedicated to teaching and education.  Of course, I made no claim that Ayers wrote the standards; I just noted that he appeared at this conference in Washington with then-Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, his under secretary, and a representative from Achieve, the company that orchestrated Common Core.  Ayers’s close colleague, Stanford professor Linda Darling-Hammond, led Obama’s education transition team and oversaw one of the two national Common Core tests.

Less well-known professors, who had bristled at the imposition of “standards,” suddenly began embracing Common Core standards.  This was the case with education professor Lucy Calkins and her colleagues at Columbia Teachers College, Bill Ayers’s alma mater, long a bastion of anti-testing/anti-standards.  These professors began writing teacher guidebooks, and presenting talks and workshops.  Since co-authoring Pathways to the Common Core, Calkins continues to do work for the publisher, Heinemann, a part of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.  Her “Units of Study” curriculum is described by the publisher as a bestseller.  She also writes performance assessments, including the Grade 1 “Units of Study” in “Opinion, Information, and Narrative Writing.”  (Yes, students in first grade are expected to write op-eds.)  In a short video, Calkins explains her teaching philosophy that involves mini-lessons and group work.

In 2012, Marc Aronson, a lecturer in communications and information at Rutgers University, was advertising himself as a “Common Core Consultant,” speaker, and author.  Today, he describes himself on his personal website as an “author, professor, speaker, editor and publisher who believes that young people, especially pre-teens and teenagers, are smart, passionate, and capable of engaging with interesting ideas in interesting ways.”

Aronson apparently believes that pre-teens and teenagers are smart enough to weed out the lies in his Common Core-compliant middle school and high school textbook, Master of Deceit: J. Edgar Hoover and America in the Age of Lies.  As I noted in my report, Aronson presents the KGB-fabricated lies about the FBI director’s homosexuality as probable.  For the benefit of 11-year-olds, he posits that photographs of Hoover with his friend Clyde Tolson “might be seen as lovers’ portraits.”  The book is filled with sexual innuendo and dwells on such irrelevant details in order to ascribe motives to Hoover for his presumably unfounded fears about the communist threat.  The accompanying discussion guide is a masterpiece of disguise: as ideological questions bearing their own answers.

It is therefore not surprising that Aronson would now write an article in the School Library Journal casting a skeptical eye on O’Keefe’s undercover videos and asking readers to “consider the source,” as the subheading to the headline, “Is Common Core Just a Scam to Sell Books?” asks.  He distances himself from the sales executives but never directly names the “source” that one should “consider.”  (Innuendo seems to be his modus operandi.) The implication is O’Keefe.  Aronson admits, “As a nonfiction fan, author, and editor, I have a stake in this.”  He denies that his stake is in the rise in nonfiction sales that have come as Common Core standards have edged out literature in favor of “informational texts.”  No, Aronson fell “in love with the standards” when he first read them, “years before they had any impact on royalty statements.”

Aronson also claims to have served recently on the New Jersey team that evaluated that state’s English Language Arts (ELA) and Math standards.  Contrary to the executives’ statements captured in the videos, his “team” carefully examined the standards “one by one, grade by grade, and listened to extensive comments from teachers, administrators, parents, professionals, and business leaders.”  He claims that he saw “commitment, not greed.”

He presents a “guiding principle” that sounds very familiar to those of us whose eyes have glazed and brains have flopped like dying fish from the Common Core sales literature: “From the first, our guiding principle was this: What will someone awarded a high school diploma be ready for? The group looked at each educational stage and benchmark to consider what students would need to know to be ready for the next step, and the next, so that after graduation they would have the skill set to begin the next phase of their lives.”

Aronson’s team included comments by Amy Rominiecki, a Certified School Library Media Specialist, on behalf of the New Jersey Association of School Librarians, in their report. (He links back to her statement when she testified in support of Common Core.)  The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has also funded studies for the American Library Association (the parent organization of the American Association of School Librarians) on such things as Technology Access, training, and participation in the federal E-rate program.

Aronson attributes the continuing low performance of 12th graders in math and reading to economic inequality, stating, “If more students had more resources (social, emotional, financial, cultural, and technological), more would be ready to meet the challenges and opportunities that follow after secondary education.”

Of course, this author and educational entrepreneur has only the purest motives: “the children.”  Money may be important, “yet, there is a role for standards to play.” To that end, “as educators and communities who care about our nation’s youth, it is necessary we establish a path that’s best for as many students.”

Such bromides bring big bucks in the education world.  I am reminded of words by Bill Ayers at an education conference in 2013, something about being finite creatures hurtling through infinite space.  Now if we could only learn how much Bill Ayers was paid for that keynote speech in Washington in 2009.

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared on the Selous Foundation for Public Policy Research website.

fortune magazine article on common core

About That Fortune Article on Common Core…

I have been reading Peter Elkind’s January 01, 2016, article in Fortune on the Common Core State Standards (CCSS).

Elkind’s work is a study in foolishness. Basically, he demonstrates the unfounded faith that powerful individuals whose lives only skirt the worlds of whose with children in public schools have placed in a set of rushed, contrived standards to cure all that ails American public education. Whether such ailments are real or contrived becomes irrelevant; CCSS is the needed fix.

Nevertheless, truth regarding CCSS leaks out from among Elkind’s words. Consider this statement in regards to billionaire Bill Gates’ trying to convince billionaire Charles Koch to support CCSS (a failed effort on Gates’ part):

This extraordinary tête-à-tête is just one example of how the war over Common Core has personally engaged—and bedeviled—some of America’s most powerful business leaders. Hugely controversial, it has thrust executives into the uncomfortable intersection of business and politics.

CCSS is hugely controversial, if for no other reason than its rushed-and-hushed creation. And surely one must wonder about the motives behind Gates’ continued push of what is little more than a Gates latest-and-greatest pet project.

Had CCSS been developed and implemented with sense– one grade level at a time, openly, and prior to any formal state adoption– the “hugely controversial” component would have been quelled.

Elkind does not mention this. Instead, he shows that CCSS is very much a corporate tool– a magic tool that is supposed to serve their corporations by contorting the purpose of education into corporate service:

In truth, Common Core might not exist without the corporate community. The nation’s business establishment has been clamoring for more rigorous education standards—ones that would apply across the entire nation—for years. It views them as desperately needed to prepare America’s future workforce and to bolster its global competitiveness. One measure of the deep involvement of corporate leaders: The Common Core standards were drafted by determining the skills that businesses (and colleges) need and then working backward to decide what students should learn.

CCSS: “working backward.” Truer words….

Surely a sensible business community absorbed with serving itself would have required proof that CCSS would deliver on its claim of “college and career readiness.” But no. Business jumped right into selling CCSS– with the likes of Exxon’s Rex Tillerson so enamored with CCSS that he even threatened to not do business with states that did not have CCSS. (As Elkind notes, Tillerson is currently satisfied that CCSS is so embedded in American education that he rescinded his bizarre threat.)

When one is in love, sensibility becomes irrelevant. The CCSS violins in Tillerson’s ears must be proof enough of its faithfulness.

“Businesses say they can’t find enough skilled workers,” reports Elkind.

What board meeting involved any CCSS promoter (David Coleman? Chester Finn?) offering details on exactly how CCSS translates into “enough skilled workers”?

Those pushing CCSS also be required to guarantee its implementation. But they can’t because, well, it is just not that easy.

Elkind mentions the “executive mindset… favors consistency, efficiency, and accountability.” What he also hints at it that the executive mindset assumes that it is right– that it has the right to “insist” on how an issue should be– any issue that captures that executive’s attention. Yes, CCSS has captured that attention, and executives like Tillerson want American education to be accountable to their perceptions of how American education should work– even as such ivory-towered power-wielders overlook the glaring reality that CCSS is, as Elkind points out, a “grand experiment”:

It remains unclear how well this grand experiment will meet its ultimate goal: better preparing kids (and our country) for a challenging future.

You just can’t drop an education reform from the top and expect it to work on the local level as willed by the top. It will be resisted, and it will be gamed. No Child Left Behind (NCLB) offered that lesson. And CCSS will too– even as it is excused for not being “properly implemented.”

And to think that CCSS would work if only America just relaxed about the appendaged CCSS testing is plain ignorant:

A key element of the Common Core effort—common standardized tests to allow honest assessments of progress—remains unfulfilled, swept back by a wave of parental concern about over-testing and teacher anxiety about being judged too harshly too soon.

Elkind, when you can produce for me a major testing company willing to guarantee that its student assessments are able to accurately grade teachers and schools, then you can toss off commentary about “honest assessment” with no beef from me. However, the reality is that students are being over-tested, and much of it has to do with grading teachers and schools– which will never be a valid use of a student achievement test.

So, as a teacher, I will tell you that CCSS and the attendant assessment craze in which it was birthed will only perpetuate opportunities to game a system imposed from the top to smother the bottom into some flaky, cognac-at-the-club-induced illusion of globally-competitive submission.

The likes of CCSS will fail, not because of poor implementation, but because it will collapse under the foolishness of its own ill-conceived weight. Indeed,Fortune magazine is willing to accept the word of Chester Finn– whose Fordham Institution promoted CCSS even though it conceded that standards in some other states were better–regarding the state of CCSS:

“We’re better off than we were before Common Core,” says veteran education scholar Chester Finn, a senior fellow with Stanford’s Hoover Institution. “We’ve got better standards. There’s less lying about the performance of kids and schools. There’s some better curriculum in place. If you were hoping for a 100% gain, today we’re probably looking at a 37% gain. But honestly it’s still early days. The aircraft carrier of an education system turns really slowly.”

If you want to see some lying in the form of pro-CCSS marketing, read Finn’s July 2010 review of state standards and CCSS. Finn proves that creative writing is very much alive in association with CCSS.

As for that “37 percent gain”– I wonder if any of the CCSS corporate pushers will finally decide to follow through on their supposed mindset of accountability and ask for the hard proof behind Finn’s marshmallow stat– and whether they will pin him down on exactly how long that aircraft carrier takes to turn.

EDITORS NOTE: The author has written A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education. She also has a second book, Common Core Dilemma: Who Owns Our Schools?. If you don’t care to buy from Amazon you may purchase her books directly from Powell’s City of Books. The featured image is courtesy of Fortune Magazine.

obama signing every student succeeds act

Every Student Succeeds Act: Common Core by a New Name and on Steriods

A bill over a thousand pages long is drafted behind closed doors and given a nice-sounding name.  The chair of the Senate committee, Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, announces on November 18 that the conference report, which is finished, will not be available for reading until November 30.  The House vote will be two, at most three, days later.

The vote takes place two days later, on December 2.  The 247 House Republicans are divided, but most (all but 64) side with 100 percent of the 188 Democrats who vote for it.

On December 8, the Senate votes to advance the bill and it is passed the following day. Again, zero opposition from Democrats.  Only 12 of the 54 Senate Republicans oppose the measure.

This is the “Every Student Succeeds Act” (ESSA) that reauthorizes the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA), an arm of the War on Poverty that sends federal funds to low-income area schools.

ESSA is supported by Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, Barack Obama, and 37 liberal and far-left civil rights and education groups.  It is supported by “the owners of the Common Core Standards” (National Governors Association and the Council of Chief School Officers), as Donna Garner notes.  Lamar Alexander, a Common Core booster, joins with Democrat Patty Murray, expressing hope for more such “bipartisan” legislation.

The over 200 grassroots groups and experts who sent a detailed, open letter on October 13 to Congress opposing the Act valiantly continued the battle in the two days between the release of the conference report and the vote in the House.  Volunteers divvy up the bill in an attempt to digest it in 48 hours.  They continued to rally the troops after it went before the Senate, to no effect.  It passed on December 9.  The next morning Obama signed it.  According to one activist, the hurry was manufactured to prod members to “vote blindly.”  ESSA had been on “ice” for six months.

The American Principles Project announces their “disappointment” over passage. Emmet McGroarty chastises Republicans for failing to listen to “the more than 200 pro-Constitution, anti-Common Core grassroots groups that laid out in detail their objections . . . and practically begged their ‘conservative’ elected officials to pay attention.”

Dr. Karen Effrem, president of Education Liberty Watch, calls ESSA “a huge lump of educational coal.”  Effrem, a pediatrician, sees in ESSA a solidification of the harmful age-inappropriate methods of Common Core.  She thanks presidential candidates Ted Cruz and Rand Paul for their “steadfast opposition.”

Left-wing sites claim, “Christmas miracle sees end of Common Core.”

The Department of Education had prepared the groundwork for the hurried holiday-time vote with Obama’s own announcement in October, when he inveighed against “excessive testing”–as opt-outs spread like wildfire. He subtly blamed the unpopular testing on [George W. Bush’s] No Child Left Behind.  New tests, we are told, will be “state driven and based on multiple measures.”  Multiple measures include “non-cognitive skills,” attitudes and emotions.

The Department of Education announces that “The bipartisan bill to fix No Child Left Behind…incorporates many of the priorities the Obama administration put forward.”

It does.  These are the same priorities undergirding Common Core.  According to Jane Robbins, Senior Fellow at the American Principles Project, the rub is in the mandates, as she explained to Dr. Susan Berry at Breitbart.  States must coordinate with eleven different federal statutes and submit their plans for approval by the feds.

Statutes include “the Soviet-style Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act that’s designed to connect the K-12 education system to government-controlled workforce-development, the Head Start act that centralizes preschool standards, the Education Sciences Reform Act (which seeks to boost data-collection on students)….”  Standards must focus on “minimal workforce-development rather than academic knowledge” – just like Common Core!  States will comply or lose their federal money.

The federal government will determine “college-and career-readiness,” thus continuing its power grab on campuses.

At the other end of the “cradle to career” spectrum is “mission creep” into preschool, as states participate in Race-to-the-Top-like competitive grants.  The Act expands ESEA power by making Head Start pre-school a statute (instead of an appropriation), Dr. Susan Berry reports.

Promoters ignored the research that shows the ineffectiveness of Head Start.  They ignored studies that indicate that pre-school programs often have a negative impact on students’ ability to concentrate in school.

Additional concerns listed at the Truth in American Education blog include the weakening of parental rights to opt children out of tests, removing checks on federal control, increasing overall federal spending through ESEA, and transferring federal dollars from the classroom to for-profit companies.

As consumers face skyrocketing health insurance premiums they realize that the “Affordable Care Act” is not what its name implies.  Similarly, many supporters of the Every Student Succeeds Act will learn that rather than eliminating Common Core, ESSA implements Common Core on steroids.

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared on the Selous Foundation for Public Policy Research website.

common core hitler testing

Treachery! Intrigue! Common Core Skullduggery Exposed

common core dilemma book coverAre you curious about how the crazy new convoluted Common Core math problems came about?  Ever wonder why high school students are reading EPA standards in English class?

Want to read a book full of suspense about backroom deals, MOU’s (Memorandums of Understanding), CCSSO licensing agreements, NGA funding, and secret handshakes?  That reveals who and what CCSSO, EASA, and AYP are?  That gets down to the statistical trickery of surveys showing that teachers just love Common Core?

Then read Mercedes Schneider’s fascinating Common Core Dilemma: Who Owns Our Schools?

Schneider cuts through the eye-glazing jargon and reveals the players, their connections, and credentials (or more accurately lack thereof).  She uses her advanced degrees in education and statistics to explicate the legalese and interpret the misleading numbers, and then put them into a gripping narrative. There is a plot line that goes from when Common Core was a twinkle in the eye to the monster we have today.

This dedicated high school English teacher also maintains an excellent blog in which she cuts through all the arcana.  Her work is clearly a labor of love.  I don’t know how she does it all.

In Common Core Dilemma, Schneider has done a superb job in telling the back story.

But I wish that she had left it at that because the introductory chapters present a distorted view of the history of education and might put off some readers.

In the first chapter Schneider challenges the 1966 Coleman Report’s recommendation that standardized tests be used as measurements of progress (full name, Equality of Educational Opportunity Study).  She takes issue with the fact that “the researchers believed that ‘culture bound’ testing was justified because, in their view, particular attributes were necessary for students of color to have success.”  E.D. Hirsch, in his 1987 bestseller,Cultural Literacy, argued the same point: historical and cultural knowledge (e.g., important dates, scientific facts, familiarity with literary classics) are essential to reading comprehension and academic achievement. For that he was vilified by progressives.  Common Core (in spite of the similarity in name) deemphasizes cultural knowledge by dictating that short “texts” (or excerpts) be read “cold,” with no context provided by the teacher.

Schneider maintains that it was naïve “to believe that people of color in 1960s America would ‘get a good job and move up to a better one’” by demonstrating academic achievement.

No, it was not.

Schneider repeats the myth that has been accepted as holy writ in education schools: that racism and lack of cultural sensitivity are responsible for the achievement gap. This myth is promulgated by anti-American radicals who took over schools in the 1960s.   Perpetuating such myths serves their larger revolutionary goals.  Thomas Sowell, however, has aptly demonstrated that in the days of segregation, all-black schools sometimes outperformed their white socioeconomic counterparts.

That is because they used the tried-and-true methods of directed teaching, which the late Jeanne Chall demonstrated were especially helpful to students from low- and middle-income families.  This is old-fashioned teaching, with the teacher as the authority and students required to demonstrate knowledge of a body of material.

Progressive teachers, however, have taken it upon themselves to indoctrinate students in social justice, while pretending students are “discovering” such lessons through project and group work.

The Obama administration’s policies in academic standards and school discipline, modeled on the theories of Obama education transition team leader and Common Core test developer, Linda Darling-Hammond, go counter to the methods that have worked.  Clearly, there is a larger agenda.  The fall-out includes loss of local control and teacher autonomy.

Schneider, unfortunately, seems to have accepted certain progressive premises.  She questions the validity of committees on the basis of racial and gender make-up (if they are overwhelmingly white and male), but cites anti-testing activist William Schaefer of FAIR Test as an authority.  This is surprising because Schaefer has no qualifications in the education field.  His public relations company promotes a number of far-left causes, with the anti-testing campaign being just one.

Unfortunately, Schneider repeats what could be a line from Schaeffer’s anti-testing propaganda.  She maintains that test administrators can be blind to “the manner in which their own perceptions of the world interfere with both test selection and the utility of test results.”  Furthermore, “The ‘skills most important’ for Whites to be successful in a predominantly White society that is often openly hostile to the ‘success’ of its members of color differ from those that may be deemed ‘most important’ by the oppressed members.”  Cringe.

Schneider relates how she learned from “students of color” that “academic achievement is frowned on as an attempt to ‘be White’ or is viewed as an affront to subgroup acceptance.”   That is true, as Jason Riley points out, but it is a harmful attitude that is encouraged by lessons about endless oppression and cultural difference.

Unfortunately, education schools and teachers unions have made reform efforts necessary.  At conferences I’ve heard teachers share strategies on avoiding state standards (pre-Common Core), so they could use the class to promote such lessons in grievance instead. Teachers unions have notoriously protected incompetent or negligent teachers.

There was an educational “crisis,” as well as a financial one, in 2008.  The Obama administration, of course, did not let either “crisis go to waste,” dangling stimulus funds before governors as carrots for adopting Common Core.

Now let me get back to the other nine chapters—the vast bulk—that make it worth your while to read this book.  Once Schneider dispenses with the bleeding heart excuses in the first two chapters, she exposes education exploiters who lie (Bill Gates), who violate their federal roles (Arne Duncan), and who negotiate deals to make U.S. education dependent on their demonstrably incompetent companies (Pearson chief financial officer Robin Freestone).

Teachers, rightfully, should be appalled at the imposition of standards that have not been piloted and that were written by unqualified “experts” from non-profits tied to companies standing to profit from Common Core.  They should be outraged over having their job evaluations tied to how well students perform on ridiculous tests.

But they should also be putting their own house in order.  Teachers should be asking themselves whether their union dues should be going overwhelmingly to the Democratic Party, which supports big government/progressive education programs like Common Core.

I hope Mercedes Schneider takes her passion, and her great analytical and writing skills, to tackle the more deep-rooted problems plaguing education.

But first, we have a task: to kill the Common Core beast.  The big government/big money interests are banking on the fact that the “little people” can’t understand the contracts, the jargon, the backroom deals.

Mercedes Schneider demonstrates, to the contrary, that with her book, oh, yes, we can.

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared on the Selous Foundation for Public Policy Research website.

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Florida Rep. Ray Pilon files legislation returning power to parents, teachers and school boards

Florida Citizens Alliance (FLCA) has been working on both a comprehensive bill to restore local K-12 education control and a focused curriculum bill to fix the loopholes in SB 864, passed in 2014 as FS 1006.283.

FLCA in a press release states:

We are very pleased to report that Senator Alan Hays and Representative Ray Pilon are championing companion bills to fix FS 1006.283 and its loopholes:  SB 1018 and HB 899.

The purpose/intent of the original SB 864 was to assign constitutional responsibility for all instructional materials to school boards, and require a transparent policy/process for school boards and parents to remove objectionable materials. Due to several loopholes in FS 1006.283, the spirit and intent of the original bill are currently being ignored by many school districts in Florida.

Here is a brief summary of the loopholes that the two companion bills (SB 1018 and HB 899) that are intended to “fix” FS 1006.283.

FLCA in an email states:

Please use the petition at right to send a “shout out” to Senator Hays and Representative Pilon, thanking them for their leadership, and to urge your Florida House Representative and Florida Senator to co-sponsor their respective versions of these bills.  The petition is also copying your local school board, asking them to aggressively support these companion bills.

FLCA is urging Florida parents, students and teachers to call their house representative and senator to ask that they co-sponsor these bills. Here are FLCA talking points you can use in your call.  Use these links to get appropriate phone numbers for the Florida House and Florida Senate. We strongly suggest that you call now (before Christmas) and again in January as the legislative cycle begins.

Passage of these companion bills will require an aggressive and sustained set of actions to garner support. Here is an expanded set of 5 actions that FLCA urges parents, students and teachers to put into practice in support of these companion bills.

ABOUT THE FLORIDA CITIZENS ALLIANCE:

The Florida Citizens’ Alliance (FLCA) is a coalition of citizens and grassroots groups working together through education, outreach and community involvement to advance the ideals and principles of liberty.  We believe these include but are not limited to individual rights, free markets, and limited government.

black children at school

Survey Says: African Americans Love School Choice by Jason Bedrick

The Black Alliance for Education Options released the results of a new survey of black voters in four states on education policy. The poll found that more than six in ten blacks in Alabama, Louisiana, New Jersey, and Tennessee support school vouchers.

BAEO Survey: Support for School Vouchers

The results are similar to Education Next’s 2015 survey, which found that 58 percent of blacks nationwide supported universal school vouchers and 66 percent supported vouchers for low-income families.

The survey also asked about black voters’ views on charter schools (about two-thirds support them), “parent choice” generally (three-quarters support it), and the importance of testing. However, it appears that BAEO is overinterpreting the findings on that last question, claiming:

The survey also indicated solid support among Black voters that believe educational standards such as Common Core and its related assessments is essential to holding education stakeholders responsible for student learning outcomes.

If the wording of the survey question was identical to how it appears on their website, then it says absolutely nothing about black support for Common Core. The question as it appears on their website is: “Do you think that testing is necessary to hold school accountable for student achievement?” The question doesn’t mention Common Core at all. For that matter, it doesn’t mention standardized testing specifically, nor explain how the testing is meant to “hold schools accountable.”

Perhaps it means publishing the score results so parents will hold schools accountable. Or perhaps it means the state government will offer financial carrots or regulatory sticks. Or maybe it means whatever the survey respondent wants it to mean.

BAEO Survey: Support for Testing

If Acme Snack Co. asked survey respondents, “Do you like snacks that are delicious and nutritious?” and then claimed “two-thirds of Americans enjoy delicious and nutritious snacks such as Acme Snack Co. snacks,” they would be guilty of false advertising. Maybe the survey respondents really do like Acme Snacks — or Common Core — but we can’t know that from that survey. Just as some people may enjoy carrots (delicious and nutritious) but find Acme Snacks revolting, lots of parents may support some measure of testing while opposing Common Core testing for any number of reasons.

BAEO’s question on vouchers was clear: “Do you support school vouchers/scholarships?” Yes, most blacks do. But its question on testing is much less clear, and therefore so are the results.

All the BAEO survey tells us is that most blacks support using some sort of testing to hold schools accountable in some undefined way. Interpreting these results as support for Common Core is irresponsible.

This post first appeared at Cato.org.

Jason Bedrick
Jason Bedrick

Jason Bedrick is a policy analyst with the Cato Institute’s Center for Educational Freedom.

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Florida Minority Leader supports parents who opt-out of standardized tests

Representative Mark Pafford (D – FL District 86), Minority Leader in the Florida House, stated this week that he supports parents who tell their children to opt-out of standardized assessment testing.

Florida Parents Against Common Core (FPACC) states, “Mr. Pafford wisely recognizes the overuse of assessments and testing in the State of Florida. Such overuse has indeed created a toxic environment between education stakeholders – students, parents, principals, superintendents, school board members, and residents. The trust and  confidence necessary for mutual cooperation, in search of moving the conversation forward regarding best processes and practices for curriculum and standards, is missing.”

For parents, testing and assessments, particularly the non-validated and improperly implemented Florida Standards Assessment, institute an environment of punishment versus an environment nurturing learning. For teachers, unreasonable and out-of-balance accountability measures, focused almost exclusively on student assessment scores, encourage an already acknowledged faulty methodology of  “teaching to the test”.

On September 25, 62 out of 67 Florida county education superintendents agreed with the Florida Association of District School Superintendents’ statement stating that the superintendents had “lost confidence” in the current accountability system for students and schools, which were largely based on the controversial Florida Standards Assessment. In a decision of concern for  students and teachers, the superintendents asked for suspension of the accountability system and a review.

Luz González, FPACC State Coordinator says, “While Florida Parents Against Common Core applauds the unity and aggressiveness of the  superintendents on the issue of easing the unreasonable burden on the adults in the “education room”, i.e. the teachers and administrators, we are vastly disappointed in the lack of similar concern for the well-being of the students in the same classroom.  We ask that they follow Representative Pafford’s lead by placing children, entrusted into their care, as their top priority.

After several years of parents attending school board meetings complaining about standards, curriculum, textbooks, and testing, after numerous hearings on parental and teacher concerns across the state and in Tallahassee, after a contentious Governor’s race where Common Core Standards were a critical divide in the voting population, the Florida Department of Education and its Commissioner Pam Stewart have provided unacceptable mediocre solutions to the ongoing crisis in education, both in standards and assessments. It has been band-aid after band-aid of ineffective management on education reform intentionally ignoring the many voices of those most concerned and closest to the student – the parent.”

Thus, importantly, Florida Parents Against Common Core parents are committed to alleviating the source, the root, the insidious virus of the massively abusive accountability structure – Common Core Standards.  Federal coercion combined with state legislature collusion have destroyed meaningful and necessary local control by developing a structural system where co-dependency of mandates, data, funding, waivers, standards, curriculum, and assessments are currently inexplicably & irrevocably tied between local and federal governments.  At this time, FPACC will contact all presidential candidates before the 2016 Florida Primary for their pledge, should they become President, to on their first day stop the federal implementation of Common Core Standards.

Education is most often the best tool for creating opportunity, prosperity, and happiness.  Let’s    treat each child like an individual, not with a cookie-cutter one-size-fits-all approach to learning. Let’s listen to each child’s learning needs, not increase grossly invasive stressors by forcing  inappropriate developmental education requirements. Let’s encourage proven and successful education tools in cooperation with promoting creativity and innovation, recognizing the   constantly evolving information highway technology world of today and tomorrow – all the while knowing that an individual student’s inherent aptitudes and skills should have preemptive value in the classroom.

Every child should have an individualized education plan.  Not a common one.

ABOUT FLORIDA PARENTS AGAINST COMMON CORE

Florida Parents Against Common Core was started by four mothers and grew into the State of Florida’s largest grassroots parent organization in opposition to the continued implementation of Common Core Standards. Laura Zorc, the organization’s former State and National Director from January 2013 to June 2015 is  currently serving on Governor Scott’s 11 member Keep Florida Learning State Committee.

mike huckabee

Huckabee Hucksterism on Common Core?

Presidential candidate Mike Huckabee surprised many conservatives by sending a mailing asking them to “Endorse Mike’s Pledge to Kill Common Core.”  It reads, “I, Mike Huckabee, pledge allegiance to God, the Constitution, and the citizens of the United States: As President I will fight to kill Common Core and restore common sense.  Education is a family function—not a federal function.”

Huckabee then came out with another mailing in which he vowed not only to kill Common Core, but to abolish the Department of Education.

Huckabee declared his candidacy in May. Reporters and commentators questioned the motivations for his shift on Common Core. At the Daily Caller, Blake Neff called Huckabee’s “strong, total condemnation” a “relatively new trait” and questioned the governor’s explanation: “the unexpected involvement of the Obama administration.”  In January, at National Review Andrew Johnson noted that Huckabee had publicly praised Common Core standards that he claimed were developed by governors and state education officials.  A blog called “The Truth about Mike Huckabee” basically repeats these claims but in a heightened, defensive style, stating, “It is important to note that The National Governor’s Association Common Core IS NOT the same as the Common Core associated with the Department of Education Grants.  If you take the time to research this topic you will see that one of many differences is that the federal government requires those who administer the grant project meet certain diversity guidelines, which is completely foreign to the work done by the National Governor’s Association.  These are two completely different programs, begun by different organizations, with different implementation and operational objectives.”

Huckabee’s defense does not stand up to scrutiny.  Neff pointed to Huckabee’s 2011 book A Simple Government, in which Huckabee endorsed the role of the federal government, writing, “I fully endorse the new federal program Race to the Top, which has states compete for additional education funds, allowing them to decide what reforms to enact, rather than having specific reforms imposed on them from above.”  This was two years after the Race to the Top program required that states agree to adopt the federal Common Core guidelines as part of the application process.

As he contemplated his presidential run, Huckabee knew that his “complicated history with Common Core” could be the reason he’d lose a significant portion of the evangelical base that supported him in 2008, according to Johnson.  Conservatives already had a problem with Huckabee’s record as governor that included increases in taxes and pardons for criminals.

Furthermore, Huckabee’s efforts continued in 2013 and included sending a letter to Oklahoma lawmakers ahead of a vote to dump Common Core in that state; he encouraged them “to resist any attempt to delay implementation.”  That year, Huckabee also told the Council of Chief State School Officers to “rebrand” Common Core, and not “retreat.”

The authors of Common Core Report: Grading the 2016 GOP Candidates (by American Principles in Action and Cornerstone Policy Research Action) write that Huckabee’s “rebrand advice to the owners and supporters gut-stabbed the national grassroots movement right when it was gaining traction.” Rebranding, or renaming, the Common Core standards, while making superficial changes, has been a favorite strategy of politicians and bureaucrats trying to fool voters and legislators who really are trying to kill Common Core in their states.

Huckabee claimed his comments were “misconstrued.” By December of 2013, Huckabee was using his Fox News show to outline his concerns about “what Common Core has become” – a divisive issue.  He encouraged “activists on both sides of the issue to move past Common Core,” and “argued for a renewed, broader effort to improve education,” according to Johnson.

What is the federal government’s role, and specifically a president’s role, in improving education?  On his campaign site page Huckabee pledges to abolish the Department of Education, while insisting, “We must demand results, accountability and success for every child in every classroom.  I oppose watering down our education standards or automatically promoting every student.”

The rationale behind federal education programs, including the No Child Left Behind initiative of the George W. Bush administration, is precisely the demand for “accountability.”  NCLB was built on the false notion that every child can achieve “success” and that it is the federal government’s role to see to it. Indeed, the current education reauthorization spending bill is called the “Every Child Achieves Act” (ECAA).  Common Core was hustled through on such pretexts of accountability and standards.

The Common Core Report: Grading the 2016 GOP Candidates gives Huckabee a “C,” in spite of his “checkered past.”  (Grades range from “A-” for Ted Cruz and Rand Paul to “F” for Jeb Bush.)

Raising his grade is Huckabee’s “forceful general argument” of late about the problem of special interests currying the favor of the federal executive branch, which then puts mandates on the states.  State departments of education, state boards of education, and governors then become “supplicants” to the U.S. Department of Education.

Real Clear Politics puts Huckabee in ninth position in a field of 15 candidates.  Four major polls show him garnering four percent of the support.  It appears that Huckabee will not be the candidate who ends the system of “supplication” to the Department of Education.  Let’s hope we get one, nevertheless.

RELATED ARTICLES:

Increasingly Uncommon Common Core

Immigration Lowers Educational Achievement, Survey finds

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared on the Selous Foundation for Public Policy Research.

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Washington Post Editorial Board Supports Jeb Bush in His Common Core Quandary

On August 17, 2015, the Washington Post editorial board wrote a piece in which it “did not blame Mr. [Jeb] Bush from shying away from the term [Common Core].”

Bush has his political career on his mind, and using the term “Common Core” is “poison” to that career. So, Bush is using a carefully-crafted Common-Core euphemism, saying that he is for “higher standards, state-created, locally implemented, where the federal government has no role in the creation of standards, content or curriculum.”

The Washington Post editorial board sympathizes with Bush, who supposedly was put in this position because of the “bogus premise” that Common Core is a “federal takeover of education.”

In 2009, the federal government used future Race to the Top (RTTT) funding to entice governors to sign their states up for a Common Core that did not yet exist. The 2009 National Governors Association (NGA) Symposium is clear about this in its 16-page document from the Symposium.

However, the intention was not only for there to be a Common Core. Common Core was only one of four interconnected, test-centric reforms known as the Four Assurances (listed here in brief):

1. Common standards and assessments

2. Teacher performance (value-added assessment)

3. “Turnaround” of “low performing” schools

4. Building data systems.

In 2009, the governors of 46 states and three territories signed NGA’s agreement detailing how Common Core was to be developed (note that “states” were being directed by the nonprofit NGA and another nonprofit, the Council of Chief State School Officers, CCSSO, on this “state led” development) and which was intended to lead to unquestioned, automatic Common Core adoption.

Why would so many governors fall for this?

The money. US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan was at this 2009 NGA Symposium, and he promised these governors a potential slice of billions of dollars in American Reinvestment and Recovery Act (ARRA)  funding– but only if they agreed to incorporate all Four Assurances into the education systems of their states. The excerpt below is from the NGA’s 16-page, 2009 report:

Governors have an unprecedented opportunity through the ARRA to make bold reforms in education. With momentum building around the four assurances and the Race to the Top funds, governors may want to consider the following as they move forward with their education reform agendas:

1. The four assurances do not exist in a vacuum. To improve educational outcomes for students in the U.S. and qualify for RTT funding, governors will need to work on all four assurances simultaneously. The issues discussed in this report are all interconnected, and policies which may seem likely to improve one area could have unintended consequences for another area of reform. Joanne Weiss from the U.S. Department of Education explained that when deciding which states will receive awards from the $4.35 billion Race to the Top competitive grant program, the Department will be watching for integrated plans that address all four of the reform areas. Therefore, states must work in concert on improving standards and assessments, increasing teacher effectiveness, providing support for low-performing schools, and strengthening data quality. [Emphasis added.]

At the 2009 NGA Symposium, Duncan made the grand announcement that the feds would cover the costs to get the “common assessments” off of the ground:

At the Symposium, Secretary Duncan made an important announcement regarding these [ARRA] funds: $350 million of the Race to the Top funds has been earmarked to support the development of high-quality common assessments.

These governors were led right into the federal will for state-level education by the promise of federal money. It was just that easy.

The governors traded state autonomy for federal money. And the federal government– US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan backed by President Barack Obama– encouraged them to do so and allowed it to happen.

In its Jeb Bush defense, the Washington Post editorial staff not only downplays the federal enticement; the Washington Post editorial board defends the federal role:

The pressure [Republicans in the presidential race to turn against Common Core] is built on bogus premises. Common Core is not a federal takeover of education. States developed the standards, accepted them voluntarily and implement them with local flexibility. The federal government merely encouraged states to adopt them, as it should have.  [Emphasis added.]

The Washington Post editorial board assumes that the governors who signed on for Common Core did so for some primary reason greater that the federal dollars doing so would possibly bring into their states. However, any governor who really wanted “higher standards” would surely have insisted on some empirical evidence that the resulting standards were indeed “higher” prior to agreeing to adopt them. Yet this common-sense insistence did not happen.

The promise of federal dollars won.

The RTTT competition for federal funding if a state agreed to institute the Four Assurances did happen, as did the federal “competition” to fund two Common Core testing consortia, PARCC and Smarter Balanced.

Even the pro-Common Core Fordham Institute could not could not construct “evidence” that Common Core was “higher” than the current standards in all 50 states and DC– but it still not only endorsed Common Core but also traveled to states with standards it rated as “higher” than Common Core, only to try to convince these states to settle for Common Core.

However, it was bound to happen that a number of these governors would put their own careers ahead of any Common Core allegiance since their initial commitment was only a superficial, bandwagon commitment to federal money.

And now, we have the Washington Post giving a thumbs-up to Republican Jeb Bush and Democratic governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo, for “fighting the poison.” However, the Washington Post’s publicly aligning Republican Jeb! with a Democratic governor– and one whose approval rating is at an all-time low (also here)– probably does little to advance Jeb! and his euphemistic “higher standards” before a public that is growing increasingly wise to federally-enticed Common Core.

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, right, speaks to moderators from left foreground, Bret Baier, Megyn Kelly and Chris Wallace during the first Republican presidential debate at the Quicken Loans Arena Thursday, Aug. 6, 2015, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

2016’s Winners and Losers

Alarm bells should be going off within the GOP establishment-class. A recently released poll of Iowa GOP voters showing Donald Trump in the lead with 22% support and Dr. Ben Carson in second place with 14% is a stinging rebuke to the political class. In analyzing this poll I came to the nearly irrefutable conclusion that Americans are looking for a dramatically different type of leadership, because the one trait these two candidates have in common is their lack of a political resume. Voters are beyond fed up with the “managed decline” attitude emanating from political insiders.

CNN Poll of Iowa: GOP Race 2016

I saw this phenomenon up close and personal during my campaign for congress and thought it had reached a crescendo, but I may have miscalculated the anger of the electorate. With this in mind I would like to cover the race for the GOP presidential nomination from an issues-based perspective rather than a candidate-based perspective. There are a number of well-done analyses on Conservative Review covering the gamut of candidate characteristics and voting records, but in this piece I want to cover what issues are winning and losing. For example, extrapolating from the results of the aforementioned Iowa GOP poll, it’s clear that long political resumes are no longer an asset. Therefore, term limits may be a “winner.”

Here are some other issues that are “winning” over the GOP electorate thus far, and some that are “losing:”

WINNER: Accountability

Hillary Clinton’s tanking poll numbers with regard to her “trustworthiness” are an ominous sign for the Democratic frontrunner, but they demonstrate that increased accountability is a winner in the eyes of the American people. After the Clinton email scandal, the IRS scandal, the terror attacks in Benghazi, the VA scandal, the GAO scandal, the Fast and Furious scandal, the AP / Fox News phone records scandal, the awful Iran “deal”, the Kate Steinle murder, and the Obama amnesty scandal, Americans of all political stripes are fed up with elected officials and government bureaucrats living by a separate set of “rules,” which would get the average American fined, arrested, and publicly humiliated.

WINNER: Conservative Immigration Reform

The establishment wing of the GOP, and some of their crony capitalist backers, have GROSSLY underestimated the importance GOP voters place on border security and a legal, and orderly, immigration process. Voter outrage is especially enflamed in the wake of President Obama’s lawless executive actions going undefeated in Congress. After watching the first GOP debate, and observing the GOP polling trends, I cannot see any GOP candidate who supports amnesty winning the GOP nomination.

WINNER: Tax Reform

A number of the GOP candidates on the debate stage, and in their campaign platforms, have eloquently spoken about a number of bold, serious, pro-growth-oriented tax reforms which would jumpstart job and wage growth, including the fair tax, a flat tax, a marginal income tax rate cut, and the elimination of economically-distorting, insider tax-deductions. With the recent release of another series of disappointing job numbers and stagnant wage growth, the GOP is again positioned to frame itself as the party of broad-based prosperity if we can relay our message clearly and concisely.

LOSER: Common Core

There are few issues which engender the degree of bipartisan revulsion the way that Common Core does. There are a couple of things you just don’t mess with and the education of our children is one of them. Jeb Bush’s weak defense of Common Core actually served to make the case for dumping Common Core in favor of local education standards, which suit the students of the local school districts, not the interests of power-hungry Washington D.C. bureaucrats.

LOSER: Planned Parenthood and Abortion-on-Demand

After being caught red-handed on videotape, harvesting and trafficking the organs of aborted children, this sick organization may be single-handedly responsible for creating a new generation of pro-life young Americans. The organ trafficking scandal put the issue on the center stage of the national political debate and forced America to confront the horror of abortion without the flowery talking points the far-left has used for years to disguise the genuine horror of what is happening. Also, the laws of political gravity are beginning to reestablish their preeminence with the Trump campaign after his puzzling response to a question about the taxpayer funding of Planned Parenthood. Supporting, in any fashion, a policy which forces the taxpayers to fund this horrible organization is a complete and total loser among GOP voters.

LOSER: Political Correctness

Whether you support or revile Donald Trump, you cannot ignore him. His attack on our increasingly politically correct culture generated thunderous applause from the audience during the GOP debate. It generated applause because Republicans, Conservatives, Libertarians, and moderate Democrats are seething with frustration and disappointment at the far-left’s determination to generate false outrage and divide up America using PC word policing. These self-appointed authorities randomly declare people “racist,” “sexist,” and worse, for speaking out against bad policies. The circle of what the far-left declares to be “acceptable conversation” has been shrinking for years as they fascistically categorize a growing number of words as off-limits, and a growing number of Americans as racists, misogynists, xenophobes, homophobes, and worse. As this “acceptable” circle shrinks, and the number of people allowed inside lessens, those on the outside, designated extremists by the media-progressive alliance, will viciously fight back in support of forces willing to take on this alliance.

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared in the Conservative Review.

Jeb_Bush

It’s August 2015, and Jeb Bush Doesn’t Know What Common Core Means Anymore

Jeb Bush is trying to distance himself from Common Core.

jeb bush 3

He is avoiding using the term, and when he was asked about Common Core while campaigning in Iowa on Friday, August 14, 2015, Bush responded, “The term Common Core is so darned poisonous, I don’t even know what it means anymore.”

He’s just a guy who supports “state-created higher standards”:

Bush has previously described the standards as “poisonous politically,” but on Friday, he seemed thoroughly exasperated by the term itself and looked to move past it.

“I’m for higher standards – state-created, locally implemented – where the federal government has no role in the creation of standards, content or curriculum,” Bush said in Iowa.

He doesn’t say that the government should have no role in creating assessments. Strategic omission since the federal government obviously funded two Common Core assessment consortia, PARCC and Smarter Balanced.

Jeb Bush arrived very late to the “I just want higher standards” party, but here he is, nonetheless. However, Jeb Bush knows full well the well-founded criticisms of the Common Core. On December 1, 2011, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), an organization in which Jeb Bush is active and highly influential, actually passed a model resolution opposing Common Core, the purpose of which was for legislators to carry back to their Common Core-endorsing states in order to formally oppose Common Core.

Here is the text of that resolution:

Resolution Opposing the Implementation of the Common Core State Standards Initiative

Model Resolution

WHEREAS, high student performance and closing the achievement gap is fundamentally linked to an overall reform of our public education system through a strong system of accountability and transparency built on state standards, and

WHEREAS, the responsibility for the education of each child of this nation primarily lies with parents, supported by locally elected school boards and state governments, and

WHEREAS, common standards have resulted in increased decision making on issues of state and local significancewithout the input of state and local stakeholders, and

WHEREAS, no empirical evidence indicates that centralized education standards necessarily result in higher student achievement, and

WHEREAS, special interest groups can expose the vulnerability of the centralized decision making that governs common standards and lower the standards’ rigor and quality to suit their priorities, and

WHEREAS, adoption of the Common Core standards would force several states to lower their standards, and

WHEREAS, the National Assessment of Educational Progress national test already exists and allows comparisons of academic achievement to be made across the states, without the necessity of imposing national standards, curricula or assessments, and

WHEREAS, imposing a set of national standards is likely to lead to the imposition of a national curriculum and national assessment upon the various states, a clear violation of the Elementary Secondary Education Act, and

WHEREAS, claims from the Common Core Initiative that the Common Core will not dictate what teachers teach in the classroom are refuted by language in the standards as written, and

WHEREAS, common standards will continue to lessen the ability for local stakeholders to innovate and continue to make improvements over time, and 

WHEREAS, when no less than 22 states face budget shortfalls and Race to the Top funding for states is limited, $350 million for consortia to develop new assessments aligned with the Common Core standards will not cover the entire cost of overhauling state accountability systems, which includes implementation of standards and testing and associated professional development and curriculum restructuring, and

WHEREAS, local education officials, school leaders, teachers, and parents were not included in the discussion, evaluation and preparation of the standards that would affect students in this state.

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the {legislative body} of the state of {name of state} rejects any policies and procedures that would be incumbent on the state based on the Common Core State Standards Initiative. [Emphasis added excepting bolded, capped words.]

However, on November 19, 2012– almost a year following the ALEC vote to oppose CCSS– Jeb Bush’s Foundation for Excellence in Education (FEE) promoted the idea of an ALEC “final final vote.” The person promoting this idea was none other than former ALEC Education Task Force Director-gone-FEE Communications Specialist David Myslinski. Below is an excerpt:

Over the weekend, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) rejected an anti-Common Core bill, thus completing its 18-month exploration of the Common Core State Standards.This action reaffirmed ALEC’s position that states should be in charge of their education standards and supports the option for states to freely adopt Common Core.

By rejecting the bill, which would have tied the hands of state legislators, ALEC made clear its support of states raising student expectations through higher standards—working in consort with other states or working independently.[Emphasis added.]

Jeb Bush influenced ALEC to ditch its detailed resolution against Common Core. For Bush’s FEE to insinuate that a non-official piece of ALEC-generated model legislation would somehow have “tied legislator hands” is not enough to conceal the hypocrisy that the ALEC about-face was a Jeb Bush effort to “tie legislator hands” in favor of Common Core.

That Bush has faithfully campaigned for that Common Core is no secret. In April 2014, Bush told New York Times reporter Peter Baker that defending Common Core “was the right thing to do”:

… [Bush] made clear he would not shrink from views scorned by the dominant wing of the party. He defended his commitment to the so-called Common Core set of educational standards. “I just don’t feel compelled to run for cover when I think this is the right thing to do for our country,” he said.

And in November 2014, when Bush addressed his FEE, he clearly backed Common Core as though it were empirically proven to remedy all that ails American public education. As the Washington Times reports, Bush speaks of needing to “experiment” and “improve based on evidence”:

“We should be willing to experiment. We should always look to improve our thinking based on the evidence. This is why the debate over the Common Core State Standards has been troubling,” he said Thursday in a keynote address at a gathering of Foundation for Excellence in Education, a group he founded after his tenure as Florida governor ended in 2007.

“I respect those who have weighed in on all sides of this issue. Nobody in this debate has a bad motive. But let’s take a step back from this debate for a second,” he continued. “Only a quarter of our high school graduates who took the ACT are fully prepared for college. More than half who attend community college need to take some kind of remedial course. Six hundred thousand skilled manufacturing jobs remain unfilled because we haven’t trained enough people with those skills. And almost a third of high school graduates fail the military entrance exam. Given this reality, there is no question we need higher academic standards and — at the local level — diverse high-quality content and curricula. And, in my view, the rigor of the Common Core State Standards must be the new minimum in classrooms.” [Emphasis added.]

In November 2014, Bush was certain about his push for Common Core. In November 2014, Bush’s very public view was that America should be willing to “experiment” with Common Core. Now, he could not ask America to consider the evidence that Common Core would actually deliver since the experiment must precede the “wait and see.” However, Bush does not promote Common Core “results” as “wait and see”; he promotes Common Core as the Known and Recognized American Public Education Solution.

But that was nine months ago.

It’s now August 2015, and the political pressure to remain wed to Common Core has Jeb Bush reckoning with a Common Core poison that apparently has given him some amazing memory loss.

He isn’t even sure what Common Core means anymore.

But I think Jeb Bush most certainly does know what Common Core means:

According to RealClearPolitics, in the Iowa Republican Presidential Caucus for August 7 – 11, 2015, Bush is sitting at 7th place.

His Common Core faithfulness is albatrossing his efforts at being the third Bush to reside at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

children at chalk board

A Funders’ Guide to the Common Core State Standards

In fall 2012, three philanthropic mega-organizations, Education Funder Strategy GroupGrantmakers for Education, and Growth Philanthropy Network, united to form the Common Core Funders Working Group (CCFWG).

The goal of this mega-mega philanthropic machine is to cement Common Core into American public education.

Here is a description of the purpose of CCFWG as noted in December 2013:

Recognizing the unique possibilities provided by Common Core standards, committed foundations are planning, learning, and acting together in a concerted way over the next two years as the “Common Core Funders Working Group.” A collaborative effort between the Education Funder Strategy Group, Growth Philanthropy Network and Grantmakers for Education, the Working Group seeks to leverage and organize the unique contributions of philanthropy——including resources, leadership, nimbleness, and independence——to support states and schools districts in successfully transitioning to the new Common Core standards.

The Working Group organizes funder interests and leadership on Common Core implementation issues at the national, state, and local levels. To learn more about getting involved——or simply to get added to the Working Group’s regular e-newsletter summarizing reports, research, and development with the standards——contact Grantmakers for Education.

In July 2015, CCFWG published a nine-page report summarizing what it “had learned” in its efforts over three years, from 2012 to 2015– as well as its decision to continue those efforts. Here are excerpts from the beginning of their July 2015 report, including their take on Common Core– and their assumption that they should promote it in schools that their own children are highly unlikely to attend– public schools:

The Common Core State Standards–finalized in 2009 and adopted by 46 states and D.C.—define a 21st century visionfor what young people need for success in college and careers in mathematics and English language arts. As such, their authors and many advocates believe the standards present an unprecedented opportunity to elevate the quality and effectiveness of teaching and learning in America’s schools—and to tackle persistent problems in new ways.

With their emphasis on problem-solving, critical thinking and writing, the Common Core standards can usher sweeping changes in schools, districts and states. And the transition to these higher expectations has shone a new light on many problems (such as allocation of resources towards ineffective professional development activities, and lack of scrutiny in the adoption of quality teaching materials) that have hampered effective teaching and world-class education in U.S. schools.Education funders interested in supporting the success of Common Core standards have therefore been pushed to consider solutions to deeper challenges and to consider more powerful ways of exerting influence and encouraging change. [Emphasis added.]

Two notes: First, these CC mega-funders considered Common Core “finalized in 2009,” when Common Core was not officially released until June 02, 2010. Second, they see their role as one of “exerting influence” in “powerful ways.”

And here are the concluding paragraphs of the July 2015 CCFWG report. Of course, the Common Core mega-funding push mustcontinue:

The challenges and needs posed by the Common Core standards remain. Funder support —for better teaching materials and better tests, for communications and advocacy, for teacher development—will still be critical and even decisive in the years ahead.

Working individually and jointly, philanthropy has influenced the adoption and implementation of the new standards. But the need for aggressive and well-organized advocacy and communications; the simultaneous potential and limitations of funder collaboration; the lessons about continuous improvement; and remaining questions about philanthropy’s role in systems change all remain pressing needs for continued support and future undertakings. [Emphasis added.]

CCFWG has plans to pay for “better tests”; it plans to continue to “advocate” for the Common Core “adoption” it has “influenced,” and its goal is to create “systems change”– with the “system” changing to “define the 21st century vision” for publicly educating the economic classes to which these rich folk do not belong.

In December 2013, Grantmakers for Education (GFE) and the Helmsley Trust produced this executive summary of three reports to help would-be Common Core funders. (Find more GFE reports here.) Here is their floral treatment of the glory of Common Core– “according to the project’s leaders”:

Announced in 2009 by the National Governors Association and Council of Chief State School Officers and voluntarily adopted by most states, the Common Core State Standards offer a new blueprint for what students in virtually every corner of the country will learn in English language arts (ELA) and literacy as well as mathematics. The Common Core are designed to be “robust and relevant to the real world, reflecting the knowledge and skills that young people need for success in college and careers,” according to the project’s leaders. States and local school systems are working overtime to implement and adjust to the higher expectations. Meanwhile, advocates and critics are engaged in spirited discourse over whether the standards can effectively drive improvement in K-12 education.

Note that the “spirited discourse” over the Common Core experiment follows the adoption– and still philanthropy is more than willing to push Common Core.

It must be just fine since “the project’s leaders” say so.

The opening of the executive summary is a more realistic in its portrayal of the 2009 “announcement” of Common Core (though by the time of the announcement, 46 states and three territories had already signed the Common Core memorandum of understanding).

Here are some noteworthy excerpts from the December 2013 funders executive summary:

…Funders should explore whether the Common Core affects their existing grantmaking strategies, and how they might use the standards as a rallying point to help accelerate pre-existing work and goals. …

Reflecting on grantmaking goals and objectives, funders should think about how to acknowledge the Common Core in their education investments. …

In addition to grantmaking, are there other leadership roles we can play to focus attention on the Common Core?

But this excerpt is my favorite, by far:

The new standards have come under political and public attack in multiple states, and the opposition is expected to grow. Despite the states’ collaborative development and voluntary adoption of the standards, opponents on the right argue that the Common Core is a federal mandate. Opponents on the left are concerned about how the standards will affect teachers under new accountability systems, and about a perceived over-emphasis on testing. As a result, anti-Common Core campaigns are emerging in states across the country—some organic, but many highly coordinated and well-funded.

The Common Core—with its focus on raising expectations for how well students write, solve problems, and think critically—represents the culmination of reforms that many grantmakers have been trying to advance individually and in isolated efforts.Now, funders can use their resources and bully pulpit to help protect and advance the new standards.  …

Funders can play a key role in helping build and maintain public will in support of the new standards. Some foundations have chosen to exercise their voice directly,publishing opinion pieces and convening key stakeholders to express support for the Common Core.Others have chosen to fund advocacy groups to support the work. Funders may also leverage their relationships with key stakeholder groups, such as the business community, which can provide powerful local voices in support of reform.

Advocacy shouldn’t stop with the new standards: Funders can play an essential role in helping state education policy leaders understand the value proposition of the new, common assessments most states will likely use. The reality is: Standards, no matter how good, aren’t very helpful if they aren’t well-measured. [Emphasis added.]

Common Core needs public support. So, let’s buy some.

We’ll call it “leveraging our relationships.” This is all the more important since Common Core opposition is “well organized and well funded.”

These are millionaires and billionaires soliciting Common Core pushes who are writing about supposed “well funded” Common Core opposition. Their solution? Manufactured support via the purchasing of pro-CC organizations, fabricating CC support meetings, and writing “I’m rich so my opinion is valuable” op-eds about an education initiative from which rich kids are exempt.

And Common Core needs common assessments; so, let’s “help” education policy leaders “understand” the need for the tests that must accompany Common Core. (The feds, who are supposedly not puppeting state involvement in Common Core, publicly agreed in 2009 to foot the bill for Common Core assessments. So, no need for philanthropy to directly pay for the assessments. However, indirect funding is always, uh, “helpful”….)

If it isn’t tested, it doesn’t count… for the lower- and middle-class kids. After all, that’s who the moneyed, CC-exempt are using their “bully pulpits” to advocate for–

–the Common Core guinea pigs.

kindergarten children

Common Core is Creeping into Everything

Common Core is spreading like a plague.  It’s entering pre-school, college, downloaded lesson plans, and even vacation Bible school.  And it’s disguised in the Orwellian Every Child Achieves Act, which is now in committee.

Toddler Common Core

In Connecticut, preschools have adopted Common Core for children ages 3 to 5.  According to the Bristol Press, the curriculum used by the Bristol Early Childhood Center has changed to meet the expectations of the new Connecticut Early Learning and Development Standards.  The new curriculum ostensibly covers pre-academic skills, which according to the course description, will “foster development of social, emotional, physical, language, [and] cognitive areas and integrate key areas of content including literacy, mathematics, science, technology, creative expression and the arts, health and safety, and social studies.”  That sounds more “academic” than “pre” to me.  (But for our Department of Education no function is beyond its purview, including teaching parents how to “’bridge the word gap’” for newborns.  Now 24/7 government boarding schools have been put on the table by Arne Duncan.)

Studying the Bible the Common Core Way

When I heard about vacation Bible schools making their Bible story readings Common Core compliant I thought that maybe some ill-informed and well-intentioned teachers thought they could keep students up on their schoolwork.  But the Courier Journal reports that Jefferson County Public Schools have been offering Common Core training to “interested Vacation Bible School providers.” This, however, came after “enlisting the religious groups to help combat the ‘summer slide’” (emphasis added).  The teachers have imbibed the public school lessons: Olivia Hanley of Midwest Church of Christ, oddly, approved of the Common Core method of “critical thinking” for Bible study.  More than 30 Louisville-area church officials attended training this year, more than had attended last year.  No doubt, efforts to expand reach are underway.  My question is: how much of the public school funds went into recruiting and training Bible school teachers?  And why are public school employees going to churches as part of their official duty?  What gives them the authority?  Surely, there must be someone out there who otherwise would scream “separation of church and state!” (say, for putting a Christmas tree in a school auditorium) who might be interested in this matter.

Common Core in Downloaded Curriculum Material

Common Core, even without such outreach efforts, is creeping into schools in non-Common Core states, as Education Week reports. They estimate that 1 in 12 of the teachers downloading Common Core-compliant curriculum materials are in states that do not have Common Core in place.  That means that at least some Common Core teaching is going on in non-Common Core states.  Of course, when most states adopt Common Core it stands to reason that most of the curricula produced (including textbooks) will be Common Core-compliant.

Common Core College

As I wrote last fall, Common Core is in college.  According to the 2013 National Center for Postsecondary Research working paper, The Common Core State Standards: Implications for Community Colleges and Student Preparedness for College, over 900 public and private colleges and universities have committed to using Common Core tests for placement. Therefore, they have committed to changing their standards to Common Core.  This year, three higher education groups issued a joint statement asserting their “Commitment to College- and Career-Ready Standards and Assessments.”  They pledged not only to support Common Core in K-12, but to “change practices in our higher education institutions. . . . includ[ing] adapting our placement policies.”  They will also prepare new teachers and assist veteran teachers “in the delivery of high-quality instruction supporting these higher standards.”  They pledge, in other words, to allow the U.S. Department of Education to give professors directives on how to teach.  Even better, they pledge to train the professors for the Department.

Common Core Hiding in the Every Child Achieves Act

All kinds of creepy Common Core things are embedded in the Every Child Achieves Act (ECAA), which is really a “rewrite” of the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act, part of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), according to Dr. Karen R. Effrem of Education Liberty Watch. The ESEA is more commonly known as Title I, the program under which low-income school districts receive federal funds.  It is loved by state bureaucrats because it means more money for their districts, as one of them revealed at a meeting I went to in 2014.

But while Common Core is popular enough to make its way into vacation Bible schools, politicians know it’s toxic.  So they disguise it.  American Principles in Action calls the Act “A Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing” and offers 21 reasons to oppose the 792-page bill (122 pages longer than the NCLB bill).

Even though new language seems to restrict the Department of Education from “for example, coercing states into adopting the Common Core national standards,” the “protection” is meaningless.  The language replicates existing protections, both of which have no enforcement mechanism for the states.  And, “ECAA negates the protections anyway” because states must be aligned to the “college-and-career-ready” standards – “code” for Common Core.

Such “college-and-career-ready” standards that override state and college standards for placement in credit-bearing courses also put downward pressure on states to keep Common Core, or similar standards, in place.

ECAA mandates that 95 percent of students take the state assessments and therefore interferes with parental “opt-out” rights for testing.  These state assessments, in addition to NCLB’s requirement that states produce “individual student interpretive, descriptive, and diagnostic reports,” require assessments on “behavioral/skills-based standards.”  It does not protect against the plans to probe students’ “‘mindsets,’ ‘grit,’ or other psychological traits.”  In fact, it offers incentives to states to do that.  The I-TECH provision offers “free” money to states that agree to use “personalized learning” — or Brave New World technology that collects personal and psychological data on students as they use it.

Jane Robbins, Senior Fellow at the American Principles Project, says, “The main problem, to me, is that the bill claims to be diminishing federal authority when in fact its structure is highly prescriptive and tells states exactly what they must do in terms of standards, assessments, and accountability systems. So it’s not just bad policy, it’s active deceit.”

An analysis of amendments and votes is available at Education Liberty Watch.  To see how you can fight this bill visit American Principles in Action here.

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared on the Selous Foundation for Public Policy Research website.