One would think that if teachers supported the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), then teachers would take the initiative to rally around said CCSS.
Not so. It seems that we need Bill Gates to tell us that we need CCSS. He did so today (Friday, March 14, 2014), in Washington, DC:
Bill Gates is rallying teachers to support an embattled cause, the Common Core State Standards.
Got that? Teachers support CCSS to such a degree that they need Bill to tell them to do so.
It seems that Gates has once again bought himself an audience; he offered his CCSS-indulging speech to the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS) at its Teaching and Learning conference.
Why is Gates, a non-teacher, offering his non-expertise to an audience of nationally-certified teachers?
Consolation prize for millions donated.
Gates has paid NBPTS $5 million in the form of two grants, one in 2010, and one in 2013:
Date: May 2010
Purpose: to score Measures of Effective Teaching videos, enhance the Take One materials and processes and design, and assess the efficacy of those materials as a whole-school approach to improving teacher effectiveness
Date: July 2013
Purpose: to support revision of the National Board certification process
Gates is not a teacher and has never been a teacher, yet he feels he is qualified to make untested judgments about a set of inflexible, corporate- and federal-endorsed “standards” that currently have legislative bodies nationwide in upheaval.
The sadder indictment comes against NBPTS, who allowed Gates this opportunity to showcase his ignorance.
My sincere thanks to education organizations that have not taken Gates money. Thank you for not selling your conference speaking opportunities to well-funded emptiness.
Gates is a billionaire, so he can buy this NBPTS platform in order to push the CCSS that he has spent the last several years purchasing.
And why do we need CCSS, according to Gates?
As Joy Resmovits of Huffington Post writes,
[Gates] charged that the controversy around the Core “comes from people who want to stop the standards, which would send us back to what we had before.“ [Emphasis added.]
Where “were we before,” Bill?
I’ll tell you where I was– you know, since I’m a teacher and you are not. I was allowed to use standards as flexible guidelines, to adjust them to serve my students– based upon my professional judgment.
That’s where I “was,” Bill. And that is where I must now defend remaining.
Standards are secondary to students. Students (and teachers) should not be forced to fit the mold of inflexible standards.
Forcing students and teachers to contort themselves to suit a set of rigid standards is not “academic rigor.” It is academic abuse.
Going back “to what I had” is a welcome idea, for what I “had” did not preclude my individual expertise as a professional capable of making sound judgments in regard to my own students.
But Bill has his own ideas.
Keep in mind that this is the same very rich guy who has been playing with American education for years as though its his own personal toy and who, without thought for the thousands of lives he has disturbed, is able to casually toss out in a September 2013 Harvard University interview,
“It would be great if our education stuff worked, but that we won’t know for probably a decade.”
According to Resmovits, Gates continues his March 14 speech:
Gates argued that America’s education system currently does not prepare students adequately for college, because it’s not asking enough of them. So the transition to the new standards is hard because it has to be, he said, and asked teachers to explain the standards to local families.
First off, “not preparing students for college” presumes that the school exerts overriding control over students and should guarantee that all are processed for the Gates-determined “college ideal.”
Certainly preparation “for college” presumes college completion.
After all, isn’t “college completion” the ultimate mark of “a system’s adequately preparing students for college”?
I find it an incredible irony that Gates himself is a college dropout, and that some spreadsheet could include his name on a list of “failure to complete.”
In his narrow logic, Gates insists that the “problem” is to “ask more of students,” and that this can be accomplished via CCSS.
In Gates’ skewed estimation, CCSS is magic. It will solve the Gates-perceived education problems– unless it doesn’t– and this we “probably won’t know for a decade.”
But we “know” now because Gates says so:
Consistency of the Common Core across states, Gates argued, is a key ingredient in its potential success. Under older standards, he said, a student from Kentucky didn’t have to know the quadratic formula, but a neighbor in Tennessee did.
I love the reference to “old standards.” Even the pro-privatizing Fordham Institute did not rate CCSS as better than many states’ “old standards.” However, like Gates, Fordham pushes CCSS.
If “consistency” were necessary for educational success, then every elite private school would conform to CCSS. However, these schools are above being asked. No one expects the elite to bow to CCSS. On the contrary, CCSS is for the masses.
Mass production of pseudo-education.
The bottom line is that no proponent of CCSS has any solid proof of its efficacy, Gates and his billions included. Yet despite having no “consistent” (rigid) educational standards across its 50 states, the United States somehow became a world power and has managed to produce scores of inventions now taken for granted and often considered indispensable to everyday functioning.
Bill, I realize that CCSS is your current “educational cause” and that you are used to having your way via your purchasing power. However, you’re going to lose this one.
The pushback from bottom-up defies both your billions and the weight of your overpriced will.
Perhaps you ought to take up reforming the so-called reformers. Hold them accountable to document the successes they so loudly declare. Hold them accountable for the damage their capricious decisions cause.
Now there’s an arena ripe for some standards.