Gates Money and Common Core– Part V
This post is the fifth in a series on Bill Gates’ funding of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). As of September 22, 2013, Gates has spent $173.5 million expressly for CCSS according to the Gates grants search engine.
The first post includes CCSS background and Gates funding for key players at the CCSS planning table, including the National Governors Association (NGA) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), and also both teachers unions, the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) and the National Education Association (NEA).
In my second installment, I examine Gates CCSS funding of organizations that influence state departments of education and school districts.
The third involves Gates CCSS funding to state departments of education and school districts.
The fourth post documents Gates CCSS funding to universities. In this fifth post, I examine Gates CCSS funding to foundations and institutes.
Defining Foundation and Institute
And now, for some brief definitions. First, a word on what a foundation is:
A foundation is a non-governmental entity that is established as a nonprofit corporation or a charitable trust, with a principal purpose of making grants to unrelated organizations, institutions, or individuals for scientific, educational, cultural, religious, or other charitable purposes. This broad definition encompasses two foundation types: private foundations and grantmaking public charities.
Gates is funding CCSS via grants through his Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Thus, it is possible for one foundation to give money to another foundation. Organizations create associated foundations [501(c)3] for the tax breaks available to nonprofits.
For example, both AFT and NEA have foundations; in donating to AFT and NEA, Gates donated to the AFT and NEA foundations.
Next, for the definition of institute:
An institute is an organization or association designed to study or promote something.
The institutes supported with Gates CCSS money promote CCSS. The foundations receiving Gates CCSS money support organizations that promote CCSS.
Gates CCSS Money to Foundations and Institutes
In this post, I omitted the AFT and NEA (discussed in my first post) as well as the Colorado Legacy Foundation and others labeled ‘foundation” as discussed in posts three and four since for these, the foundations do not connect to institutes but are instead connected to unions, departments of education, and universities.
The omissions noted above left the following nine foundations and institutes that have received Gates money in order to advance CCSS (amounts included):
American Agora Foundation $100,000
American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research $1,068, 788
Aspen Institute, Inc. $3,689,945
Facing History and Ourselves National Foundation, Inc. $231,846
James B. Hunt, Jr., Institute for Educational Leadership and Policy Foundation, Inc. $6,049,352
KnowledgeWorks Foundation $241,747
Nellie Mae Education Foundation, Inc. $350,000
New America Foundation $200,002
Thomas B. Fordham Institute $1,961,116
(For Gates grant details on the list above, see Gates Money to Foundations for CCSS )
Two of the organizations above– the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) and the Thomas B. Fordham Institute– are detailed in my first post of this series.
On our way to examining others on the list above, let’s give Fordham and AEI another look.
Thomas B. Fordham Institute
For just shy of $2 million in Gates money, Fordham offers this CCSS propaganda on its blog:
…why not just support this daring effort that has been miraculously adopted by multiple states and correct whatever defects you see in the course of its actual implementation?
Allow me to register my thoughts on how idiotic it is to ignore the fact that CCSS has never been tested and instead advocate for “just fixing” an untested national curriculum (yes, I did just call it that). This “let’s just do it already” attitude endorses potentially squandering already stretched state and local resources– not to mention teacher morale and students’ mental and academic well being.
American Enterprise Institute
As to AEI: For its $1 million from Gates to, among other issues, “explore the challenges of Common Core,” AEI offers readers this list of resources, complete with used-car-sales intro:
As districts across the country work toward implementing the Common Core State Standards — a state-led effort to implement rigorous, national K-12 standards for math and reading — what changes can students, teachers, parents, and policymakers expect? [Emphasis added.]
One of the articles on the AEI list is coauthored by Jason Zimba of Student Achievement Partners— a nonprofit whose sole purpose is to promote the CCSS that they helped construct:
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.
Go ahead and just say it: Student Achievement Partners played a leading role in CCSS.
Teachers did not. Student Achievement Partners did.
And AEI is doing what it was paid to do: promote CCSS under the guise of “exploring challenges.”
To date, the Aspen Institute has received $49.7 million in Gates funding. Its centerpiece is an annual “Ideas Festival” in Aspen, CO, where the elites, the famous, the rich, and the ambitious attend panels and mingle.
The Aspen Ideas Festival is a Gates-shaped, reformer retreat.
His shaping continues in the Gates CCSS grant descriptions to the Aspen Institute:
Date: May 2013
Purpose: to develop a guide for implementing the Common Core State Standards
Date: January 2013
Purpose: to support the Aspen Institute’s Urban Superintendents Network, develop resources to integrate Common Core State Standards and educator effectiveness policies and practices, and use lessons from the field to inform national policy
The first item on the list for the $3.6 million grant above involves Gates’ supporting Aspen’s Urban Superintendents Network, an “ongoing professional development and peer-learning forum.” The page acknowledges its reform-bent funders:
The Program on Education and Society’s work with the Urban Superintendents Network has been made possible by generous grants from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, and the Spencer Foundation.
Gates has this group of superintendents “developing resources to integrate Common Core” and “a guide for implementing Common Core.” In turn, Aspen gets $3.7 million to add to its over $45 million already garnered in Gates cash.
James B. Hunt, Jr., Institute
The Hunt Institute is another in a long list of organizations that declare the ‘terrible state” of American education:
Education is more than the cornerstone of our democracy. It is also the engine of a thriving economy. But as the demands of increasingly global markets require a skilled workforce with highly technical knowledge, America is falling behind.
Once the envy of the industrialized world, a public education in the United States is now on par with that of emerging nations. If this downward trend continues, we will thwart the chances for our young people to compete in this global economy, and the status of the United States as a great power will be a memory.
Hunt’s solution is to “fix” American education via privatization by “getting measureable results” (note the who’s who in reformer support listed on this webpage).
Of course, “results” funded by Gates money means CCSS:
Date: August 2013
Purpose: to support the development of broadcast quality videos in which teachers demonstrate classroom strategies to teach the Common Core State Standards
Date: November 2009
Purpose: to provide state-level policy and communications support to states seeking to rapidly implement the Common Core
American education is falling apart. Gates has arrived and is helping the Hunt Institute “to reverse this crippling situation.” Gotta move fast. The Nation is at Risk. Our National Security Depends Upon Our Schools.
Hunt received $5.5 million from Gates to “rapidly implement the Common Core.” Nevertheless, in North Carolina, where Hunt is located, teachers register complaints about CCSS echoed in states across the nation: We weren’t in on this. We were told what to do. We lack materials. We don’t like the emphasis on testing.
As is all too familiar in discussion of corporate reform: “Rapid” implementation” spells “impending structural collapse.”
New America Foundation
New America is a foundation that supports young public policy makers:
The New America Foundation is a nonprofit, nonpartisan public policy institute that invests in new thinkers and new ideas to address the next generation of challenges facing the United States. …
As part of our mission to bring exceptionally promising new voices and ideas into the nation’s public discourse, the New America Foundation supports a wide array of fellows — primarily through the New America Fellows Program.
Gates’ supporting the New America Foundation with money designated for CCSS is evidence of Gates’ buying off public policy voices. As it is, Gates has contributed $5.7 million to New America to date. In May 2013, the contribution was earmarked for CCSS:
Date: May 2013
Purpose: to conduct research on the effectiveness and utility of exit exams and develop and distribute policy options for states as they develop their Common Core assessment systems
Here is a sampling of what Gates gets from New America writers for $200,002 backed by his previous $5.66 million:
1) While the Common Core is a state-led initiative (I repeat, the Common Core is a state-led initiative)…
2) If the Common Core is controversial, we should expect plenty of fireworks around any attempt to get states to cooperate on early learning standards.
As serious as that hurdle is, however, there are also good reasons to push forward with common early learning standards. Researchers maintain that high-quality Pre-K is most effective when it feeds into an aligned K-3 (and K-12!) system. Since the vast majority of American K-12 students will be educated in schools using the Common Core, it follows that most states ought to develop matching early learning standards.
3) The findings from both surveys (the MetLife Survey of the American Teacher and the EPE Research Center’s Findings from a National Survey of Teacher Perspectives on the Common Core) indicate a high level of support for the Common Core State Standards among teachers overall, as well as a strong base who are comfortable using them in their teaching.
And as for the Gates grant descriptor, “effectiveness and utility of exit exams,” this New America writer pushes for publicizing results of the first CCSS assessments while deceptively maintaining that such are “field tests.” The term “field test” brings to mind “pilot test”– however, attaching high-stakes consequences to a field test cancels the “field” and leaves only the “test”:
…Accountability is about more than being labeled a “failing” school or a priority one. Accountability relies first and foremost on transparent, accurate reporting of student achievement data. And this is where the field test creates a much more harmful trade-off. The U.S. Department of Education will still require all students to be assessed in both reading and math, but states will not be required to publicly announce the results for students taking a field test. For the first time in the NCLB era, there will not be achievement data available for a significant number of students and public schools.
This is a big deal. These data (should) inform nearly every decision made in education – for families, for educators, and for policymakers. [Emphasis added.]
Again with the rush to “inform” sans piloting.
Gates buys it. They write it.
There are several other Gates recipients on the list above. KnowledgeWorks is another reform-bent organization; on its site, it displays information on the Strive Cradle to Career Initiatives (creepy). The New England-based Nellie Mae Foundation has a board membership reflective of corporate reform, with investors, education companies, and “educators” devoid of classroom experience composing most of its board, including co-founder of Wireless Generation, Greg Gunn.
Not all Gates CCSS recipients are actively promoting the reformer agenda. Facing History and Ourselves is an organization for combating racism and prejudice; it offers CCSS teaching resources. The American Agora Foundation is “a not-for-profit foundation dedicated to fostering an interest in, and developing an acquaintance with, history”; it does not force-feed reform.
There is a category of Gates CCSS funding recipients that is undeniably profit-driven and that I have yet to discuss:
The education businesses.
I save them for my sixth (and final) post of this series.