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The Fight to Save Common Core: Count Me Out

October 10, 2013

I have written a number of posts on the so-called Common Core State Standards (CCSS), an unprecedented effort by those outside of the classroom to exercise control over the classroom by standardizing what is taught in classrooms across the nation.

Since CCSS did not originate with those forced to accept it, there has been resistance. Legislators are drafting bills to drop CCSS.

But CCSS is a real money maker. Corporate reform is fighting back.

Arne Duncan: Defending CCSS

I find it interesting to read about both the individuals and organizations fighting to “save” CCSS– and their justifications for doing so. First is US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan’s repeated attempts to defend what he insists are not federal standards.

Yet he campaigns for CCSS, even to Congress:

During a question-and-answer period, reporters pressed Duncan on why the Common Core standards have become so toxic, particularly with GOP activists. He gave his standard (no pun intended) answer: Common Core has become a lightening rod because of “political silliness”, nothing more. … Out in states and schools, educators have moved past the politics and are rolling up their sleeves and working on implementation, Duncan said. [Emphasis added.]

Nice try, Arne.

In September 2013, Duncan instructed education reporters to “truth tell” regarding the federal role in CCSS:

Speaking of the Common Core standards, Duncan said, “Anyone who says we developed them or mandated them, they are lying.” [Emphasis added.]

Mere wordplay. Duncan is working too hard in campaigning for CCSS to feign federal neutrality.

Louisiana Op/ed Attempt to Defend CCSS

Next, consider this statement by Stand for Children’s Rayne Martin in the push to keep CCSS alive in Louisiana in this News-Star opinion written by the paper’s editorial board:

“The misleading, inaccurate and uninformed information that has been released in the past week (the filing of legislation to drop CCSS in Louisiana has done nothing more than bring closer together organizations whose first priority is doing what’s best for students and has unified their voice and support for Louisiana’s Common Core State Standards,” Rayne Martin, executive director of Stand for Children Louisiana, said in a Thursday announcement. “Our students deserve to have the bar raised, and they are more than capable of meeting and exceeding the highest expectations we set for them.”  [Emphasis added.]

A question: Who is the “we” setting “the highest expectations”? I am a Louisiana public school teacher. I did not contribute to CCSS. I do not know of any teaching colleagues who contributed to CCSS.  I did not vote to adopt CCSS. I did not pilot test CCSS. I did not read any review of any individual or organization pilot testing CCSS and/or disseminating results. I have heard of no efforts to learn of and address any shortcomings, flaws, concerns, issues, or reservations associated with instituting CCSS in Louisiana’s classrooms.

(As to reformer-promoted, CCSS “evidence”: Here is a CCSS public opinion survey that is used as “proof” that CCSS is “generally” accepted. This is not research rigor. This is “throw together quickly something we can label as ‘research evidence.'”)

And now that CCSS has descended upon my classroom in top-down fashion, I am not allowed to alter CCSS– 100% acceptance is required.

One size fits all.

Who “Owns” CCSS?

Even though people like the Fordham Institute guest blogger E.D Hirsch write to adopt CCSS now and “fix” it later, there is no “fixing” someone else’s copyrighted document.

That’s right.  The Pearson-regulated CCSS copyright is held by the National Governors Association (NGA) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) and includes this disclaimer:

THE COMMON CORE STATE STANDARDS ARE PROVIDED AS-IS AND WITH ALL FAULTS, AND NGA CENTER/CCSSO MAKE NO REPRESENTATIONS OR WARRANTIES OF ANY KIND, EXPRESS, IMPLIED, STATUTORY OR OTHERWISE, INCLUDING, WITHOUT LIMITATION, WARRANTIES OF TITLE, MERCHANTIBILITY, FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE, NONINFRINGEMENT, ACCURACY, OR THE PRESENCE OR ABSENCE OF ERRORS, WHETHER OR NOT DISCOVERABLE.  [Emphasis added.]

There’s more:

UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES SHALL NGA CENTER OR CCSSO, INDIVIDUALLY OR JOINTLY, BE LIABLE FOR ANY DIRECT, INDIRECT, INCIDENTAL, SPECIAL, EXEMPLARY, CONSEQUENTIAL, OR PUNITIVE DAMAGES HOWEVER CAUSED AND ON ANY LEGAL THEORY OF LIABILITY, WHETHER FOR CONTRACT, TORT, STRICT LIABILITY, OR A COMBINATION THEREOF (INCLUDING NEGLIGENCE OR OTHERWISE) ARISING IN ANY WAY OUT OF THE USE OF THE COMMON CORE STATE STANDARDS, EVEN IF ADVISED OF THE POSSIBILITY OF SUCH RISK AND POTENTIAL DAMAGE. WITHOUT LIMITING THE FOREGOING, LICENSEE WAIVES THE RIGHT TO SEEK LEGAL REDRESS AGAINST, AND RELEASES FROM ALL LIABILITY AND COVENANTS NOT TO SUE, NGA CENTER AND CCSSO. [Emphasis added.]

Makes one wonder who the “licensee” is.  It should be a state’s governor and state superintendent of education; in Louisiana’s case, Bobby Jindal and John White. Is NGA and CCSSO afraid that those who supposed “wrote” CCSS would sue the very authoring organizations to which they themselves belong?

Looks like NGA and CCSSO have covered themselves legally against any liability for their (it is their) “product”:

NGA Center/CCSSO shall be acknowledged as the sole owners and developers of the Common Core State Standards, and no claims to the contrary shall be made. [Emphasis added.]

It seems that those at the table when NGA reluctantly agreed to publicize this group— including David Coleman and his Student Achievement Partners; Achieve, Inc., and College Board– were merely “contracted” by the “owners” to compose CCSS.

How About Those CCSS Materials?

Aside from CCSS ownership by NGA and CCSSO, CCSS materials are copyrighted by Pearson subsidiary, the Penguin Group— it offers Core lesson plans and materials.

Penguin Group is specifically mentioned in the CCSS licensing document.

Pearson is also associated with both CCSS testing consortia.

(Did I mention that Pearson is headquartered in London? Not to worry: Pearson realizes there is LOTS of money to be made in American education; so, its subsidiary, Pearson Education, is housed on American soil.)

McGraw Hill is also mentioned in the CCSS licensing document and offers its own CCSS materials.

As is true of NGA and CCSSO, McGraw Hill wants no part of any CCSS liability:

McGraw-Hill makes no representations or warranties as to the accuracy of any information contained in the McGraw-Hill Material, including any warranties of merchantability or fitness for a particular purpose. In no event shall McGraw-Hill have any liability to any party for special, incidental, tort, or consequential damages arising out of or in connection with the McGraw-Hill Material, even if McGraw-Hill has been advised of the possibility of such damages. [Emphasis added.]

Just pay us the money. We aren’t liable for the product.

The “Business” of CCSS

CCSS apparently became a “business deal” early on, and it continues to be one.

Businesses want CCSS.

Let us consider the “organizations whose first priority is doing what’s best for students.” As noted in the News-Star op/ed:

Last week, more than two dozen groups announced that they back the state’s participation in the rigorous academic standards known as Common Core. The list includes the Greater Shreveport Chamber, the Bossier Chamber and Shreveport-Bossier Business Alliance for Higher Education and the Alliance for Education. Others signing off: Council for a Better Louisiana, Louisiana Association of Business and Industry, Stand for Children Louisiana, New Orleans Chamber, the Central Louisiana Chamber, Baton Rouge Area Chamber, Public Affairs Research Council and Blueprint Louisiana. The Shreveport Times editorialized in favor of the Common Core. [Emphasis added.]

What is it with all of these “chambers of commerce” and CCSS?

The most obvious business connection to CCSS comes via the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). Initially, ALEC opposed CCSS. ALEC even drafted and approved a resolution opposing CCSS. However, Jeb Bush stepped in to save CCSS, and despite its already voting to oppose CCSS, ALEC changed its mind. In short, CCSS is good for business, and ALEC is in the business of seeing that business wins.

Other groups listed above as supporting CCSS include the Gates-funded Alliance for Education and Gates-funded Stand for Children. It is no secret that Bill Gates is invested in CCSS.

Stand for Children does not do what its title infers. It is a national organization with a board of directors including New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s daughter Emma and Katherine Bradley (of the Citybridge Foundation). Its founder, Jonah Edelman, boasted about purchasing lobbyists in order to dupe the Chicago Teachers Union–except his ploy didn’t work– but Edelman’s boast earned him public humiliation.

As to the “rigorous academic standards”:  What is the evidence of CCSS “rigor”?  Though officially announced in June 2010 (Bill gates’ people announced CCSS completion four months premature, in February 2010), there is no evidence of testing the standards. In fact, upon googling “Common Core pilot test,” the hits today– October 10, 2013– concern the future pilot testing of the Smarter Balanced CCSS assessment– even though the first CCSS assessment is to take place next school year (2014-15).  Smarter Balanced doesn’t seem to be operating so “smartly” after all, with their conducting a pilot only a year before the tests “must” be in place.

The Core Standards Website Enlists Support

The next letter of business/organization support for CCSS comes from the Core Standards website. This group “believes” CCSS will yield graduates that are (nothing original here) “college and career ready.” No empirical evidence, mind you; just a “we believe.” The signators “believe” that CCSS is “a necessary foundation… to ensure the United States’ educational and economic preeminence.”

There you have it. No piloting or subsequent adjustment necessary. “We believe.”

A number of the supporting organizations come as no surprise for their ALEC ties: Boeing, Eastman Chemical, GlaxoSmithKline, IBM, Intel, Microsoft, State Farm, Verizon.

Others are no surprise since they are in the “business” of education: ACT, Dell, SAS Institute, Wireless Generation.

And as is true of the Louisiana op/ed list of business support for CCSS, this CCSS website listing of CCSS-friendly organizations includes a number of chambers of commerce.

The business interest in an education issue can be reduced to that which always chiefly concerns business: Profits.

CCSS promises to yield profits, whether directly (as in the case of education companies) or indirectly (as in the case of ALEC “back scratching.”)

Fourteen Wisconsin Teachers Want CCSS

Another interesting group of CCSS supporters is this group of 14 Wisconsin teachers. Their endorsement reads like a political commercial; they maintain that they have “test driven” CCSS “for several years now” ( a wonder, since CCSS emerged in 2010) and that CCSS “will allow our students to be college and career ready.”

Really. A maximum three- year “test drive,” and no reservations whatsoever– no weak spots; nothing needing modification. No students “left behind.” And after three years (even though the K-12 career is 13 years– never mind the P-20 for CCSS is supposedly written), these 14 teachers just know that their students will be “college and career ready.”

And this is supposed to be “evidence” that CCSS should be forced upon schools across the nation?

Not hardly.

AFT and NEA: Mum’s the Word

As for CCSS support from education  groups: Both major teachers unions support CCSS, but neither is overtly pushing for CCSS survival. Both the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) and the National Education Association (NEA) have accepted millions in Gates CCSS funding to promote CCSS. Both AFT and NEA have offered shaky survey results purporting teacher endorsement of CCSS. (Interestingly, Gates also offers his own questionable survey results regarding CCSS favor with teachers.) Yet both AFT and NEA are refraining from actively defending CCSS in the manner of Duncan or offering some document for teachers to sign in the manner of the pro-CCSS business community.

Perhaps AFT and NEA already know that publicly offering a document for teachers to sign in support of CCSS poses the high-profile risk of eliciting an embarrassingly low number of signators.

CCSS Supporters: Guess Who’s Missing?

I noticed that there are no major parent groups organizing in support of CCSS. Neither are there any school district associations banding together to save CCSS. I have seen no flyers for “Save CCSS” parent and teacher meetings in my district.

There’s a reason for that.

Teachers and parents nationwide didn’t ask for CCSS.

It was inflexibly imposed.

Arne, I am not “rolling up my sleeves” in order to “implement” CCSS.

Yes, my sleeves are rolled, but for another reason:

What I want is out.

From → Common Core

16 Comments
  1. Reblogged this on Crazy Crawfish's Blog and commented:
    Me too. No Commoners Core Curriculum for me or my kids, thank you very much.

  2. Debbie Sachs permalink

    Me too. No child, teacher, or parent should be forced to live this Common Core/Child Data tracking nightmare.

  3. Laura h. Chapman permalink

    Current issue of Education Researcher has punched the CCSS language arts writers in the face. The writers focus on the false claim that the passages in reading texts are less demanding than ever. This claim is supposed to provide the reason for inflicting students with more complex, difficult, rigorous readings—the sooner the better. This study examined texts going back to the fabled McGuffey readers, decade by decade, largest scanned data base for analysis ever. Upshot, the big problem is not text complexity and finding the “Lexile” score for resources that teachers need to use: It is the inability of kids to deal with the content of current and recent texts—a by-product of so much emphasis on skills with little attention to the content and life experience that kids need to have for comprehension.
    Gamson, D. A., Lu, X., & Eckert, S. A. (2013). Challenging the Research Base of the Common Core State Standards A Historical Reanalysis of Text Complexity. Educational Researcher, 42(7), 381-391.

    • West Saeed permalink

      Fantastic. Thank you for posting this new study.

  4. kb1459 permalink

    Me too.
    I saw a video of him defending CCSS, and my first thought was what an idiot, who is this guy?

  5. I referred to your report in a comment on this blog post &mdash

    Wisconsin and the Common Core Math Standards

    and some discussion ensured. Maybe you could add some comments?

  6. ira shor permalink

    Another outstanding blogpost for all of us who need to know what CCSS really is. I will be sharing the info here with our local group of parent activists, many thanks.

  7. Your link claiming that CCSS is copyrighted by Pearson must be wrong. It leads to a page that shows attribution for the standards must be made as “© Copyright 2010. National Governors Association Center for Best Practices and Council of Chief State School Officers. All rights reserved.”

    • NGA and CCSSO own the CCSS copyright. Penguin Group is mentioned in the CCSS license as is McGraw Hill. As such, both Penguin Group and McGraw Hill have an arguably privileged connection to CCSS.

      I reworked the copyright section of this post in hopes to clarify.

  8. I, too, am putting all of my effort into fighting against the CCSS, not saving them! I teach in an inner city Catholic School; yes, even, non-public schools are affected. In August, the Superintendent of Schools for my Archdiocese sent out a flyer to principals, teachers and parents. Among the other myths it promoted was the claim that CCSS is a states led initiative. I am so thankful that I had the summer to do some research and educate myself so that I could educate others. I am handing out flyers explaining the real myths about CCSS like they are candy. Unfortunately, I don’t dare give one to my Superintendent.

  9. I attended another Common Core professional development training today. I do have to say CCSS starts with a faulty premise. Standards and lessons created for college and career and worked backward is opposite of good teaching since the beginning of time. The correct approach is to begin where the student is at and then move from there. Good lessons are needed and essential to share. Teacher Show and Tell Saturdays is an opportunity to share great ideas, your achievements, and demonstrates the fallacy that edu-celebrities, politicians, and edu-corporations know best. http://pointeviven.blogspot.com/2013/09/teacher-show-and-tell-saturdays.html

  10. Reblogged this on Parents of PVMS and commented:
    Another killer post by Mercedes! It is a must read.

  11. Peggy Schwarz permalink

    A recent article in Education Week described Arne Duncan as “wildly unpopular” nation-wide due to his relentless defense of the indefensible Common Core train wreck – now that the reality of it is becoming apparent to the general public despite the millions spent by Bill Gates, et al. Spending too much money & pathologically lying about all you are doing can hurt you – just ask the Koch Bros & Mitt Romney! Once ACT & SAT said they were planning to PARCC-align & private schools were threatened by CC, the floodgates of parent protest seemed to have opened.
    Mercedes, thanks for your tireless research & delightful writing that have done much to educate educators & the public & turn the tide in this fight!

  12. barbara s permalink

    Your reference to Katherine Bradley “of the Bradley Foundation” is wrong. Katherine Bradley is president of the CityBridge Foundation in Washington, D.C.

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