Sol Stern and Common Core: Still Disconnected
On April 6, 2014, I published this post, entitled, Sol Stern Thinks Common Core Is About Rich Curriculum. In the post, I rebutted another post of Stern’s entitled, A Sorry Attack on the Common Core.
On April 17, 2014, Stern responded in this post entitled, The Real Common Core Story.
Hardly the “real” story of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS); nevertheless, it is a catchy title.
Stern makes it clear that responding to my post is beneath him except that my post appeared on Diane Ravitch’s blog:
Normally, it wouldn’t occur to me to respond to Schneider’s fact-deprived attack—except that it appeared on Ravitch’s blog, which reaches tens of thousands of readers on some days.
Stern doesn’t value my “fact deprived” work. I think I’ll just give up writing and rock in a fetal position.
But it sure bothered him that my “fact deprived” work appeared on Diane Ravitch’s blog.
He doesn’t like being ripped in front of Ravitch’s “thousands a day.” In fact, Ravitch’s blog has over 20,000 readers per day; on its best day, Ravitch’s blog almost hit 70,000 views.
Those numbers sure make for a lot of readers looking to be misinformed. A travesty in the minds of “think tanky” folk such as Stern.
In his response, Stern believes he has put me in my place:
Mercedes Schneider, a Louisiana teacher, is one of Ravitch’s loyal allies in the education-reform wars. Ravitch thinks she’s a great investigator and often cites her work. Actually, what Schneider excels at is promulgating conspiracy theories and using guilt-by-association to discredit those with whom she disagrees—such as supporters of the Common Core State Standards, whom she accuses of being duped and bribed by a corporate, anti-public school conspiracy led by Bill Gates, with an assist from President Barack Obama. [Emphasis added.]
There you have it, readers. I am a conspiracy theorist. CCSS was really a nationwide, simultaneous grass roots movement that has not been funded by billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates, and there were no US Department of Education (USDOE) grants associated with the CCSS assessments. Furthermore, US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has not been actively pushing CCSS onto states since the 2009 National Governors Association (NGA) Symposium, and the Duncan/Obama No-Child-Left-Behind-reheated-leftover, Race to the Top (RTTT) does not include a convenient “Appendix B” for two state officials (the governor and state superintendent) to use to sign on to CCSS.
Of course, those two signatures make CCSS “voluntary.” I somehow missed this in my mandated usage of CCSS in my classroom despite the fact that my district rejected CCSS and was signed on anyway by the Louisiana governor and then-state superintendent.
I sure am dense.
According to Stern, I also employ guilt by association. That’s my gig. You got me. So, say, if a person in this day and age of hedge-fund-supported education privatization just so happens to be a “scholar” to one such entity (like the Manhattan Institute), and said individual just so happens to advocate for One CCSS– the same CCSS being pushed nationwide by business interests and those receiving millions from corporate-reform-supporting philanthropies– such as “institutes–far more than it is being “embraced” by the classroom teachers it impacts, then it must be that Schneider is making a leap in logic to assume CCSS is part of a corporate- and philanthropic-funded, education-corporation-benefiting, public-education-wrecking machine.
Stern would know, right? He is an expert on the classroom since he is a Manhattan Institute “scholar.” Certainly his position as a “think tanker” qualifies him to state that one-size-fits-all CCSS is appropriate for classrooms nationwide.
I sure wish I were a think-tank-worthy “scholar” like Stern. All I have is a Ph.D. in applied statistics and research methods.
No wonder I cannot “engage with” his “arguments.” I should just let him define the “arguments” and ignore all else.
Stern also believes that I don’t “get” exactly who is supporting CCSS:
Schneider doesn’t seem to have noticed that most supporters of free markets in education actually oppose the Common Core.
The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) is replete with “supporters of free markets in education.” ALEC was initially against CCSS, but former Florida Governor Jeb Bush “talked” ALEC into CCSS. Now Bush actively campaigns for CCSS.
Stern also believes that his never having classroom teaching experience is irrelevant to his supporting CCSS.
No problem. No classroom experience makes Stern like David Coleman, the CCSS “chief architect” who in 2011 publicly admitted the following about his Student Achievement Partners (his standards-writing company-gone-nonprofit):
…We’re composed of that collection of unqualified people who were involved in developing the common standards.
See there? My concerns about Stern’s lack of a classroom teaching background are unfounded when overshadowed by the idiocy of CCSS “lead architect” David Coleman– who is now president of College Board and trying to market a version of the SAT to rival the ACT– though Coleman admits student grades better predict college success than do standardized test scores.
He has sooo much research to support his endorsement since the CCSS “owners,” the NGA and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) spend several years systematically implementing CCSS one grade at a time; making adjustments based upon teacher feedback, and always leaving room for special circumstances that (May it never be!) for which CCSS simply isn’t suited.
Wait– such careful, systematic, research-based CCSS implementation never happened.
In his rip on me, Stern cannot resist a swipe at Ravitch. He insists that Ravitch has altered her position on supporting national standards since CCSS is “voluntary.” Stern notes that states can exit CCSS without penalty.
Stern does not define exactly how the “volunteering” for CCSS transpired. As for Ravitch’s position on CCSS, here is a concise complaint, not of “national standards,” but of CCSS:
The Common Core standards were not developed in a transparent manner. The standard-setting and writing of the standards included a significant number of people from the testing industry, but did not include a significant number of experienced teachers, subject-matter experts, and other educators from the outset, nor did it engage other informed and concerned interests, such as early childhood educators and educators of children with disabilities. There was no consensus process. The standards were written in 2009 and adopted in 2010 by 45 states and the District of Columbia as a condition of eligibility to compete for $4.3 billion in Race to the Top funding. The process was dominated from start to finish by the Gates Foundation, which funded the standard-setting process. There was no process for appeal or revision, and there is still no process for appeal or revision.
The reason to oppose the Common Core is not because of their content, some of which is good, some of which is problematic, some of which needs revision (but there is no process for appeal or revision).
The reason to oppose the Common Core standards is because they violate the well-established and internationally recognized process for setting standards in a way that is transparent, that recognizes the expertise of those who must implement them, that builds on the consensus of concerned parties, and that permits appeal and revision.
The reason that there is so much controversy and pushback now is that the Gates Foundation and the U.S. Department of Education were in a hurry and decided to ignore the nationally and internationally recognized rules for setting standards, and in doing so, sowed suspicion and distrust. Process matters. [Emphasis added.]
Stern turns to a 2005 opinion piece in which Ravitch supported a national curriculum and national tests to accompany national standards. He uses this as proof that Ravitch cannot be “taken seriously” for her stance against CCSS. He states that Ravitch’s former position in support of national standards, curriculum, and tests makes her “more ‘zealous’ than other champions of standards reform at the time.”
Stern fails to acknowledge a key component in Ravitch’s current resistance to CCSS: the role of billionaire philanthropy and education corporations in attempting to privatize (and therefore, destroy) the American public education system.
In her 2005 opinion piece, Ravitch was clear that her vision for “reform” extended beyond the narrow focus of English Language Arts (ELA) and math and should include “science, history, literature, foreign languages and the arts.”
CCSS is too narrow for Ravitch. She sees the obsession with two subjects as depriving children of a rounded education. CCSS testing is a major drain on school system funding, and where CCSS ELA and math testing reigns, arts education suffers.
Another important issue:
In 2005, when Ravitch supported national standards, curriculum, and tests, community schools across the country were not being fiscally starved and replaced by “market-driven” education; the teaching profession was not being destroyed in favor of a steady, disruptive churn of “temp” teachers– and “common standards” were not being used as an important component in making the market-driven churn happen.
Stern refers to this as my “conspiracy theory.”
It is no theory. Gates and other nonprofits document their intentional purchase of public education with the express goal of privatization.
One of my most popular posts is A Brief Audit of Bill Gates’ Common Core Spending. The post has had over 16,000 views since August 2013. And as Stern has pointed out, I am not nearly as well known as is Diane Ravitch.
There is a reason that the post is popular: It is the truth, and it is documented.
Call that “conspiracy theorizing” if you like, Stern.
You are wrong.
You are also wrong about the profit-driven direction that Amplify could take your beloved E.D Hirsch’s Core Knowledge. I used the term “purchased” in referring to the licensing agreement between Amplify and Core Knowledge intentionally. Money has changed hands, and Amplify does indeed plan to turn a profit from its “license” with Core Knowledge. Amplify is clear in its intent to morph Core Knowledge into an “Amplify-directed,” digital product:
The rigorous and engaging Core Knowledge Language Arts program will initially be offered as a print product, to be supplemented with digital enhancements as early as by the next school year. Through its ongoing digital strategy to build dynamic, interactive and academically rigorous curriculum, Amplify Learning will evolve the Core Knowledge Language Arts program to a full digital format over time. …
Using its long-term rights to the Core Knowledge Language Arts program, Amplify will continue its work as a leading education innovator and bring additional fresh, technologically advanced products to the marketplace that are founded upon this highly regarded and academically robust material. [Emphasis added.]
CCSS is about profits, Stern. You can deny this if you like, but the truth is that Amplify is using Core Knowledge to create a CCSS product that is designed to sell. Thus, what you call my “Murdoch allegation”– what I refer to as the “purchasing” of Core Knowledge by Amplify– is not “false” in that this “licensing agreement” allows Murdoch’s Joel-Klein-run Amplify to the exclusive right to create its own CCSS products– products not directly controlled by Core Knowledge creator E.D, Hirsch.
Murdoch is not a philanthropist. He is a businessman worth $12.5 billion.
If you want to believe that Amplify will invest millions in digital Core Knowledge and still leave the final word on product fidelity to E.D. Hirsch, then you go right ahead. This digital development goes beyond your simple statement of “the Core Knowledge curriculum was licensed to Amplify for the sole purpose of distributing it to schools around the country.”
Amplify has a tablet to sell. Digital Core Knowledge on an Amplify tablet. Digital takeover of CCSS curriculum needs nationwide.
And Hirsch’s Core Knowledge reduced to rooms full of children who interact more with an electronic device than they do with a teacher.
Too far fetched?
You see CCSS and you envision nationwide usage of Core Knowledge as you now know it:
In my writing, I (Stern) have suggested that education reformers of all stripes could help convince states and districts to adopt Core Knowledge or some variant of the Hirsch curriculum as part of their implementation of the Common Core Standards. [Emphasis added.]
I think that with for-profit Amplify and its “exclusive licensing” that is essentially a “purchase” of the right to create “CK whatever,” you are more likely to get “some variant.” But remember: The inflexible, “unqualified”-Coleman-created, NGA-CCSSO-copyrighted, voluntary-to-only-two-state-officials CCSS is “some variant” of earlier visions of “national standards.”
Kids umbilically-connected to Amplify CK tablets. Pretty.
Two more issues, Stern:
First, you note that I am “one of Ravitch’s loyal allies.”
That is true.
Second, you note that Ravitch thinks I am “a great investigator.”
That is also true. She does, and I am.
I have a 500-page book coming out on key individuals and organizations exploiting public education in the name of “reform.” Over 100 pages are reference citations.
A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who in the Implosion of American Public Education.
Now there is a “real” story.
Your recent post… not so much.