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The Importance of Common Core for Nationally-pervasive Ed Reform

December 22, 2013

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)

Andres Alonso, Baltimore City Public Schools (resigned amid fiscal issues and cheating scandals)

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

Steve Barr, Green Dot Public Schools (resigned without explanation; Green Dot-Barr “divorce info” here)

Cynthia Brown, Center for American Progress (CAP) (Corporate sponsors include Pearson and  a number of ALEC corporations, including Microsoft, Walmart, and GE)

Michael Casserly, Council of the Great City Schools (CGCS) (Corporate partners include Amplify, Pearson, and McGraw Hill)

Barbara Chow, Hewlett Foundation

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)

Nadya Chinoy Dabby, Broad Foundation (now acting assistant deputy secretary for USDOE Office of Innovation and Improvement)

John Deasy, Gates Foundation (now LAUSD superintendent)

Chester Finn, Fordham Institute

Aimee Guidera, Data Quality Campaign

Kevin Hall, Broad Foundation (now CEO of Charter School Growth Fund)

William Hite, Prince George’s County Public Schools (now Philadelphia Schools superitendent)

Kevin Huffman, Teach for America (now superintendent in Tennessee and once married to Michelle Rhee)

Adam Kernan-Schloss, KSA-Plus Communications

Kristi Kimball, Hewlett Foundation  (now with the Schwab Foundation)

Joel Klein, NYCDOE (now with Amplify)

Gregory McGinity, Broad Foundation

Peter McWalters, Rhode Island DOE (now on the boards of both CCSSO and Education Sector)

Sam Mehta, Alvarez and Marsal (now with Joel Klein at Amplify)

Ted Mitchell, New Schools Venture Fund (now nominee for US Undersecretary of Education)

Lynn Olson, Gates Foundation

Scott Palmer, Education Counsel

Paul Pastorek, Louisiana DOE (a Bush “Chief for Change” who is a managing partner of ALEC law firm Adams and Reese and now with EADS North America)

Joycelyn Pickford, Hope Street Group (note the “funding incest”) (now with Margaret Spellings and Company)

Michelle Rhee, DC Public Schools (now with StudentsFirst)

Mark Roosevelt, Pittsburgh Public Schools (now president of Antioch College)

Andrew Rotherham, Education Sector (now co-founder of Bellwether Education)

Marguerite Roza, Center of Reinventing Public Education (CRPE) (again with the “funding incest”)

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)

Jed Wallace, California Charter School Association (CCSA) (Waltons on the board)

Kate Walsh, National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ)

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, ).

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.

  1. You’ve got more words here, Mercedes, but it amounts to the same rap: you don’t like the common core because you don’t like who likes it. Not that persuasive.

    • ira shor permalink

      Mercedes is entirely persuasive with her well-researched background on the corporate forces imposing CCSS from the top-down on America’s public schools. Teachers were not involved or consulted. The money to impose CCSS came from corporate and foundation sources. These facts are well-documented by Mercedes and ignored by the mass media. Thank you, Mercedes for your patient research will enables us to know what is behind this massive assault on the nation’s public schools.

    • Linda permalink

      Oh she’s very persuasive Bill, just not what you want to hear. But don’t worry because it’s all “state-led”, so you can get out of it anytime. Just ask Arne and Bill first, Gates, that is.

    • Gee could it be that Mr. Duncan is a politician or has a vested interest in seeing CC succeed? Reveal yourself and your true motives Mr. Duncan.

      • I have no secrets. Go to Advancing New Hampshire Public Education,

    • Anne permalink

      There’s so much more to dislike about CC besides the people who like it. For example, why they like it: they’re making money off of children’s backs, minds and futures.

      • I do hear that frequently, that they will make money on the common core or the testing. But the tests are owned by the two consortia and the same test administrators will be able to give these new tests as gave the pre-CCSS tests. So, honest question, where’s the windfall?

        And the market for text books is the same size it was before. While some states may mandate new books, that’s unnecessary. So…no windfall there.

        So, I oppose the ed reform movement (, and I agree that many CCSS supporters are on the wrong side of that fight, I really don’t get the argument that Pearson or someone is going to get richer than they already are.

    • Financial conflicts of interest in education are a recipe for corruption. As such, financial interests shouldn’t influence educational decisions. That’s the reason educators select texts, write curriculum and write educational standards for little more than a small stipend or no pay.

      • Chris permalink

        Exactly! All one needs to do is follow the money on this thing, it’s really not that hard. Add to that, the data collection — how anyone can support this is mind numbing.

      • Harlan Underhill permalink

        Indeed, the data collection is one of the most pernicious and dangerous elements of the CCSS. The government will have all your emails, the metadata on phone calls, your medical information (Obamacare), and your school academic and personal family information. How so many of you can continue to be “good Democrats” is beyond me. It’s as if freedom doesn’t mean anything to you. It’s as if you don’t see the potential for tyranny. I can’t figure it out unless you plan to be part of the tyranny.

    • Chris permalink

      Gee, let’s see here; it was created by special interest groups, no educators were involved, it was thrown together in a little over two years, ‘implemented’ just two months after that — so there has been ZERO street testing on this mess, pushed by a VERY few proponents as ‘state-led’ and siting bogus stats on how ‘poorly’ our schools perform … but, hey, let’s just use our kids as the guinea pigs for this garbage.

      I suppose since Head Start, NCLB, and the DOE in general have had such a great success rate, let’s just implement ANOTHER fed pushed ‘fix’ to education, right? smh

    • Tracy permalink

      Bill, again, it is not so much about who wrote CC$$, but the conflicts of interest that pop up at just about every turn. The people calling loudest for the tests are the ones who will profit from the tests. The ones writing the tests will profit from those calling for the tests. The ones who will grade the tests will profit from the calling for the tests. When the tests are given and students do not do well on the tests, purposefully, the companies that rush to make remediation materials and curriculum aligned to the tests will make profits. The companies that use these test scores as a push to overthrow public schools and run privatized charters will make money based on these tests. That all these things come about and profit a very small number of highly interconnected companies and individuals SHOULD be of GREAT concern.

      • Tracy, as you can see from the current turbulence in who is using what test, there is no “lock-in” for any testing company. If your problem with the Common Core is who is profiting from the test, just switch to another test. That’s not a core issue.

      • Linda permalink

        Only two choices: PARCC or SBAC. They both suck

      • That’s not remotely true, Linda. First, they don’t suck. And, second, just look at the wide variety of choices many states are making – and that the Michigan report reviews.

  2. Laura h. Chapman permalink

    States cannot remove content from CCSS– a crucial factor for the power of tying CCSS to standardized tests. The verbatim use of the standards has not been given enough attention. I still hear teachers and administrators speak of these as if they are voluntary and flexible, pick and choose
    Also, as you demonstrate, the selling of the CCSS is a triumph of PR. That requires the political clout that deep pockets can buy. I also think this intended privatization has been accomplished by the willingness of major institutions of higher education to go along with it, including large in order to keep money flowing into parts of the agenda–Stanford, Peabody, Harvard, University of Wisconsin to name a few. Almost all of the “research” churned out in support of pay-for performance, value-added assessments, and so-called “growth” measures is produced by economists.

  3. HellCat permalink

    I agree with you about CCSS, but you lost me when you leapt to “take control of “failing states” and will be free to hand entire states over to charter school conversion,” and, “Imagine entire states where all teachers are suddenly unemployed.” The chaos created by actions that large scale would be too massive. Entire districts? Yes. Entire states whole, all at once? No. In addition, when massive firings have been done, many of the “fired” have been rehired at lower rates of pay, without union protections, etc…. As dire as that is, it’s not the same as hundreds of thousands of teachers suddenly unemployed. You have a good argument, you undercut yourself when you go post-apocalyptic.

    • If there can be a Holocaust, there can be a federal takeover of “failing states.”

      • Hi. I keep registering to get your blogs and for a while I will get them then they stop coming and I register again. I registered again today but still have not received a confirmation email. If this is happening to me how many others might be having the same issue. Thanks

  4. Reblogged this on Middletown Voice and commented:
    For those wanting to trace CCSS to the corporate privatizers – here is the source.

  5. Excellent article with supporting facts…this will be an article I’ll come back to repeatedly to learn more. Thank you, and I’ve reblogged on Muncie Voice where education fans enjoy being informed.

  6. I owner how VA got it’s waiver without adopting the Common Core…

    • Linda permalink

      That’s where Arne lives and his kids go to school. No CCS, so no data mining for his cherubs, but good enough for the children of peasants. Lots to learn Bill. Mercedes, Diane and many others keeps us informed. Mainstream media is controlled.

  7. Reblogged this on EDUaction NOW and commented:
    A MUST READ of education’s “big picture” by a respected teacher and blogger!

  8. Harlan Underhill permalink

    If the aim of the CCSS is to charterize the public schools, won’t that take them out of the CCSS testing system?

  9. Stellar! What especially blows my mind is how non-public schools such as those in my Archdiocese fell for CCSS. I understand that in some states the Catholic schools participating in voucher programs did not have a choice, but that is not the case where I live. In fact, we had been in the process of writing our own curriculum and it all got dropped when the CCSS math became available.
    This year our 2nd-8th graders will still be taking the ITBS that we’ve used for forever. I have no idea
    yet what test will be given starting next school year, though.

    • Lark permalink

      This site will help you Alabama teacher, with your questions.

      The pressure from, accreditation agencies, intermediate units and the equally insidious and odious NCEA have been on the job with Catholic teachers, admin and schools in general, joining legislative and corporate ” help” oh thanks for the help, ” helpers” like nonprofit’s and the usual plethora of online persuaders and opinion pushers. Not to mention, ( cue the crickets) the usccb.

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

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