Those 24 Common Core 2009 Work Group Members
In May 2009, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal and former State Education Superintendent Paul Pastorek signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) for the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). This CCSS MOU would become “Appendix B” for the US Department of Education’s (USDOE’s) Race to the Top (RTTT) program.
In June 2009, the National Governors Association (NGA), in conjunction with US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, announced that 46 states were already signed on for what would become CCSS.
The formal document, the CCSS MOU, outlines in detail the different groups of individuals and what their roles would be in “developing” CCSS.
The document signed by Jindal and Pastorek in May 2009– the CCSS MOU that would become RTTT Appendix B– is the same document I wrote about in this post.
The CCSS MOU makes it clear that the chief decision makers for CCSS were the individuals on the CCSS English Language Arts (ELA) and math work groups.
The CCSS copyright owners, NGA and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) wanted to keep CCSS work group membership a secret but bowed to public pressure to reveal the names and affiliations of the 24 work group members.
In its July 01, 2009, press release, NGA makes it clear that these work groups were dominated by three affiliations, one standards-writing nonprofit (Achieve) and two testing companies (ACT and College Board).
The NGA statement is in keeping with the already-signed CCSS MOUs. However, the CCSS MOU stated that the process would be “open, inclusive, and efficient” and “would be completed by December 2009.”
Keep in mind that NGA and CCSSO decided upon work group membership. No discussion. Keep also in mind that membership was not publicized until public pressure forced disclosure.
Here’s a question: Did NGA and CCSSO just “throw together” this July 2009 CCSS work group listing in order to post a press release under duress?
In the 2009 NGA press release, the “open” part of the CCSS work group discussion is nixed:
The Work Group’s deliberations will be confidential throughout the process.
NGA also made other “changes”:
This group will be expanded later in the year to include additional experts to develop the standards for grades K-12 in English language arts and mathematics. Additionally, CCSSO and the NGA Center have selected an independent facilitator and an independent writer as well as resource advisors to support each content area work group throughout the standards development process.
I wrote about the “expanded group” in this post and noted that the added individuals hail mainly from departments of education and universities.
The three individuals from Louisiana’s Department of Education were all once teachers but had left the classroom years earlier. I wondered if they even knew that they were “token teachers” on the CCSS work groups.
The “new” NGA/CCSSO appointees were very light on current classroom experience.
The 2009 NGA press release makes yet another point quite clear regarding the role of the “feedback groups,” also listed by name and heavy on university affiliations:
Final decisions regarding the common core standards document will be made by the Standards Development Work Group. The Feedback Group will play an advisory role, not a decision-making role in the process. [Emphasis added.]
NGA and CCSSO clearly selected the original 24 CCSS work group individuals with the intention (stated clearly in the CCSS MOU) of leaning heavily on Achieve, ACT, and College Board.
The CCSS MOU places no emphasis on current classroom teachers’ holding CCSS work group, “decision making” roles.
In the remainder of this post, I offer details on the credentials of NGA’s and CCSSO’s original 2009 “24 Chosen,” particularly regarding classroom teaching experience (or the absence thereof).
My findings indicate that NGA and CCSSO had a clear, intentional bent toward CCSS work group members with assessment experience, not with teaching experience, and certainly not with current classroom teaching experience.
In both CCSS work groups, the number of individuals with “ACT” and “College Board” designations outnumbered those with documented classroom teaching experience.
And now, allow me to introduce to you with a degree of detail heretofore unknown… the CCSS work group “Chosen 24″:
CCSS Mathematics Work Group
Sara Clough is a former biology teacher (1990-96) at Eau Claire High School (Wisconsin). She has not taught mathematics.
Susan K. Eddins is a retired, National Board Certified mathematics teacher. Eddins taught at the Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy, a grade 10 – 12 public, selective-admissions high school for “gifted students who love math and science.” Eddins has also worked for Achieve.
Kaye Forgione once taught “high school mathematics”… “in US Armed Forces-contracted schools.” Forgione has been away from the classroom since before 1997– at least 12 years since her time on the 2009 NGA CCSS work group.
John Kraman has no teaching experience, though he does have an incomplete masters degree in European history from Brandeis.
Marci Ladd has no K-12 teaching experience. She does have a masters in applied mathematics from Johns Hopkins and three years of experience as a math instructor at Montgomery College (1991-92) and Central Texas College (1993-95).
William McCallum has no K-12 teaching experience. He has taught math at the university level since 1987. His University of Arizona bio identifies him as “one of the lead writers for the Common Core State Standards in Mathematics.”
Ken Mullen has no readily available biographical information on the web. Even the ACT website does not offer biographical information on this man who supposedly holds the impressive title of Senior Program Development Associate—Mathematics, Elementary and Secondary School Programs, Development, Education Division, ACT, Inc. We’ll just have to leave it at, “I’m Ken, and I work for a testing company.”
Robin O’Callaghan has a bachelors and doctorate in mathematics (in school from 1966 to 1975 earning these two degrees). Her linkedin bio lists employment from 1997 to present as being with the Educational Testing Service (ETS), then College Board, and back to ETS. If O’Callaghan was ever a classroom teacher, it has not been in the last 17 years. Since her degrees are not in mathematics education, classroom teaching experience is unlikely.
Andrew Schwartz is another mystery who has limited biographical information on the web. And like the ACT website, the College Board website does not provide information on a man with a seemingly impressive title, Assessment Manager, Research and Development, The College Board. Bio: “I’m Andrew, and I work for a testing company.”
Laura McGiffert Slover has been with the nonprofit Achieve since 1998. She is still with Achieve and is also CEO of PARCC (Partnership for the Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers) as of September 2013. Slover taught high school English in Eagle County, Colorado, at some point between graduating from Harvard in 1990 and joining Achieve in 1998. Thus, she had been away from the classroom for at least 11 years by 2009, and her classroom teaching experience is not in mathematics.
Doug Sovde is also now tied to PARCC and Achieve as the director of PARCC content and instructional supports at Achieve. Sovde does have classroom teaching experience in Bellvue, Washington, though the number of years in the classroom is unclear (the linked info notes 12 combined years as teacher, assistant principal, and principal). Sovde’s bachelors degree is in mathematics, and his teaching experience is in high school math. He left the classroom before 2006– at least three years prior to his stint on the 2009 NGA CCSS work group.
Natasha Vasavada has five years of classroom experience teaching social studies, from 2000 to 2005. Thus, she had been away from the classroom for four years by 2009, and her background is not in mathematics.
Jason Zimba, another “lead writer” of the CCSS math, holds a bachelors and masters in mathematics and another masters plus a doctorate in physics. Zimba once taught physics and mathematics at Bennington College; however, he is no longer there, and the link to his vita is dead. According to Zimba’s bio on the Student Achievement Partners (SAP) website (the company-gone-nonprofit that directed CCSS), Zimba has taught “disadvantaged high school students, and children of non-English speaking immigrants”; however, no details are provided regarding Zimba’s having any specific K-12 classroom teaching experience.
The Baton Rouge Advocate includes this very telling observation by Zimba regarding the suitability of CCSS math for “college readiness”:
Jason Zimba, a professor of physics and math at Bennington College in Vermont and lead writer of the math standards, says they include “an awful lot of algebra before eighth grade,” even though the first full course doesn’t come until high school.
But Zimba also acknowledges that ending with the Common Core in high school could preclude students from attending elite colleges. In many cases, the Core is not aligned with the expectations at the collegiate level. “If you want to take calculus your freshman year in college, you will need to take more mathematics than is in the Common Core,” Zimba said. [Emphasis added.]
Compare Zimba’s words to those from the Corestandards website:
To ensure all students are ready for success after high school, the Common Core State Standards establish clear, consistent guidelines for what every student should know and be able to do in math and English language arts from kindergarten through 12th grade.
The standards were drafted by experts and teachers from across the country and are designed to ensure students are prepared for today’s entry-level careers, freshman-level college courses, and workforce training programs. [Emphasis added.]
Got that? CCSS “ensures students are prepared for… freshman-level college courses…” but not if one wishes to major in STEM (science, technology, engineering, or mathematics). Yet the CCSS push
Let’s consider the reality of CCSS’ being “drafted by experts and teachers” (interesting how “experts” and “teachers” are separate ideas) based upon the bio information gleaned on the fifteen individuals listed above on the CCSS math work group:
In sum, only 3 of the 15 individuals on the 2009 CCSS math work group held positions as classroom teachers of mathematics. None was a classroom teacher in 2009. None taught elementary or middle school mathematics. Three other members have other classroom teaching experience in biology, English, and social studies. None taught elementary school. None taught special education or was certified in special education or English as a Second Language (ESL).
Only one CCSS math work group member was not affiliated with an education company or nonprofit.
Onto the “other fourteen”– with some notable overlap in CCSS work group membership.
2009 CCSS ELA Work Group
Sara Clough is the former biology teacher whose name is also listed with the CCSS math work group. Ironic that her classroom experience was in neither math nor ELA. However, Clough does work for a testing company (ACT), a credential that somehow makes her worthy of placement on both CCSS math and ELA work groups.
David Coleman, considered to be “the” lead architect of CCSS, has no K-12 classroom teaching experience and has no record of ever holding a New York teaching certificate (use this link to verify a New York State teaching certificate). Coleman admits his own (and others’) lack of qualifications for writing education standards in this 2011 University of Pittsburgh Institute of Learning speech.
Sally Hampton, chair of the CCSS ELA work group and co-author of the CCSS K-12 writing standards, now works for Pearson. According to her Pearson bio, “A classroom teacher for 16 years, Hampton was the coordinator of standards and applied learning for the Fort Worth Independent School District for 12 years. ” Hampton’s teaching subject area was not specified, though it appears she taught English.
In 1992, during her time as an administrator for the Fort Worth Independent School District (Texas), Hampton advocated for “reducing the number of grades tested.” In 1985, she co-led the Keystone Spring Writing Workshop and drew the following conclusions from the experience: 1) “knowledge must be first and foremost for its own sake”; 2) teachers in the workshop “were treated professionally” in order to promote discovery that writing is more than “the mere arbitrary exercise of prescriptive rules”, and 3) holistic evaluation as “a reliable and valid method [for] evaluat[ing] the participants’ entire writing act.”
I wonder if she views CCSS as “promoting discovery” and advancing “knowledge first and foremost for its own sake” and continues to advocate for “reducing the number of grades tested” even as she works for a company that will suck billions out of the strained coffers of education budgets as it peddles CCSS curriculum and assessment.
Joel Harris is an assessment manager with College Board. Even though Harris is given the impressive title of “Director, English Language Arts Curriculum and Standards” with College Board, the College Board website only offers biographical information on its top 20 (president, vice presidents, and other chiefs). It’s other employees– even those listed as “directors”– it safely conceals.
The College Board does have its own ELA standards. On these, Harris is listed as a “writing content specialist” with the “Office of Academic Initiatives and Test Development.” In its glossary, these 2006 College Board ELA standards use a term now popular in this era of CCSS: “close reading.”
None of Harris’ scanty College Board bio information includes even a hint of classroom teaching experience.
Beth Hart was listed as “senior assessment specialist, research and development” at College Board in 2009. On this 2012 College Board publication of CCSS “alignment” with advanced placement (published 2012; dated 2011), Hart has the same title as did Harris in 2009: “Director, English Language Arts Curriculum and Standards.” She has also participated in CCSS “alignment” for PSAT/NMSQT and SAT (November 2010).
Hart has a BS in English language and literature (Rutgers; State University of New Jersey, 2000) and an MA in secondary education and teaching (Teachers College, 2001). However, Hart has been with College Board since November 2006 (title at the time, “assessment manager”). She held a provisional teaching certificate in New York (English, grades 7 – 12; look up here under “Beth A Hart”) from September 2001 to August 2006. Thus, at most, Hart taught for five years and had exited the classroom for at least three years before 2009.
Natasha Vasavada was also on the CCSS math work group. As previously noted, Vasavada taught social studies for five years, not math, and not ELA. Vasavada worked with Hart on the CCSS “alignment” of advanced placement and PSAT/NMSQT and SAT.
John Kraman is also another CCSS work group repeater; he was on both the math and ELA work groups. Though he has zero classroom teaching experience, Kraman is with the Oklahoma Department of Education as “executive director of student information.”
Laura McGiffert Slover, another CCSS work group repeater, is the CEO of PARCC who taught English and has been away from the classroom for at least 11 years by 2009.
Sherri Miller is another CCSS work group repeater. Though she was “selected” for both CCSS ELA and math work groups, Miller has no teaching experience. As previously noted, Miller is involved in the SAT “redesign” headed by fellow non-teacher David Coleman at his College Board.
Nina Metzner has no readily available biographical information on the web. On the 2009 CCSS work group press release, Metzner is listed as having an impressive title with American College Testing (ACT): “senior test development associate—language arts, elementary and secondary school programs, development, education division, ACT, Inc.” Like College Board, ACT offers no detailed biographical information on its employees, even though such employees are somehow chosen to write a set of education standards peddled nationwide.
I did find this 2001 New York Times article on the serious shortcomings of the testing industry. At the time, Metzner was employed as an “education testing consultant for National Computer Systems (NCS). Metzner is quoted in the article:
Inside [NCS's Measurement Services Unit], machines make the soft sound of shuffling cards as they scan in student answers to multiple-choice questions. Handwritten answers are also scanned in, to be scored later by workers.
But behind the soft whirring and methodical procedures is an often frenzied rush to meet deadlines, a rush that left many people at the company feeling overwhelmed, current and former employees said.
”There was a lack of personnel, a lack of time, too many projects, too few people,” sighed Nina Metzner, an education assessment consultant who worked at NCS. ”People were spread very, very thin.” [Emphasis added.]
Guess what education assessment company purchased NCS in 2000?
In 2009, Metzner was still “in measurement,” for ACT– and in 2012, Pearson “partnered” wit ACT to create the CCSS test, ACT Aspire.
Jim Patterson has the same title on the CCSS ELA work group listing as does Metzner: “senior test development associate—language arts, elementary and secondary school programs, development, education division, ACT, Inc.” This bio sketch for CCSS presenters for the Massachusetts Business Alliance for Education notes that Patterson, “lead writer” of the CCSS ELA, has been with ACT since 1996 and that “prior to” working for ACT, Patterson “taught English and journalism to students in grades 7 – 12.” The bio does not state how many years Patterson taught; however, it is clear that by the time he was “selected” for the 2009 CCSS ELA work group, Patterson had been away from the classroom for 13 years.
Sandy Murphy is a professor emeritus at the University of California at Davis. Aside from her membership on the CCSS ELA work group, Murphy is also a member of the PARCC content technical working group. Her professional vita is not included on the UC Davis site. However, Murphy’s bio in this Journal of Writing Assessment (JWA) article indicates that Murphy once taught high school English. The JWA article is from spring 2003; at that time, Murphy had established her career at the university level. Thus, by the time she served on the CCSS ELA work group, Murphy had exited the high school classroom long before.
In 1988, Murphy co-authored a book entitled, Designing Tasks for the Assessment of Writing. Her 2003 JWA article is also on the assessment of writing.
There is no indication that Murphy is or has ever been employed by an education testing company.
Sue Pimentel is considered a CCSS “lead writer.” Though Pimentel holds a bachelors degree in early childhood education, the same bio includes no mention of classroom teaching experience. Her CCSS ELA work group bio indicates that she was a consultant with Achieve. It makes no mention of her co-founding Student Achievement Partners (SAP) with David Coleman and Jason Zimba, though this claim is publicized in 2013 on the SAP website. (I discuss Pimentel in greater detail in this post.)
Martha Vockley indicates zero classroom teaching experience on her linkedin profile. She has been “manag[ing] an entrepreneurial communications and marketing company” since October 2002. She holds a BA in English and an MA in professional writing. Vockley sells “white papers, reports, brochures, newsletters, marketing and identity materials and web sites.”
In sum, 5 of the 15 individuals on the CCSS ELA work group have classroom experience teaching English. None was a classroom teacher in 2009. None taught elementary grades, special education, or ESL, and none hold certifications in these areas.
Five of the 15 CCSS ELA work group members also served on the CCSS math work group. Two are from Achieve; two, from ACT, and one, from College Board.
Those pitching for “teacher development” of CCSS have just lost their case. Even if one considers the CCSS work group “additions” not originally part of the CCSS MOU but “conceded” in the forced 2009 NGA publicizing of its CCSS work groups, one readily sees that current classroom teachers were intentionally excluded from the CCSS decision-making table– especially elementary school teachers, special education teachers, and teachers of English as a Second Language (ESL). And I have not even touched upon NGA and CCSSO’s completely ignoring inclusion of teachers currently teaching in varied ethnic, cultural, and socioeconomic regions.
NGA and CCSSO (and, by extension, USDOE) undeniably meant for CCSS to be something done “to” teachers. NGA’s and CCSSO’s concentration of individuals versed in standardized assessment on their CCSS work groups speaks to the purpose of CCSS to both financially benefit education testing companies and usher unprecedented, nationwide standardized testing into the classrooms of those very professionals purposely excluded from the CCSS work group table.