Video: Bill Gates “Explains” Common Core
In the following six-minute video at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) in March 2014, Bill Gates demonstrates his privileged view of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS).
Gates has contributed over $4.3 million to AEI, with over $1 million in 2012 for “exploring the challenges of Common Core,” among other issues, so it is only fitting that AEI should promulgate Gates’ CCSS opinions.
Allow me to counter Gates’ billionaire view with my hundredaire reality.
Gates opens with CCSS as “not a curriculum” and that CCSS does not “tell teachers how to teach.” Nevertheless, according to his 2009 speech to legislators, Gates anticipates that CCSS will lead to curriculum and assessments that set teachers at the mercy of “market forces”:
When the tests are aligned to the common standards, the curriculum will line up as well—and that will unleash powerful market forces in the service of better teaching. For the first time, there will be a large base of customers eager to buy products that can help every kid learn and every teacher get better. [Emphasis added.]
In his selling of CCSS, Gates proposes that “ordering” of standards has been a “problem.” Ordering of standards has nothing to do with the standards themselves. Moreover, at this point in his explanation, Gates assumes that “sameness”– all states’ having the same standards– automatically translates into “better.”
Back to Gates’ AEI CCSS “explanation”:
Gates next tries to connect “the size of textbooks” with the US’ “now” having low scores on international tests. In truth, the US has never scored well on international tests, and yet we have remained a world power. Thus, the US’ scoring low “now” is old news. At this point, Gates praises Massachusetts’ international test scores but does not bother to explain why he assumes that Massachusetts’ standards automatically and directly translated into high test scores. Gates also fails to account for pushing CCSS onto Massachusetts if he deems Massachusetts a model for suitable standards.
His earlier statements on the importance of standards “ordering” apparently forgotten, Gates next assumes that “better” standards produce “better” test scores; however, he does not account for the utter lack of alignment between states’ national test scores on the National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP) and the widely-swallowed Fordham Institute ratings of state standards.
And now, for the Gates version of CCSS creation:
In his attempt to explain the creating of CCSS, Gates slips up and says “a bunch of teachers” questioned the size of textbooks and the standards but quickly catches himself and says “governors” (time 2:35). He seems unsure about which group initiated CCSS: “I think it was the National Governors Association said, said, ‘We ought to get together all of this.”
And then he lies: “A bunch of teachers met with a bunch of experts. So in reading and writing and math, these knowledge levels were written down” (time 2:50). Gates makes it sound like “a bunch of teachers” developed CCSS. Furthermore, Gates never explains his distinction between “teachers” and “experts.” I have documented in detail that “teachers” were not the central decision makers for CCSS (see here and here and here).
Gates is having chronology problems. He states, “These knowledge levels were written down. And at some point 46 states had, uh, adopted that…” (time 2:55).
At time 4:35, Gates insists that the federal government does not “dictate” CCSS participation: “States can opt in; they can opt out. As they do this, they should look at this ‘status quo,’ which is poor. Uh, they should look and find something that is high, high achievement, that’s got quality, and… if they have two that they are comparing, they ought to probably pick something in common….”
Again with the assumption that “common” is better. This idea connects with the Fordham Institute push to have states with standards that Fordham rated as equal to or better than CCSS still choose CCSS.
It is easier to “unleash” those “powerful market forces” to a standardized US education system.
As for the US Department of Education’s not “dictating” CCSS: Consider the recent plight of Washington state when it refused to “comply” with the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) dictum of grading teachers using student test scores: US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan withdrew Washington’s NCLB waiver. Washington state responded by saying it would not be intimidated into obeying the federal government on matters of state education policy.
Indiana, the first state to “abandon” CCSS, has curiously decided not to return to its former standards, though the CCSS-promoting Fordham Institute rated Indiana’s former standards as equal or superior to CCSS. (Fordham’s Mike Petrilli tried to talk Indiana into “going common,” just as Gates stated as the way to go.)
Instead, the “new” Indiana standards resemble CCSS.
Is Indiana afraid of what Arne might do?
Yet Bill assures us that states have a choice– and that “choice” should be for the “new status quo”: CCSS.
Bill tells us why. It has nothing to do with students or teachers:
“You get more free market competition. Scale is good for free market competition. Individual state regulatory capture is not good for competition” (time 5:05).
There it is. Bill wants to experiment with “market forces,” and he wants to do so with your life and mine.
Not with his life. Not with the lives of his children.
At the end of his speech, Gates notes that whatever states decide regarding CCSS “is fine,” though he cautions that “it does affect the quality of your (??) teaching” (time 5:40).
And how, Bill. And how.