The Importance of Common Core for Nationally-pervasive Ed Reform
A great error made by those combating corporate reform is in viewing the reforms as separate and distinct one from another. I have noticed as much in discussions about the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). However, the “standards” were not intended to “stand” without the entire spectrum of reforms.
In fact, the power of a truly national privatization of public education depends upon CCSS.
CCSS is the cornerstone of unprecedented, national-level corporate reform that has been in the making for several years.
Allow me to explain.
2009: An Important Year for National-scale Reform
Before the “national standards” were written, American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten wholeheartedly endorsed them.
That was February 2009, the same month that Congress passed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009 and approved $100 billion in federal funding for education.
In April 2009, the Broad Foundation published a report predicting a spectrum of reforms that Americans could expect by January 2012. Among them, CCSS:
First, and most fundamental, by January 2012 Americans should expect to see a common core of fewer, clearer, higher, evidence-based, college- and career-ready standards adopted by at least 40 states representing the majority of the nation’s students. [Emphasis added.]
Participants in this Broad Report include a veritable Who’s Who of Privatization– and evidence of the non-democratic “process” of CCSS “development.”
I will list all participants to show that this “bold statement” that CCSS “will happen” was not made by teachers, and it was not even made by the CCSS copyright holders, NGA and CCSSO. It was made by a number of people from McKinsey and Company (David Coleman’s former employer) and from Coleman and Student Achievement Partners; it was made by representatives from the Gates Foundation (including Los Angeles iPad Fiasco Chief John Deasy) and from the Data Quality Campaign, among a slew of other corporate reform leaders. Notice also that Undersecretary of Education nominee Ted Mitchell– and his Pearson ties– are on this roster:
Ellen Alberding, Joyce Foundation (Obama is a former Joyce board member)
Chad Aldeman, Education Sector (note the funders include the “Big Three”: Gates, Broad, and Walton)
Photeine Anagnostopoulos, NYCDOE (resigned when Klein left NYDOE)
Byron Auguste, McKinsey and Company (former board chair, Hope Street Group, and now Obama-apponted deputy director of the National Economic Council)
Michael Barber, McKinsey and Company
David Coleman, Student Achievement Partners (SAP) (also with College Board and formerly McGraw-Hill– Coleman went with the July 2004 purchase of his company, Grow Network, to McGraw Hill, and he left McGraw Hill in 2007 to start SAP)
Kevin Hall, Broad Foundation (now CEO of Charter School Growth Fund)
William Hite, Prince George’s County Public Schools (now Philadelphia Schools superitendent)
Adam Kernan-Schloss, KSA-Plus CommunicationsKristi Kimball, Hewlett Foundation (now with the Schwab Foundation)
Gregory McGinity, Broad FoundationAlvarez and Marsal (now with Joel Klein at Amplify)
Mark Roosevelt, Pittsburgh Public Schools (now president of Antioch College)
Andrew Rotherham, Education Sector (now co-founder of Bellwether Education)
Stefanie Sanford, Gates Foundation (now with College Board)
Jonathan Schorr, New Schools Venture Fund
Steve Seleznow, Gates Foundation (now with the Arizona Community Foundation)
Eric Smith, Florida DOE (a Bush “Chief for Change” now with the Bush Institute)
If this cast of characters does not convince readers that CCSS was manufactured as a vehicle for nationally advancing privatization, I am truly at a loss.
There’s more. (With corporate reform, there always is.)
In June 2009, the National Governors Association (NGA) Symposium detailed a spectrum of reforms intended to be instituted as a package.
US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan was present. In his keynote address, he referred to the current political atmosphere as “the perfect storm for reform.”
Duncan also referred to “more enlightened union leadership”– meaning Weingarten.
(Weingarten continues to unwaveringly support CCSS, even advising governors to “stay the course” despite growing public concern and the indisputable evidence that CCSS development bypassed the democratic process.)
Weingarten’s unyielding devotion to CCSS coupled with my knowledge of both the 2009 NGA Symposium and the 2009 Broad report prompted me to write this post.
CCSS: Gateway to Unprecedented, Nationwide Reform
I want readers to understand just how indispensable CCSS is to modern education privatization on a national scale.
The NGA Symposium produced a list called “The Assurances of the ARRA”:
1. Adopt internationally benchmarked standards and assessments that prepare students for success in college and the workplace
2. Recruit, develop, retain, and reward effective teachers and principals
3. Turn around low-performing schools
4. Build data systems that measure student success and inform teachers and principals how they can improve their practices
Translated, these four are as follows:
1. Adopt CCSS and assessments tied to CCSS.
2. Grade teachers using standardized test scores from students.
3. If schools do not produce satisfactory standardized test scores, privatize those schools.
4. Collect massive student data, some of which (e.g., student test scores) might be publicized in order to grade teachers and prinicpals.
Thus, the “assurance” of ARRA is pervasive standardized test score dependence and associated massive data collection.
It cannot happen with certainty on a national scale without CCSS.
Here is the game:
To begin, what the standards are or are not is less important than the actual state buy-in. Duncan has tied money to CCSS “adoption” and has made CCSS easy to adopt. Recall that CCSS adoption for RTTT money requires only two signatures, those of the governor and state superintendent.
Even though the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) notes that the USDOE cannot require states to adopt a set of standards in order to receive federal funding, RTTT dodges this issue by including on the RTTT application that states may adopt “a set of common standards.” Of course, no other “common standards” exist along the lines of those proposed by the “Appendix B” of the RTTT application. Furthermore, CCSS did not yet exist when the first RTTT awards were made to Delaware and Tennessee– and both states contracted with USDOE to adopt CCSS.
In order to tie states to CCSS, USDOE had to be involved, for it had to provide the means to coerce/lure states in. USDOE did so by offering RTTT as an escape from No Child Left Behind (NCLB) and by offering states the possibility of receiving millions in funding (a short-term lure given the price that CCSS will end up costing states once the assessments are included).
Through RTTT, states have aligned themselves to the standardized CCSS. States cannot remove content from CCSS– a crucial factor for the power of tying CCSS to standardized tests.
(When asked by Lieutenant Governor Dan Forest about the flexibility of CCSS, North Carolina State Superintendent Jan Brewer responded, “If any state wants to change those standards, that’s just fine. It’s just that you do not say that you are implementing the Common Core….” 19:15 -19:24, 12-17-13, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iZrMgNJqjh8 ).
An inflexible, unchanging CCSS is required for promoting the resulting CCSS standardized tests as “fair” and “objective.”
Once states are assessed via CCSS-tied standardized tests, curriculum will not matter to the outcome. Of course, state test scores will be compared. Reformers will tell the public that since the states have “common standards,” the test scores are comparable and that any and all other differences between states are irrelevant.
States will be ranked according to the CCSS assessments.
USDOE will be able to dangle money in front of governors and state superintendents in order to add the likes of a “national turnaround state subgroup” to the RTTT (or whatever it might be called in the future) requirements. The USDOE will be able to take control of “failing states” and will be free to hand entire states over to charter school conversion. Union influence will not save teachers from potential statewide closures of traditional public schools as such are handed over to a federal “turnaround” program. Imagine entire states where all teachers are suddenly unemployed due to statewide takeover of schools by charter operators. Imagine that the best hope is for all teachers in a state to “re-apply” for their positions under charter operation. Those rehired would be at the mercy of the numbers– student test scores and student passing rates– to a degree as of yet unknown by victims of American education privatization.
So long as CCSS exists, the above “nationalized” scenario remains possible.
Without CCSS, the illusion of a “standardized” American education experience disappears.
If CCSS remains, the image of a standardized American education experience coupled with standardized assessments has the potential to obliterate traditional public education on a scale not yet realized.
If this seems too far-fetched, recall that there was a time when the idea of an American president and US Secretary of Education working together to actively foster the corporate replacement of public education sounded ridiculous.
Recall that there was a time when massive public school closure– and that followed by opening charters in place of some of those schools– was unheard of.
Keep in mind that President Obama’s nominee for US Undersecretary of Education is the CEO of a charter-school-establishing nonprofit.
I could go on.
Let me return for a moment to the issue of curriculum.
Curriculum: For Profit and Propaganda
I mentioned that for the purposes of comparing states using CCSS assessments, curriculum would not matter. However, in two ways, curriculum does matter– and not for promoting the well being of students.
First, CCSS-aligned classroom materials are already yielding billions for education corporations such as Pearson– especially since Pearson is also connected to the PARCC and SBAC assessment consortiums).
Second, districts and states concerned about the looming CCSS assessments are increasingly likely to cling to manufactured CCSS content and push such in the schools. This leaves schools vulnerable to promoting any such propaganda that privatization-friendly content peddlers wish to promote– including this sample by Pearson, in which …”partisan political messages masquerade as English lessons…”:
A president’s job is not easy.
A nation’s people do not always agree.
The president’s choices affect everyone.
He makes sure the country’s laws are fair.
Government officials’ commands must be obeyed by all.
An individual’s wants are less important than the nation’s well being.
By using content as its vehicle, corporations growing obese on public school funding can ensure for themselves a future in which our nation’s citizens are conditioned not to question an administration making such greed possible.
A Few Final Thoughts
The power, prestige, and profits of an unprecedented national corporate reform, CCSS enables it all.
CCSS needs to go.
Those publicly fighting to protect CCSS should be inspected closely and thoroughly.
They have ulterior motives, usually financial.
They tend to be outside of the classroom. (The size of their salaries betrays them.)
They tend to be well-connected politically and financially– especially to the corporate reform philanthropists.
Most of all,
they tend not to write pointed, well-researched blog posts like this one.