The American Enterprise Institute, Common Core, and “Good Cop”
In my research on Gates’ Common Core State Standards (CCSS) spending, I came across this unusual grant to the pro-reform group, the American Enterprise Institute (AEI):
Date: June 2012
Purpose: to support their education policy work in four distinct areas: Exploring the Challenges of Common Core, Future of American Education Working Groups, Innovations in Financial Aid, and Bridging K-12 and Higher Ed with Technology
Amount: $1,068,788 [Emphasis added.]
Gates paid AEI one million, in part to “explore the challenges of Common Core.” If Gates really wanted AEI to critically address problems associated with CCSS, it would not have paid AEI to do so two years following CCSS completion.
No, no. This is no critical appraisal of CCSS. This is CCSS promotion.
Given its timing (two years following CCSS completion), the Gates-funded task for AEI is better read as
Exploring the Challenges of Selling the Common Core.
What we have here is a version of Good Cop, Bad Cop.
By way of Scholar Frederick Hess (yes, he really refers to himself as “scholar”), AEI offers the appearance of critical appraisal of CCSS.
Thus, Hess appears to be the “good cop” to the outspoken CCSS proponents’ “bad cop.”
However, “good cop” is an illusion.
Consider this December 13, 2013, excerpt from Hess’ blog. Hess plays the neutral card, but he is not neutral:
If the standards are better than those that many states had in place, swell. If more common reading and math standards make things easier for material developers and kids who move across states, that’s fine. But I don’t think that stuff amounts to all that much.
There’s the “neutral.” Now, for Hess’ established reformer bent, which is particularly notable in the bolded language:
In truth, the idea that the Common Core might be a “game-changer” has little to do with the Common Core standards themselves, and everything to do with stuff attached to them, especially the adoption of common tests that make it possible to readily compare schools, programs, districts, and states (of course, the announcement that one state after another is opting out of the two testing consortia is hollowing out this promise).
But the Common Core will only make a dramatic difference if those test results are used to evaluate schools or hire, pay, or fire teachers; or if the effort serves to alter teacher preparation revamp instructional materials, or compel teachers to change what students read and do. And, of course, advocates have made clear that this is exactly what they have in mind. When they refer to the “Common Core,” they don’t just mean the words on paper–what they really have in mind is this whole complex of changes. [Emphasis added.]
Hess even broaches the major topic of federal involvement in CCSS. In this two part series written in June 2013, Hess opens Part One with the statement that he is “not on board” with CCSS:
I’ve long said that the Common Core strikes me as an intriguing effort that could do much good. So, why am I not on board? Because I think the effort has a good chance of stalling out over the next four or five years. And, because standards and assessments are the backbone of pretty much everything else in K-12 schooling, that could tear down all manner of promising efforts on teacher quality, school improvement, and the rest. [Emphasis added.]
Then Hess closes his post with advice for CCSS “proponents” (mind you, he is “not on board,” yet he is assisting the “proponents”):
…Check out what Fordham’s Mike Petrilli and Checker Finn have been writing on this score, as they’ve spent the past couple years operating as pretty much the only Common Core enthusiasts willing to publicly call out Obama overreach or talk frankly about problems and missteps (as with Fordham’s tough new analysis of the Next Generation Science Standards).
Hess advises CCSS “proponents” to read Finn and Petrilli– a duo I have recently written about for their sneaky and slanted state standard letter grading that points towards a false CCSS “superiority.”
In the Part One post, Hess refers to the “Obama overreach.” In Part Two, Hess tries to promote the idea that Duncan can actually convince the American people that the federal government was involved in “the beginnings” of CCSS “but it won’t happen again”:
Sec. Duncan needs to give a speech in which he pleads “mea culpa” and acknowledges that federal involvement and money played a nontrivial (and perhaps, in hindsight, an unfortunate) role in the early stages of the Common Core. Doing so will allow the conversation to move off that sticking point, and reassure the skeptics that the proponents are finally speaking to their fears of slippery slopes. Duncan can then pivot to what comes next. He should signal support for proposals by Congressional Republicans that would prohibit further federal involvement with the Common Core…. [Emphasis added.]
Let’s get this straight: Good Cop Hess wants to help Duncan sell CCSS by saying, “Yes, the federal government was involved all along, but I promise to support those in Congress who want to limit my CCSS reach”??
By December 26, 2013, Mr. “I’m Not on Board” advises CCSS proponents to openly acknowledge their dependence upon the federal government to make possible the entire spectrum of reforms (of which CCSS is the hub):
There’s a studied dishonesty about the “state-led” rhetoric. Going back to Common Core’s initial planning in 2007 and 2008, its earliest advocates always noted that getting most states to adopt common standards and implement them aggressively would probably require an outsized federal role.
As Chester E. Finn Jr., president of the Thomas Fordham Institute and a longtime champion of national standards, observed in 2010, “For these standards to get traction . . . a whole bunch of other things need to happen. Curriculum needs to happen, textbooks need to be aligned with the curriculum, teacher preparation and professional development need to be aligned, tests need to be aligned, [and] the accountability system that is built on those tests needs to make sense.”
There’s little evidence that Common Core boosters really believe that states, school districts, and commercial providers will make this work on their own. …
In each case, plenty of Washington-based Common Core enthusiasts think the feds need to help get this stuff right. In 2011, the American Federation of Teachers endorsed the creation of a national curriculum to support the Common Core. The National Governors Association has previously called on Uncle Sam to help fund and encourage Common Core implementation. The Obama Department of Education has embraced a much more prescriptive role in telling states how to measure teacher effectiveness and where teachers should teach. [Emphasis added.]
So, here we have Hess doing what Gates has really paid him to do:
“Exploring the Challenges of Selling the Common Core.”
Notice how that sale is walking the straight path to federal control of American education in its entirety.
CCSS is not meant to stand alone. Any discussion that presumes as much is not only counterproductive, it is dangerous, for it draws attention away from the Package Deal of Reform.
(As of October 2013, Student Achievement Partners will be working with the Danielson Group [as in Charlotte Danielson] to “align” teacher evaluation with CCSS.)
If CCSS is part of a Reform Package Deal (which it is), then it will require that states hand over their rights to the likes of Duncan.
And if states forfeit their rights in the name of Comprehensive Reform by opening such a door to federal control, states will not be able to close the door when the federal government decides what should be done to “turn around failing states.”
It’s coming, folks, if we do not actively combat it.
Hess is no Good Cop.
His ploy is to incrementally introduce what would otherwise be unacceptable change so that in its increments, it becomes palatable.
Time for a palate cleanse.