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The Deceptive Push to “Implement” Common Core

March 30, 2014

I just returned home from speaking at the iRefuse Rally on March 29, 2014, in Port Jefferson Station, New York. My trip was an adventure in many ways, not the least of which was in my managing to get to New York.

In short, my flight to NYC was canceled; I was able to fly to Baltimore on standby and rent a car at 1:30 a.m. to drive through the night to Long Island (250 miles).

(It turns out that the kind individual who anonymously paid for my airfare and hotel approached me after hearing my story and offered to pay for the rental car, as well.)

I was determined to make it to the iRefuse event. It was certainly worth the effort. The rally was wonderful. Several hundred people showed to listen to almost a dozen speakers despite the dreary, rainy weather.

I spoke for about 30 minutes. The title of my talk was The Politics of Standards. I did not use notes, so I cannot post exact, complete content just yet. The rally was video recorded; once I receive the video, I will post my complete speech.

My speech came near the end of the rally; the audience was tired, and so was I (having been awake for 34 hours by then). I polled the audience before deciding upon the content I delivered. I wanted to ensure that I connected with my audience; I did not want to sound too “technical.”

My avoiding sounding too technical does not mean I avoided presenting facts.

In this post, I would like to offer some discussion included in my talk– what I believe to be an important, under-discussed development regarding the push to “implement” the so-called Common Core State Standards (CCSS):

The currently-subtle promotion of a regulatory agency to “ensure” that curriculum “aligns with” CCSS.

Next Stop: CCSS-Approved Curriculum

In the following two publications, I have seen language promoting such an agency. One is this March 26, 2014, Hechinger Report article about a CCSS math problem that went viral. The article argues that the problem is with the selected curriculum, not with CCSS.

One statement caught my attention:

The problem the question highlights is not an issue with the Common Core itself, McCallum said, but rather one of curriculum.  … So far, there has been little quality control[Emphasis added.]

Major, looming question:

Just who is supposed to “control” curriculum “quality”??

Why a “CCSS czar”– or a CCSS regulatory board.

I first read about these two horrible concepts in this March 19, 2014, EAG News article by Ben Velderman, a reflection on this summer 2014 Education Next article by the American Enterprise Institute’s (AEI) Michael McShane. The Education Next article actually proposes among other “implementation solutions” the two “CCSS management” ideas of a CCSS regulatory board and even a single individual in charge of All Things CCSS– a CCSS “czar”:

Former National Education Association chief John Wilson has called for the creation of a “Common Core Czar” to manage the common core. He believes that this person, who would need to have “excellent education credentials including teaching experience, understand a systems approach to education, and have the trust of teachers and parents” and “the respect of both political parties,” could be appointed by the NGA and CCSSO to “oversee the implementation, call out bad practices, and recommend policy changes to the politicians.” Quite a tall order, especially if the “czar” has no government-based authority. [Emphasis added.]

One individual placed in charge of CCSS “implementation.”

Wow. Am I reading Vonnegut? Huxley? Serling?

Perhaps this “czar” idea is too much (tongue in cheek).  Let’s just go for McShane’s next highlighted offering: a CCSS regulatory board:

Patrick McGuinn, a Drew University political scientist, has offered several other possible models for common core governance. Leaders could create a national network of organizations like the NGA and CCSSO, as well as prominent nonprofits and unions, that would serve as revisers, implementation watchdogs, and political advisors. Alternatively, a structure could be developed like the National Assessment Governing Board, which currently oversees the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). Empowered by law, the board is required to represent major constituent groups. States could then enter into a memorandum of understanding to agree to abide by the board’s rulings. 

As Velderman observes:

That (the CCSS regulatory board idea) sounds an awful lot like local school districts and states surrendering their autonomy to some type of centralized authority, whether it be national or regional. [Emphasis added.]

Corporate reform certainly does benefit from the surrendering of local authority (via few signatures, mind you) via so-called memoranda of understanding (MOUs)– not the least of which is the original CCSS MOU.

McShane states that until someone steps up to regulate CCSS, “folks will look to the federal government.”

Allow me to contradict McShane:

“Folks” are fighting the very idea of CCSS, period.

If they were not, there would be no pro-CCSS “call to “rebrand” in an effort to fool the “folks.”

However, it is clear that the public should take seriously the proposed ideas for CCSS “regulation”– and it should know that such “regulation” would certainly include curriculum.

CCSS Curriculum “Regulation”: In the Cards for Years Now

The push for such a CCSS regulatory agency should be expected based upon the declared push for “everything” to “line up”– CCSS, curriculum, and tests– an idea that has been publicized by the National Governors Association (NGA) since 2008.

I discussed this “alignment” in my Common Core, Aligned Curriculum… post:

In June 2008, the Hunt Institute and the National Governors Association (NGA) offered the following information as part of an NGA press release regarding the “need” for “rigorous standards.” Notice the inclusion of curriculum in this 2008 statement:

“High, rigorous standards are the foundation of a strong education system. Content standards specify the knowledge and skills that students need at each grade level. These standards must be supported by an aligned and clearly articulated system of curriculum, assessments, teacher preparation and professional development, textbook selection and appropriate supports for students.[Emphasis added.]

On July 21, 2009, Bill Gates made the following declaration in a speech to legislators:

…Identifying common standards is not enough. We’ll know we’ve succeeded when the curriculum and the tests are aligned to these standards. [Emphasis added.]

One month prior to the Gates speech, on June 14-15, 2009, NGA offered the now-loaded word, implementation, in reference to aligning all documents that could possibly control the teacher-student relationship– including curriculum:

Well-planned implementation processes are necessary for success. Standards alone will not ensure student success. Wilhoit cautioned that higher standards will not be effective if teachers and local
education authorities are not prepared to use them. High-quality standards represent the knowledge and skills that states want students to acquire, but this goal cannot be realized without an implementation system that includes curriculum, instructional tools and materials, formative and summative assessments, student supports, and teacher preparation and professional development that are aligned with the new standards. [Emphasis added.]

Thus, those publicly promoting “correct implementation” of CCSS as a “solution” to the undeniable national resistance to CCSS are actually pushing for an agency to regulate an implementation system that includes curriculum– whether such promoters admit as much or even realize as much.

Do not be deceived by the seeming diplomatic promotion of “proper CCSS implementation.”

Note that a major message my “common core” blog category is that those pushing hardest for CCSS (including implementation) overwhelmingly tend to be those without a direct, personal connection to the classroom. Those pushing hardest for CCSS are not teachers, parents, or students.

The CCSS “push” is nondemocratic.

The CCSS implementation “push” will also be a slap to democracy.

Calling Out the “Implementation” Term

One of the iRefuse attendees (and speakers, though I did not arrive in time to hear him) was New York State United Teachers (NYSUT) President Richard Iannuzzi. We spoke after the rally regarding NYSUT’s position on CCSS. He mentioned his stance against CCSS testing, including a freedom of information (FOIA) request NYSUT recently filed regarding CCSS testing in New York. He also mentioned the botched implementation of CCSS.

I asked if NYSUT planned to file other FOIAs specifically related to CCSS. Iannuzzi said yes.

Iannuzzi told me, “As long as Common Core is carved in stone, I do not support it.”

I told him that he needed to publicize that message– his being against a rigid CCSS– rather than the “implementation” message since “implementation” implies that one believes CCSS is fine as it is– no flexibility needed– and that the public isn’t buying it.

I also know that the “implementation is the problem, not CCSS itself” message leads America down the road toward a CCSS regulatory agency.

Rigidity requires a regulatory agency. Flexibility does not.

I challenged Iannuzzi to publicize the words he spoke to me– that so long as CCSS is “carved in stone,” he does not support it. I asked him to make this message clear via press releases and on the NYSUT website, which needs updating since it still includes the “we support CCSS” message.

He said that his updated stance could be found on the Stronger Together website.

I told him that people looking for NYSUT’s position will not go to the Stronger Together website– they will go to the NYSUT website, as I did– and they will read the “we support CCSS” message.

He agreed to update the NYSUT website, and he agreed to publicize his opposition to inflexible CCSS.

It was a hard-hitting conversation, but a good one.

As I was leaving the building, Iannuzzi stopped his car near me, rolled down the window, and told me that he just tweeted his anti-“carved in stone”-CCSS message.

And so he had:

@RichardIannuzzi · Mar 29 If CC is written in stone then it is unacceptable. NY must have a mind of its own! @beth_dimino @NYSAPE @lacetothetop

Based upon the pushback to All Things CCSS in New York State, it is clear to me that New York does indeed “have a mind of its own”– and that “mind” is fighting hard for its right to the democratic process in public education.

In Closing

Fortunately, this CCSS resistance is not unique to New York. CCSS resistance is nationwide, and we are too smart to be pacified by the “better CCSS implementation” strategy.

We want CCSS gone.

A nonexistent CCSS erases any possibility of a CCSS “czar”– or a CCSS regulatory agency– or the federal government defaulting as a CCSS regulatory agency.

Formal regulation of CCSS curriculum is next on the top-down list.

Kill CCSS, kill curriculum regulation.





  1. Joseph permalink

    Don’t despair Mercedes.
    Posted this on the Opt Out Long Island Facebook.
    Your message is enshrined for your great efforts to be with us.
    This audience is much larger.

    “This person was probably the most scholarly on the corporate control of education at the Port Jefferson rally, nationally recognized. She really went out of her way.
    Here is her story”.

  2. Thank you Mercedes for ALL that YOU have done to make it to New York!! Everyone enjoyed listening to you.. Best, Yvonne & Glen

  3. I certainly hope that CCSS gets killed.

  4. Thank you Mercedes for ALL the planes, trains and automobiles you had to take to get to New York.. Talk about a lesson in Grit & Tenacity! No one was going to keep you from attending the “iREFUSE Rally”! Talk about a CC Warrior!! So sorry your flight was cancelled. We had a great Italian restaurant picked out in Queens. Hopefully next time. Everyone enjoyed listening to you. THANK YOU for bringing your expertise to New York. It will NOT be forgotten…

    • Yvonne, I realize that I “condensed” 30 minutes into 40.

      Thank you for indulging me. 🙂

      • You kidding, It was great to hear you speak! (Love your accent BTW! Although I could imagine we sounded pretty strange too!) I have listened to your segment twice already. We are planning another forum for our group (SCCINYS) ***fingers-crossed** We would love to get you back to NY and this time we can actually have dinner! LOL

  5. And, of course, there was the Brookings Institution’s call, recently, for the CCSSO and NGA to start enforcing their copyright, thus making them into a de facto curriculum censorship organization. The copyrighting of the standards was a setup, from the beginning, for such command and control of curricula. And, of course, many of the “standards” explicitly or implicitly call for or require particular curricula and pedagogy.

    That’s why, from the beginning, I have referred to the lot–Achieve, the CCSSO, and the NGA–as the Common Core Curriculum Commissariat and Ministry of Truth.

    These guys have had a totalitarian, “one ring to rule them all” orientation from Day 1. Here, as in much else, the end was in the beginning, what it’s a horrific, Orwellian end game.

    Thanks, again, Mercedes, for all that you do!!! Great piece!!!

    • Hi, Bob. I have a post in the making on the edits to that copyright. I could not include here because of length. I hope to write it soon.

      • Far be it from ME, Mercedes, to accuse YOU of not doing enough!!! I meant this not as a criticism but as an addition. Wonderful work, Mercedes, as always! I know that there are many educators around the country who are grateful for your tireless efforts!

  6. Peter permalink

    Exactly. If the problem is implementation, well, then, what we need is a more controlled and regulated implementation. The problem is not that we tried a federal take-over of state education functions– it’s that we didn’t take over state functions completely enough. (And I see that Bob Shepherd has already noted what I intended to note when I logged on– that you can add Brookings to the list of people who say that CCSSO should take a stronger hand in making sure everything aligns properly– but let me just add a “Yeah, that!” to his comment.)

    Thank you for doing the travel and work to speak to this.

  7. Thanks Mercedes, as usual, smart, factual and completely alarming! I am looking forward to watching your irefuse presentation

  8. 2old2tch permalink

    I am afraid that being against CCSS as long as they are carved in stone leaves open a window of opportunity for such an agency to manage the CCSS implementation. Such an agency could be used as a tool to say that they are introducing a way to allow flexibility and innovation based on the recommendations of such an agency (or individual). I agree that the deformers have made very clear that they want to control everything from standards to classroom curriculum and practice. We have to be equally clear that it doesn’t matter how CCSS is managed; CCSS must go! In no way should we be giving up local control for federal management. It is too easy to ignore local voices from inside the beltway. That has already been made abundantly clear.

  9. Michael permalink

    What I suggest as a tactic for anyone involved in public or private debates on Common Core is to keep the main message simple and keep pounding it home. From there you can branch out if necessary but too often if you get too enmeshed in the details (some is necessary) of Common Core you can get involved in a discussion which avoids the fundamental realities of this scam. Such focus on details might also suggest that while Common Core is seen as flawed it only need some alterations (by a well paid consultant no doubt) to become an acceptable educational tool.

    For example, if you discuss Common Core mostly in terms of the tests, even if you point out the absurdity of much of it, you can get stuck discussing only the testing aspect of CC which can easily lead to how those tests can “get fixed.” The testing aspect of CC is really a distraction as that is only the vehicle not the engine. I’m not saying it’s not useful to point out these absurdities just that it shouldn’t be the primary focal point of a critique of Common Core.

    It’s not that the problems with CC are the testing, the implementation or any other aspects- it is the very fact that it exists and that it is allowed to exist by those who created it.

    The theme I go with goes something like this and from here the discussion can broaden:

    Common Core is not even a testing regimen per se nor an educational program – it is an asset in the business portfolios of venture capitalists that are involved in the rapid privatization of yet another public institution.

    Let’s not have any illusions about public schooling as it has always been more about training bodies for the business mills but what we are seeing since NCLB has been full on takeover of our public schools (and theft of our public monies) and whatever real reforms which could have been achieved have now been replaced by the Business Deforms (NCLB, CC, RTTT etc.) that are conceived from foundations like Gates, Walton and Eli Broad.

    It’s all about rampant profiteering. Charter schools and voucher programs are merely the repository for the capitalists- they are the marketing scam as the vultures seek to make inroads on a massive and heretofore untapped pile of cash. As a 1.3 trillion dollar pool of money that is publicly funded the privateers wring their greedy paws at the thought of turning that public money into their playpen.

    None of this is about education- this is a business plan that has the political backing of both bought and sold parties.

    NCLB, Race to the Top, Common Core and all the rest of the alphabet soup testing titles, reform schemes etc. are merely the front for a business plan. The corporate greed heads want all that cash to take a direct u-turn from public institutions and head into their private coffers. Charters and vouchers are the repository of our public funds for these venture capitalists.

    The current situation surrounding Common Core and Race to the Top must be seen in the context of the privatization of everything. Resources are dwindling (being stolen) for municipalities in all areas and those funds are being shifted to private interests. The politicians at all levels- Team Donkey and the Elephants- are merely overseeing and rubber stamping the policies that sanction this theft.

    Public education, like all else, is being replaced with a market-based, non-unionized privately managed system. Common Core is merely the latest marketing concept (the hammer to crack open the nut of taking public monies and placing them into private hands) used to manage public opinion and sell the idea that schools need radical restructuring that can only be done by corporate ideology- and investment. It has the convenient (and purposeful) benefit for those who have initiated it of ignoring the unsightly fact that the very same interests and methodologies that are being proposed to “fix” our “broken” schools are the same ones that have been and are destroying our schools (and all else) at breakneck speed. And all of this is by

    High Stakes Testing, NCLB, Race to the Top, Common Core etc. have never been about educational processes they are political processes driven by business interests.

  10. NY Teacher permalink

    I just started this at Petition2Congress. It is very easy to sign, copies are automatically sent to President Obama, and your own senators and your representatives. Please take the time to read and the petition entitled: STOP COMMON CORE TESTING. Thank you.

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. The Common Core License: Open to Alteration by “Inner Circle” of Owners! | Dr. Rich Swier

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