The 2008 Common Core Sales Job: Part One
In 2008, the National Governors Association (NGA), the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), and Achieve, Inc., released a report, Benchmarking for Success: Ensuring U.S. Students Receive a World-class Education.
The Gates and GE foundations funded the report.
The content of this report begs for careful examination. Thus, I plan to examine it closely in a series of posts. This first posts centers upon certain economic issues raised by the assumptions in the report, which happen to connect to the title term, “benchmarking.”
According to the authors, the “benchmarking” idea must go beyond the definition in American education (“comparing performance outcomes” or “setting performance targets”) and must consider the business definition, which happens to correspond to the “competitive” definition of “benchmarking” in education in other countries (“identifying top performers or fast improvers, learning how they achieve great results, and applying those lessons to improve one’s own performance”).
In other words, I learn from you, but I do so in order to beat you.
The purpose of the report was to promote a now-familiar spectrum of “education reforms,” including the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). In doing so, NGA, CCSSO, and Achieve assure America that our education system would then be “globally competitive”:
Five Steps Toward Building Globally Competitive Education Systems
Action 1: Upgrade state standards by adopting a common core of internationally benchmarked standards in math and language arts for grades K-12 to ensure that students are equipped with the necessary knowledge and skills to be globally competitive.
Action 2: Leverage states’ collective influence to ensure that textbooks, digital media, curricula, and assessments are aligned to internationally benchmarked standards and draw on lessons from high-performing nations and states.
Action 3: Revise state policies for recruiting, preparing, developing, and supporting teachers and school leaders to reflect the human capital practices of top-performing nations and states around the world.
Action 4: Hold schools and systems accountable through monitoring, interventions, and support to ensure consistently high performance, drawing upon international best practices.
Action 5: Measure state-level education performance globally by examining student achievement and attainment in an international context to ensure that, over time, students are receiving the education they need to compete in the 21st century economy.
It’s all about the “global economy.” The report abounds with such language as “the race” being “on to create a knowledge-fueled innovation economies.”
Education is identified as supremely important in America’s “winning” the global economic “race”:
Education is a tremendously important lever for ensuring competitiveness and prosperity in the age of globalization, albeit not the only one.
Nevertheless, the report reads as if education is the only “lever” for competitiveness, and that in order to “compete,” America must become a “skills-driven global economy.”
The report also refers to giving America’s students “a world class education” and of the need for “innovation.”
So, which is it: Skills, or a world-class education leading to “innovation”?
I notice that nowhere in this report do the authors advocate their set of reforms be imposed upon all American schools– including elite prep schools.
I have yet to read of an elite prep school advertising that it will equip its pupils with “skills” for the “skills-driven global economy.”
The report also mentions the global Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and the growth of global trade.
Ironically, the report was published in 2008, the same year that underregulated corporate greed plunged the US economy into a recession. Desiring money today with no thought for tomorrow, banks and hedge-fund managers “invested” in what became worthless subprime mortgages. In short, their irresponsibility soon led to federal bailout that included major automotive companies.
NGA, CCSSO, and Achieve should have mentioned the role of corporate greed upon the GDP. American education had nothing to do with the 2008 rocking of the “global economy.”
Hedge fund managers are now “investing” in underregulated charter schools– and such “disruptive innovation” is being positioned in cities such as Chicago and Philadelphia, where public schools have closed due to “budget cuts.”
Time to “benchmark” the effect of “charter churn” on the “global economy.”
The 2008 “Benchmarking” report alludes to the need for schools to provide students with “global awareness.”
It should begin with a national lesson on Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae.
It should continue with a lesson on the “global edge” of a country’s having a lower debt-to-GDP ratio. Yes, the NGA, and CCSSO, and Achieve love to promote international test scores as evidence of “global competitiveness”; however, the US cannot continue to “lead” the world (which it has managed to do despite decades of low international test scores) if the US’ ever-increasing national debt makes it increasingly vulnerable to its international creditors.
The authors of the 2008 “Benchmarking” report admire countries like China, (South) Korea, and Finland for their international test scores. They would be wise to also consider that all three countries have a lower gross-debt-to-GDP ratio than the US. 2012 figures have the US gross debt at 107% of the GDP as compared to China’s 23%, South Korea’s 34%, and Finland’s 53%.
National debt is a global economic issue.
Underregulation of major markets is a global economic issue.
In their zealous push for American “global competition,” the authors apparently overlooked such glaring and complex issues.
Stay tuned for Installment Two.