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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.

America: Are You being Schlonged?

Great orators have a way of using a word to make a point that resonates with the masses. Some of these words later become part of a dialogue and perhaps even are added to Webster’s dictionary.

Donald Trump is a master at using simple words to explain complex issues. His latest is the use of the noun schlong as a verb when referring to Hillary Clinton.

Charles Hurt in his column “The Nuclear Option: Donald Trump Schools Rivals on ‘The Art of the Schlong” writes:

If you think “The Art of the Deal” was a yuuuuuuuuuuge success — and it was — just wait until Donald Trump comes out with his latest masterpiece, “The Art of the Schlong.”

[ … ]

“The Art of the Schlong” is a political treatise, like “The Art of War,” only more devastating and infinitely more entertaining. It is more psychologically sinister than Machiavelli’s “The Prince.” It is like Dale Carnegie’s “How to Win Friends and Influence People,” only the opposite. Except for the influence part.

The treatise is a tactical primer for anybody thinking of getting into politics, especially as a Republican these days. Tough world out there right now.

It is a schlong or get-schlonged world, so you’d better learn how to schlong. [Emphasis added]

Americans increasingly believe they are getting schlonged.

gallop government corruptionIn September a Gallop poll confirmed that 75% in U.S. see widespread government corruption. Gallop reports:

Three in four Americans (75%) last year perceived corruption as widespread in the country’s government. This figure is up from two in three in 2007 (67%) and 2009 (66%).

While the numbers have fluctuated slightly since 2007, the trend has been largely stable since 2010. However, the percentage of U.S. adults who see corruption as pervasive has never been less than a majority in the past decade, which has had no shortage of controversies from the U.S. Justice Department’s firings of U.S. attorneys to the IRS scandal.

Add to this list: The Fast and Furious government gunwalking scandal, the Benghazi and Extortion 17 cover-ups, the revelation that Obamacare is unsustainable by Professor Jonathan Gruber and most recently Hillary Clinton’s email scandal.

Donald Trump in one word has captured the essence of all of these examples of government out of control. Will his use of schlonged, along with Grubered, be added to the political lexicon? Only time will tell.

If you feel you are being schlonged please take our confidential survey and leave a comment and tell us how government has schlonged you.

RELATED VIDEO: Who are the biggest crooks in America?

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To use Schlonged or not to use Schlonged, that is not the question!

Sanders: Trump is ‘bombastic’ so he can get media coverage

A Real Stunner: Obama IRS “not even a smidgen of corruption”!

 “Anything is better than lies and deceit!” – Leo Tolstoy

It’s been a rather stunning week.

It began with Denver fans sitting stunned as they watched the Seattle Seahawks totally decimate the Broncos in Super Bowl XLVIII.

Then, the President stunningly said the IRS targeting scandal had “not even a smidgen of corruption”. That was news to lots of Americans.

Sadly, the President said this in the face of what has already been presented from numerous Congressional investigations and hearings, and likely without having been briefed on an unfinished, albeit what appears to be a highly politicized Justice Department investigation.

Then three days after the interview, at Wednesday’s Congressional oversight hearing, Committee on Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp presented a June 14, 2012,email between Ruth Madrigal, a career attorney at the U.S. Treasury Department and several top officials with the IRS in Washington.

In this rather stunning email, Madrigal wrote, “Don’t know who in your organizations is keeping tabs on c4s, but since we mentioned potentially addressing them (off – plan) in 2013, I’ve got my radar up and this seemed interesting…” Folks, in Washington speak, “off-plan” means hidden or secret from public view. So much for transparency.

This was followed by yesterday’s explosive IRS oversight hearing. Attorney Cleta Mitchell charged, “First, the IRS scandal is real. It’s not pretend, it’s real. Number two, the IRS scandal is not just a bone headed bunch of bureaucrats in some remote office contrary to what the President of the United States told the American people on Sunday. And, number 3, the IRS scandal is not over. It is continuing to this day. And, the Department of Justice Investigation is a sham. It is a NON-EXISTENT investigation.“

Mitchell then chronicled a series of what she described as “lies” during a stunning, opening statement.

The combative hearing culminated with several Members beating the drum for a Special Prosecutor. There’s only one word for this – stunning!

One wonders if the President now regrets making his “smidgen” declaration.

What has happened with the IRS scandals cannot be undone and deserves a full and unbiased, non-partisan investigation led by someone other than a major donor to the current President of the United States. And, today’s clarion call for a special prosecutor is a wise next step. Going forward, there is only one way to ensure that this kind of political terror never happens again.

HR 25, the FairTax Act of 2013, currently before Congress and the Committee on Ways and Means is the only legislation that provides simple and fair taxation for all Americans.

More importantly, HR 25 is the only legislation that defunds and disbands the IRS in its entirety.

It is time that Congress stop the perennial IRS theatrics – theatrics created by 74,608 pages of special interests driven tax code approved by Congress – and pass HR 25 / S 122.

Finally, Americans For Fair Taxation® is a key sponsor of the Western States Conservative Caucus in Phoenix, AZ onFebruary 22, 2014. Approximately 1,000 attendees will receive a FairTax lanyard, FairTax button, FairTax pocket card and FairTax briefing information in their registration packet. In addition, Neal Boortz will be a keynote speaker during the plenary session and will lead an exciting panel discussion, “The FairTax: An idea whose time has come,” which also features FairTax spokesperson Steve Hayes and retired AZ State Senator and longtime FairTax advocate Lori Klein.

Our AZ FairTax team, supported by grassroots FairTax leaders coming in from across the nation, will have a booth to share more information on the FairTax Plan with participants. This conference promises great educational opportunities for the FairTax. If you would like to join the FairTax team, you can register for the conference here.

I look forward to seeing you in Phoenix!

Study calls on US DOE to stop bribing states to adopt Common Core

The United States Department of Education (USED) should be prohibited from making adoption of national English and math standards known as Common Core a condition or incentive for receipt of federal funding, and both USED and organizations like the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers, whose dues are paid with taxpayer funds, should make public the amount of time and money they have invested in promoting Common Core according to a new study published by Pioneer Institute.

“Common Core fundamentally alters the relationship between the federal government and the states,” says former Texas Commissioner of Education Robert Scott, the author of A Republic of Republics: How Common Core Undermines State and Local Autonomy over K-12 Education. “States are sacrificing their ability to inform what their students learn.”

To read the full study click here.

Three federal laws explicitly prohibit the federal government from directing, supervising, funding, or controlling any nationalized standards, testing, or curriculum. Yet Race to the Top (RttT), a competitive $4.35 billion federal grant program, gave preference to states that adopted or indicated their intention to adopt Common Core and participated in one of two federally funded consortia developing assessments linked to Common Core.

USED subsequently made adoption of Common Core one of the criteria for granting states conditional waivers from the accountability provisions of the federal No Child Left Behind law.

In his preface for the paper, Iowa’s U.S. Senator Charles Grassley writes that when gov­ernment makes “decisions that affect a child’s education, these decisions should be made at a level of government close to the parents and students who are affected.” He goes on to criticize how what began as a plan to develop standards that states could adopt voluntarily has become a subject of federal coercion.

Scott notes that the adoption of new standards normally takes years from the time they are initially written by panels of educators, made available for extended periods of public review, and revised until they are adopted. But because of RttT’s deadlines, these periods were reduced to a few months or even weeks.

As a result of the rushed process, states adopted Common Core without knowing about assessments; the outcomes for which students, and in some cases teachers, will be held accountable. Other unknowns include what the passing score will be, who will set it, and whether it will be the same from state to state.

The three most populous states – California, Texas and Florida – also have systematic processes for adopting textbooks. These reviews happen on a regular cycle and would be disrupted and often expedited due to the need to adopt instructional materials aligned with the new standards in time for them to be implemented.

The expedited process by which Common Core was adopted in most states meant teachers had no opportunity to inform the standards’ content. In some states, the new standards are substantially different than what had been taught. In many cases, teachers will be teaching material in different grades than it had been before.

Scott describes all the “learning on the go” Common Core will require as a very expensive gamble. The one-year cost of new technology, instructional materials and teacher professional development is estimated at $10.5 billion for the 45 states and the District of Columbia, which have adopted the standards. With ongoing expenses, the cost is expected to rise to about $16 billion.

Scott also describes why Texas chose not to adopt Common Core while he served as commissioner of education. Disruption of the textbook adoption cycle, the lengthy process of making the standards available to the public and seeking approval from the state Board of Education, and the cost of changing procedures and parts of the education code were among the reasons for the decision not to adopt.

Texas would have been in line for a $700 million RttT grant, but “it costs more than $300 million per day to run public schools in Texas,” Scott says. “Giving up substantial autonomy to direct education policy in return for roughly enough money to run the schools for two days was not a trade-off we were willing to make.”

This report is co-sponsored by the American Principles Project, the Pacific Research Institute, and the Civitas Institute. Pioneer’s extensive research on Common Core national education standards includes:  Common Core Standards Still Don’t Make the Grade,The Road to a National Curriculum: The Legal Aspects of the Common Core Standards, Race to the Top, and Conditional Waivers, and National Cost of Aligning States and Localities to the Common Core Standards. Recent national media coverage includes op-eds placed in The Wall Street Journal and The Weekly Standard.

ABOUT THE PIONEER INSTITUTE:

Pioneer Institute is an independent, non-partisan, privately funded research organization that seeks to improve the quality of life in Massachusetts through civic discourse and intellectually rigorous, data-driven public policy solutions based on free market principles, individual liberty and responsibility, and the ideal of effective, limited and accountable government.