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Sol Stern and Common Core: Still Disconnected

April 17, 2014

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 SpendingThe 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.

Potential billions.

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.




  1. Mercedes….I am on your “conspiracy theory” team. Let the billionaires and think tankers continue to try and twist words in their attempt to dupe the public into believing them….thank goodness you and Diane R. and others are out their calling them out on their lies and duplicity every time.

  2. I see no detailed response in Sol’s “response” to Mercedes – other than his taking an opportunity to attack Diane – once again. And Sol seems bothered that his history and political affiliations are included – like history doesn’t count for him but it does count for Diane. Diane changed her mind and admitted it. Sol also changed his mind — going from an avid Bloomberg supporter to a detractor — even admitting he was wrong about mayoral control. Pre-Bloomberg Sol was one of the most vehement critics of teacher unions – using a personal anecdote to go after seniority rules and tenure protections for teachers. Sol was one of the original ed deformers, though for a brief time he seemed to repent some of his views as he watched the impact of the BloomKlein deforms on the NYC school system. Nice to see he went back to his roots.

  3. 2old2tch permalink

    Mercedes, why aren’t you just bent over in abject humiliation and despair that this great man from the august Manhattan Institute has condemned you? Perhaps if you wash his feet with your tears, he will forgive you.

  4. Rick Johnson permalink

    Mercedes, an outstanding response. Thank you for all you, Diane and others are doing for the sake of public education. Garrison Keillor once wrote, “When you wage war on the public schools, you’re tearing away at the mortar that holds a community together. That isn’t being a conservative, that’s being a vandal.” Well, the vandals are at the schoolyard gates, and Mercedes is one of our leaders at repelling this assault on the schools. Thank you.

  5. Loren Steele permalink

    I can’t wait to read your book. Have you investigated the S&P(College Board)/Deutsche Bank/McGraw Hill/NYCDOE cast of collaborators?

    • Hi, Loren. I only touch on McGraw, but I am planning a second book that will involve more on CC.

      • Loren Steele permalink

        Thank you. Now that the network of cronies has infiltrated NYCDOE, they’ve moved on to NJ.

  6. Jackson permalink

    Please send your erudite dismantling of Common Core to David Brooks of the New York Times. In today’s Op-Ed he displayed a flawed analysis of the opposition to the Common Core. Brokks’ understanding of the history of cries out for correction.

  7. Outstanding. I think the business interests in all of this are simply astounded that we are not lining up to buy the “product” like Apple aficionados do for the latest generation iphone. They missed the point in a big way: this is not about communication or media technology. This is about my kids.

  8. christine permalink

    Dear Mercedes:
    Sol Stein might like to know that I regularly talk about your pieces, direct people to them and forward them to an extended list. Who knows how many more thousands you reach?
    Let’s all bump up those Mercedes numbers.
    You know you are making waves when they call you out by name. 🙂

  9. Laura h. Chapman permalink

    Great job. I think Sol is a fan of the Hirsch Core Knowledge program only because Hirsch is a well-known critic of the diversification of curricula in universities, especially courses that raised questions about the Western-Eurpean canon that he holds dear. Sol seems to be doing the same thing as the PR marketers of the CCSS–spout uninformed judgments.

  10. Ang permalink

    Great post, as always.
    Here’s hoping you are able to overcome the feelings of depression, isolation and helplessness that you must be experience in after being dismissed by Sol.

    So perhaps I missed it, but when is the book going to be available and where can I pick up a copy?

    • Hi, Ang. I am waiting to hear from my publisher any day now. I will announce when the book is officially on the market.

  11. Michael permalink

    Anyone who uses “conspiracy theory” in an attempt to dismiss another, as Stern does, Has proven themselves incapable of arguing the facts of the matter so they use this knee-jerk response as a dismissive technique. It’s one of the classic tactics of the propagandist.

    Here’s a quote from Michael Parenti.

    “Almost as an article of faith, some individuals believe that conspiracies are either kooky fantasies or unimportant aberrations. To be sure, wacko conspiracy theories do exist. There are people who believe that the United States has been invaded by a secret United Nations army equipped with black helicopters, or that the country is secretly controlled by Jews or gays or feminists or black nationalists or communists or extraterrestrial aliens. But it does not logically follow that all conspiracies are imaginary.

    Conspiracy is a legitimate concept in law: the collusion of two or more people pursuing illegal means to effect some illegal or immoral end. People go to jail for committing conspiratorial acts. Conspiracies are a matter of public record, and some are of real political significance. The Watergate break-in was a conspiracy, as was the Watergate cover-up, which led to Nixon’s downfall. Iran-contra was a conspiracy of immense scope, much of it still uncovered. The savings and loan scandal was described by the Justice Department as “a thousand conspiracies of fraud, theft, and bribery,” the greatest financial crime in history.

    Conspiracy or Coincidence?

    Often the term “conspiracy” is applied dismissively whenever one suggests that people who occupy positions of political and economic power are consciously dedicated to advancing their elite interests. Even when they openly profess their designs, there are those who deny that intent is involved. In 1994, the officers of the Federal Reserve announced they would pursue monetary policies designed to maintain a high level of unemployment in order to safeguard against “overheating” the economy. Like any creditor class, they preferred a deflationary course. When an acquaintance of mine mentioned this to friends, he was greeted skeptically, “Do you think the Fed bankers are deliberately trying to keep people unemployed?” In fact, not only did he think it, it was announced on the financial pages of the press. Still, his friends assumed he was imagining a conspiracy because he ascribed self-interested collusion to powerful people.

    At a World Affairs Council meeting in San Francisco, I remarked to a participant that U.S. leaders were pushing hard for the reinstatement of capitalism in the former communist countries. He said, “Do you really think they carry it to that level of conscious intent?” I pointed out it was not a conjecture on my part. They have repeatedly announced their commitment to seeing that “free-market reforms” are introduced in Eastern Europe. Their economic aid is channeled almost exclusively into the private sector. The same policy holds for the monies intended for other countries. Thus, as of the end of 1995, “more than $4.5 million U.S. aid to Haiti has been put on hold because the Aristide government has failed to make progress on a program to privatize state-owned companies” (New York Times 11/25/95).

    Those who suffer from conspiracy phobia are fond of saying: “Do you actually think there’s a group of people sitting around in a room plotting things?” For some reason that image is assumed to be so patently absurd as to invite only disclaimers. But where else would people of power get together – on park benches or carousels? Indeed, they meet in rooms: corporate boardrooms, Pentagon command rooms, at the Bohemian Grove, in the choice dining rooms at the best restaurants, resorts, hotels, and estates, in the many conference rooms at the White House, the NSA, the CIA, or wherever. And, yes, they consciously plot – though they call it “planning” and “strategizing” – and they do so in great secrecy, often resisting all efforts at public disclosure. No one confabulates and plans more than political and corporate elites and their hired specialists. To make the world safe for those who own it, politically active elements of the owning class have created a national security state that expends billions of dollars and enlists the efforts of vast numbers of people.

    Yet there are individuals who ask with patronising, incredulous smiles, do you really think that the people at the top have secret agendas, are aware of their larger interests, and talk to each other about them? To which I respond, why would they not? This is not to say that every corporate and political elite is actively dedicated to working for the higher circles of power and property. Nor are they infallible or always correct in their assessments and tactics or always immediately aware of how their interests are being affected by new situations. But they are more attuned and more capable of advancing their vast interests than most other social groups.

    The alternative is to believe that the powerful and the privileged are somnambulists, who move about oblivious to questions of power and privilege; that they always tell us the truth and have nothing to hide even when they hide so much; that although most of us ordinary people might consciously try to pursue our own interests, wealthy elites do not; that when those at the top employ force and violence around the world it is only for the laudable reasons they profess; that when they arm, train, and finance covert actions in numerous countries, and then fail to acknowledge their role in such deeds, it is because of oversight or forgetfulness or perhaps modesty; and that it is merely a coincidence how the policies of the national security state so consistently serve the interests of the transnational corporations and the capital-accumulation system throughout the world.”

    – Michael Parenti

  12. PNW_WarriorWoman permalink

    MS…you are superb in this post! Using it to further educate my circles. Fab smack down. Sol’s drivel is typical masculinist arrogant BS.

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  1. Mercedes Schneider Explains Common Core to Sol Stern, Again | Diane Ravitch's blog

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