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The 2008 Common Core Sales Job: Part Two

May 5, 2014

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 report promotes a now all-too-familiar spectrum of so-called “reforms,” including establishing the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), CCSS-aligned curriculum and assessment, alter teacher recruitment and retention to reflect those of “successful nations,” “hold schools accountable” for “high performance,” and make international comparisons based upon standardized test scores in order to “ensure global competition.”


In Part One of my series on this report, I focused on the report’s absence of discussions of national debt in promoting the faulty goal of  “global competition” via nationally standardized education.

In this second post, I consider the individuals authoring, “advising on,” and financially supporting the report.

I realize that the overlap among corporate reformer involvements poses a challenge to readers. Thus, I will offer a measured dose of the 2008 Benchmarking report as it overlaps with select other events of its time and notable dealings of key individuals.

Fasten your seat belts. Here we go.

First, some context on the timing of the report: 2008. One year earlier, in 2007, No Child Left Behind (NCLB) was officially declared a failure (FairTest refers to NCLB as “the lost decade for educational progress”). However, NCLB, which University of Rochester professor David Hursh termed “unprecedented interference in public schooling,” was not officially abandoned; neither was it reauthorized. It was left to linger on bureaucratic life support.

That does not mean that edupreneurs were not preparing to jump NCLB ship in order to prepare for nouveau-NCLB. David Coleman, the man with zero classroom teaching experience who is credited as “the architect” of CCSS, had connections to NCLB via his and fellow CCSS “lead writer” Jason Zimba’s first company, Grow Network, which analyzed NCLB-related testing data.  McGraw Hill acquired Grow Network (and with it, Coleman as president) in 2004. However, in 2007– the year that NCLB was evidencing belabored breathing– Coleman (and Zimba, perhapsstarted a new, national-standards-writing company (which turned nonprofit in 2011), Student Achievement Partners (SAP).

In 2008, Coleman and Zimba supposedly authored a paper, an appeal for “math and science standards that are fewer, clearer, higher.” In a 2013 interview with Frederick Hess, Zimba states that the 2008 paper was for the Carnegie Commission:

In 2008 I co-authored a paper with David Coleman about standards for the Carnegie Commission.

Here is a copy of that 2008 Coleman and Zimba paper, and it does note that it was “prepared for the Carnegie-IAS Commission on Mathematics and Science Education.” However, the official Carnegie report of a commission organized in 2007 does not include Coleman and Zimba as members of the commission– but it does include the language, “common standards in math and science that are fewer, clearer, and higher,” and more: “coupled with aligned assessments.”

If Coleman and Zimba prepared their report at the Carnegie Commission’s request– or if the Carnegie Commission decided to use “fewer, clearer, higher” as such originated with Coleman and Zimba– then Coleman and Zimba should be named in the Carnegie report.

Based upon the content of the Coleman and Zimba paper, it appears that the terms, “fewer, clearer, higher” originate with them.

Hmmm. Smells like plagiarism, and I even know as much without CCSS to tell me so.

Here’s a curious statement in Coleman’s and Zimba’s report:

We offer these suggestions not as representatives of the organizations to which we belong, but rather in our private capacities as concerned citizens and observers of American education. [Emphasis added.]

Conclusion: It appears that both the Carnegie Commission and Coleman and Zimba are agreeing that Coleman and Zimba should be the “silent partners” in the official 2008 Carnegie Commission report.

This reminds me of the CCSS MOU (memorandum of understanding) stating that the CCSS work groups would be comprised of Achieve, ACT, and College Board– not mentioning SAP– but SAP was present and left unnamed.

SAP: Unacknowledged by the CCSS MOU and the Carnegie Commission but allowed to publicly declare themselves as “lead writers” of CCSS.

The Benchmarking for Success report that is the focus of this post was endorsed by the Carnegie Corporation and was listed along with a number of other reports supporting what the Carnegie Commission termed “fundamental school system reform.” The push behind these reports is now rote: International test scores are not satisfactory for “global competition” and “innovation”; low standards unaligned to assessments are the problem; once new standards purporting “what graduates should know to succeed” and accompanying new assessments are in place, then students will have the “skills” for those “21st century economy”; achievement gaps will be “closed”; teachers will be “held accountable,” and…then what?  The US will become the major world power that it already is???

Fabricate a crisis –> create a national petri dish for “our educational stuff.”

Additional reports referenced in the Carnegie report include those by McKinsey and Company, Achieve, and ACT, among others (see pages 4 and 5). (One of these others is a 2008 report by the National Mathematics Advisory Council. It also has the words “fewer, clearer, higher” in it.)

In the weaving of this web, let me note that after David Coleman tried to secure a New York high school teaching position and failed (no surprise given he has no New York teaching certificate), Coleman worked for McKinsey and Company, ubiquitous provider of corporate reform “leaders.”

Back to the Benchmarking report.

The Benchmarking for Success report had three co-chairs, two governors, and one businessman: Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue, Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano, and Intel Corporation CEO Craig Barrett. (On Achieve’s 2009 990, Barrett is listed as a co-chair. Also, supposed SAP “founder” Sue Pimentel was paid $180,000 for “consulting.)

These three chaired the advisory group; however, they hired a “consultant,” Craig D. Jerald of Breaking the Curve Consulting, to “research and write” the report. (On the Achieve 990 cited above, Craig Jerald was paid $108,000 for “consulting.)

Why does one need an advisory group if one pays a single individual to research and write the report?

However, the Benchmarking report did have an advisory group, which consisted of a now-familiar trio: NGA, CCCSSO, and Achieve.

Other notable names on this advisory group include Steven Ballmer, CEO of Microsoft (read of his untimely exit associated with a $900 million misjudgment regarding that “global economy”); Chester Finn, President of the Fordham Institute (Exeter alumnus who works hard to sell CCSS for other people’s children); Beverly Hall, Superintendent of Atlanta Schools (indicted in April 2013 with 34 others for cheating on a 2009 test); James Hunt, former governor of North Carolina (co-host of NGA symposiums promoting the spectrum of privatizing reform); Kati Haycock, President of Education Trust (organization heavily dependent for operating expenses upon Gates funding), and Bob Wise, former governor of West Virginia (partner with former Florida Governor Jeb Bush for the digital “roadmap for reform”).

Another now-familiar truth: The advisory board included no current classroom teachers.

And more that is familiar: A principal funder of this report was none other than Bill Gates. Moreover, Gates is of course connected to Microsoft, and he also funds NGAAchieveCCSSO, the Fordham Institute, the Hunt Institute and the Education Trust.

“Gates-led,” eh?

A second principal Benchmarking funder is the GE Foundation– also a principal funder of SAP (also another Gates grantee, and conspicuously absent from this Benchmarking report).

Keep in mind that Coleman’s SAP exists in order to advance CCSS. They are drawing millions for this CCSS gig, so wherever CCSS is, they cannot be far.

Enough for now on this 2008 Benchmarking report. My goal here was to introduce those responsible for the content about which I have yet to write.

One thing is for sure: There will be no post on classroom teacher involvement in the 2008 Benchmarking report.

Stay tuned for the next installment.


  1. I took a quick virtual tour through the Gates Center. Impressive information, impressive people -very diverse- delivering info services to visitors, with virtual and visual information on, many, many, pilot projects “proving” that all people should have “equal opportunity” … Who can argue with any of this?

    And, in addition, I read the lists of million dollar plus grants to various organizations who plan to test American education into the 21st Century with “accountability” (standards) CCSS, – where Gates money leverages power and influence with Governor’s Associations and many other groups. Who can argue with “accountability” in education, right?

    The critical analysis offered on this Blog is needed, … but, I critically wonder how much effect the push back on CCSS will have against this massive movement created by RttT, and CCSS, and with Gates and others continuing to sweeten the pot for “non-k-12-educators” to suck off of the new, “educational e-industrial complex” … Where does the slow and messy democratic process fit into any of this? Local level associations, i.e., teacher unions (CTA), school boards, even administrative associations are constantly dancing around trying not to be seen as obstructionist.

    Beginning next year, in my CA District, every kid in middle school level in our district will be given an IPAD and textbooks will become supplementary. Meanwhile, we are also “preparing” students to take CCSS “benchmark” tests on their IPads. Within three years, our CA period of preparing for the new CCSS, all high school students will be prepared to take e-tests apparently aligned with SAT’s and other tests designed to make students ready for the 21st Century e-competitive world.

    The plan apparently, is to have all k-12 kids e-wired and e-tested in the future with the State Dept. of Education in Sacramento receiving results in real time and with comparative reports then made available to administrators to compare results (by district) (by school) (by classroom-type) (by teacher) etc. At least I think that’s the ultimate plan? Who can argue with this? It’s the 21st century and e-virtual results are real in their effects on teachers, students, parents, all trying to negotiate this “Brave New World.”

    The Military Industrial Complex is now supported by the Educational e-Industrial Complex with the ultimate goal to “keep America competitive” in the World Economy- it seems.

  2. Laura H. Chapman permalink

    There is no strong relationship between scores on standardized tests and the economy that justifies the radical transformation being imposed on public education. Teachers and students did not tank the world economy. There are two interrelated forces at work: Replace education with training and replace teachers in physical places called schools with “recommendation systems” that move students through multiple paths to the one best answer to questions asks by others. This is the new face of programmed instruction. It is now marketed as individualized, and competency-based education. Mercedes has done a remarkable job of showing how this agenda has been developed over at least several decades, aided by massive amounts of money passed through interlocking directorates. The end game is a compliant citizenry able to follow rules set by others together with a huge increase in the size of the marketplace for education “service providers.” No qualifications needed. Ancillary or spillover benefits by the participants in this revolution will depend on their ambitions. For some it is a re-segregation of schooling. Others, like Jeb Bush, want political power without seeming to be too ambitious (also making a profit for himself and kith and kin). So, there are odd coalitions in support of the takedown, the demonizing of teachers, and the rest.

  3. hansi2014 permalink

    Excellent report! Have you read the latest Truth in American Education?

    Truth in American Education via 6:09 AM (7 hours ago) to me Truth in American Education

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