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Fordham’s Michael Petrilli: Manufacturing “Emotion” for Common Core

August 2, 2014

I am sitting in my easy chair on this Saturday afternoon, and I am trying not to write any posts. I know that I need a rest. Sure enough, though, I come across Common Core State Standards (CCSS) promotional slant from the brand-spanking new, non-teacher-practitioner president of the Gates-funded Fordham Institute, dedicated think tanker Michael Petrilli.


I plan to keep this post brief and get back to my chair.

On the eve of his first day as Fordham Institute president, Petrilli wrote this piece in which he dismisses the idea that anti-CCSS sentiment has “momentum,” one reason being that 42 states still have CCSS.

He states that only Oklahoma has really been “knocked off” of CCSS.

No insignificant event there, Petrilli.

The governor of Oklahoma, Mary Fallin, serves as the chair of the National Governors Association (NGA), one of the two organizations that own CCSS. At its annual meeting in Nashville in July 2014, NGA conceded that CCSS has “become divisive”; the Wall Street Journal notes that both political parties are “internally split” over CCSS. Therefore, NGA, one of two organizations that has been actively promoting CCSS since 2008, is taking no official position on CCSS in 2014.

Uh, oh.

Now, Petrilli does admit that he and others promoting CCSS “are getting our butts kicked… in the conservative media.” This acknowledgement is noteworthy since CCSS promotion is well funded with Gates money. In fact, Susan Berry of Brietbart notes that CCSS has a fresh infusion of $10.3 million from Gates for a “PR blitz that supporters hope will promote similar ’emotional’ fervor for the standards initiative.”

Here is that $10.3 million Gates grant, paid in May 2014 to the New Venture Fund:

New Venture Fund

Date: May 2014
Purpose: to support the successful implementation of the Common Core State Standards and related assessments through comprehensive and targeted communications and advocacy in key states and the District of Columbia  [Emphasis added.]
Amount: $10,300,300

Comprehensive and targeted communications– and New Venture Fund is to do the job for a cool $10 million.

Why the new Venture Fund?

The New Venture Fund promotes the “charitable projects” of the donors choosing:

The New Venture Fund, a 501(c)(3) public charity, supports innovative and effective public interest projects. NVF was established in 2006 in response to demand from leading philanthropists for an efficient, cost-effective, and time-saving platform to launch and operate charitable projects.[Emphasis added.]

Imposing CCSS upon the American classroom is Bill Gates’ “charitable project.” Petrilli will help Gates promote it.

Should America really be following an education ideology that it must be marketed into accepting?

Nevertheless, in a July 29, 2014, Politico article by Stephanie Simon, Petrilli states the need to market CCSS with more “emotion”:

“We’ve been fighting emotion with talking points, and it doesn’t work,” said Mike Petrilli, executive vice president of the Fordham Institute, a leading supporter of the standards. “There’s got to be a way to get more emotional with our arguments if we want to win this thing. That means we have a lot more work to do.” [Emphasis added.]

The “emotion” Petrilli advocates is manufactured as part of an advertising campaign. Indeed, Petrilli-concocted “emotional arguments” will be entirely void of any firsthand connection to the public school classroom upon which CCSS is intended to be imposed.

Petrilli thinks in a tank. He does not teach in a classroom.

From his position as CCSS promoter external to the classroom, in his July 31, 2014, post, Petrilli lists what he considers to be “legitimate concerns” regarding CCSS.

He lists three (federal role; standards aren’t perfect; confusing, convoluted textbooks).

He chooses not to address the fact that CCSS “success” rests wholly upon ideology and theory.

He does not mention that CCSS is assumed to work– nothing more.

Never tested. Assumed to work. Called “not perfect” by Petrilli, yet the CCSS website sells CCSS as The Solution:

To ensure all students are ready for success after high school, the Common Core State Standards establish clear, consistent guidelines for what every student should know and be able to do in math and English language arts from kindergarten through 12thgrade[Emphasis added.]

Petrilli notes that some schools might “interpret” CCSS  as a “ceiling” rather than a “floor.”

I challenge Petrilli to demonstrate how such “interpretation” should play out. If CCSS is “clear,” as its website assures us, how is it that “interpretation” could possibly be a problem? Does this not undermine CCSS’ supposed “consistency” if there is room for “incorrect interpretation”?

What evidence is there that American education should “align” itself to CCSS?

For what substantiated reason(s) should the “one quarter” of states with standards equal to or better than CCSS via Fordham Institute’s own judgment listen to a man with a bachelors in political science and no firsthand experience in any K-12 classroom to follow along for the sake of sameness?

Petrilli ends his July 31, 2014, post with the flaky, clichéd, “give peace a chance.”

[Deadpan stare from me.]

In other words, buy into our upcoming Gates-fortified, New-Venture-Fund-launched, manufactured-emotion, pro-CCSS PR campaign.

Petrilli, if you think your holographic, pro-CCSS PR campaign will overcome the CCSS-induced dysfunction in schools nationwide, then your cornflakes have been too long in their milk.

Enough. I’m going back to my easy chair now.


Like my writing? Read my newly-released ed “reform” whistle blower, A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who in the Implosion of American Public Education





  1. So he believes “every student” by learning the CC will successfully learn ELA and Math from Kindergarten to 12th grade. Does that also apply to Multiple Disabled students? Let’s see, this year New York State created a Common Core Alternate Assessment for profoundly disabled students. My school have such students. I observed as a teacher tried to give a non-verbal, self-abuse autistic 5th grade student a question in which he had to apply the distributive property using blocks. His answer consisted of the student biting his arm non-stop for over five minutes, which was his favorite answer for almost every question on this assessment.

  2. Sahila permalink

    maybe Petrilli could design an emoticon to go with the new, improved, alternative, rah, rah, rah emotion he wants to generate about the Core…

    something to go with this rhyme/chant: “$10-million bucks more, to promote the Common Core”…..

    I’ll be generous and resist the urge to replace the world “Common” with “boondoggle”…

  3. Sara Wood permalink

    Another great post, thank you!

  4. Mickie-D. permalink

    Secretary Duncan would suggest having higher expectations for this student and testing him more. I’m sorry … I had to say that, and I know it’s not funny, it’s very sad. Because beyond that, there just are no words! When will the insanity stop and our kids get to be kids! We cannot give up the fight. We can do this! Mercedes, you are the best! You work so hard at this, I appreciate your intensity!

  5. Uniquely superior research!

    Harlan Sent from my iPad

  6. Linda permalink

    I tweeted to humanity my dear Mercedes. Love to you, Linda

  7. White-mansplaining at its best/worst, that must be “emotional” because it is devoid of evidence:

    Hout and Elliott (2011), Incentives and Test-Based Accountability in Education: Most recent decades of high-stakes accountability reform hasn’t work.

    French, Guisbond, and Jehlen (2013), Twenty Years after Education Reform: High-stakes accountability in Massachusetts has not worked.

    Loveless (2012), How Well Are American Students Learning?: “Despite all the money and effort devoted to developing the Common Core State Standards—not to mention the simmering controversy over their adoption in several states—the study foresees little to no impact on student learning” (p. 3).

    Mathis (2012): Existence and/or quality of standards not positively correlated with NAEP or international benchmark test data; “Further, the wave of high-stakes testing associated with No Child Left Behind (NCLB) has resulted in the ‘dumbing down’ and narrowing of the curriculum” (2 of 5).

    Whitehurst (2009), Don’t Forget Curriculum: “The lack of evidence that better content standards enhance student achievement is remarkable given the level of investment in this policy and high hopes attached to it. There is a rational argument to be made for good content standards being a precondition for other desirable reforms, but it is currently just that – an argument.”

    Kohn (2010), Debunking the Case for National Standards: CC nothing new, and has never worked before.

    Victor Bandeira de Mello, Charles Blankenship, Don McLaughlin (2009), Mapping State Proficiency Standards Onto NAEP Scales: 2005-2007: Why does research from the USDOE not show high-quality standards result in higher NAEP scores?

    Horn (2013): “The 2012 NAEP Long-Term Trends are out, and there is a good deal that we may learn from forty years of choking children and teachers with more tests with higher stakes: IT DOESN’T WORK!”

    • H.A. Hurley permalink

      RealEducators, teachers, profs, researchers and scholars All…we make the mistake that this new crop of non-educators, PoliSci & public policy BS level undereducated know-it-ALLs care or have ever cared about facts, true data, learning theory, how children learn, what is a teacher, or any of the complex components of educating children.
      They jump at the public policy take-over because billionaires and legislators need ruthless, undereducated, raised on Educators 4 Dummies curriculum, unethical, impostors, arrogant, and privileged “Education Eggspurts” to spout jargon a 1mm deep and 1mill miles wide.
      If that doesn’t work, there are always immature middle school skits, fluff pieces written on their website, published Twitter tallies, wear stupid costumes and write about how the world would work better for poor people, if they were just as white, privileged and arrogant as they are.
      Boy, we are all in trouble, because there is an endless supply of the Michael Petrilli’s in the world & endless $$$$ funneled by another ‘intellectual’ fluffed & college dropout.

  8. Derek permalink

    May the Lord continue to bless you Mercedes. Don’t be discouraged. You know as long as there have been politicians moving in and out of the private sector they have tried to bring their big business philosophy in to education for the good of the less fortunate(Play on emotion as well).Unfortunately, most people forget cronyist government contracts prop up a lot of those politicians business interests, so when things don’t go their way its time to throw a tantrum(hence 10 mill)They forget we were successful before their Rockafellor big money Marxist experiments . But our success in 8th graders being college ready didn’t suit their greed. If we let it, CCSS will continue to destroy the history that we have learned to avoid mistakes from. Musallini has two ls like Petrilli. Anyway, politicians love to dictate. Without knowledge of our history we will continue down this road of mistakes.Amen

  9. Petrilli’s obvious academic and pedagogical inexperience, itself a shocking reflection of the reform movement itself – that it is largely outsiders, with limited knowledge or understanding of education, who run the movement – the Rhee’s of this world, is actually the least of our worries. What worries me most is that try have stolen the jargon of rigor, equality and civil rights – they’ve successfully enclosed themselves in the values of the liberal progressive agenda. Reagan did this on a different front – and the damage he did we are still 30 years later still paying for it.

  10. cmzirkelbach permalink

    As part of his hearts and minds campaign, Petrilli tweeted to me that he will no long stand for my “wrecking serious education reform.” He then went on to admit that my state, NY, is an “outlier” and problematic with its non-Common Core aligned tests.

    He then sent me an earlier blog that described how he, as a parent, would not stand for it if his sons’ school cut art and music to support Common Core. So, I guess he is lucky, and his district has not run up on these choices yet.

    I don’t think anyone could keep up this rate of spin for much longer.

  11. HA Hurley permalink

    Petrilli & Co. act like middle school kidlets putting on school skits where 6th graders laugh uncontrollably and the adults recognize the immaturity, understand it and know that the comprehension of the content is only related to: “you had to be there”!
    This sillyness is OK when hanging out with other middle schoolers, but extremely out of place and unforgivable when Petrilli & Co. support light heartedly the harm done to children…every day, and the career killing of fabulous, credentialed, experienced teachers who know how to teach, know children, know how children learn and what to do when children struggle.
    Patrilli & Co. find this extremely funny, reinforcing and millions are rolling in from Gates.
    I must have been watching a truly bad and cheap movie…nope, it is real and so is our Public School Crisis in the US.
    Play on Patrilli & Co., it is the cushiest job any PoliSci major could ever dream of and to actually put on skits for other PoliSci majors and get paid millions.
    Someone may be laughing outside your immature circle.
    Not children, teachers and parents.

    • Linda permalink

      He is repulsive. The video was disgusting and a waste of money. What a pompous ASS!

  12. ira shor permalink

    Another terrific exposure of a CCSS fraudster, than you. Can’t tell you how valuable these background posts on the CCSS/billionaire connections are.

  13. So succinct, Mercedes: “Petrilli thinks in a tank. He does not teach in a classroom.”
    Says it all, about so many more than just Petrilli.
    Thank you!

  14. These Fordham Institute guys have been silly or worse since their founding. One interesting thing is how they give such fraudulent names to their outfits — “Fordham,” “Manhattan,” etc.

    What’s also interesting is that they can replicate like flies as long as the dollars are there. They’ve been pushing out the same stuff since the 1980s, when they first rehearsed these scripts and focus group tested many of them here in Chicago (about a decade before mayoral control gave it more ooomph).

    Marva Collins was the first of these frauds to proclaim the “All children can learn…” mantra and back then we who were in the classrooms (in the same communities where Marva had failed in a real public school) that someone must have not mentioned that miraculous mantra to us. When I helped expose her original scripts as a fraud (aided and abetted, by the way, by a young Valerie Jarrett, who, yes dear and gentle colleague, once taught as a full-times substitute here on Chicago’s West Side)…

    And so, today we hear the same scripted, but repeated by different actors and actresses. It’s true. All the world’s a stage, and when Michelle Rhee runs out of power in her run, they bankroll Campbell Brown. And they know there are a dozen lined up for the auditions when Campbell crashes.

  15. Candyce Watsey permalink

    So now Bill Gates thinks he can BUY authentic emotion.

  16. H.A. Hurley permalink

    Bill Gates does have to buy and pay for authentic emotions.
    He knows it exists, but has none.
    He also knows that most people need it, respond to it, and he is willing to import it, as needed.
    He can buy anything…conscience, honesty, ethics, care, compassion, love, empathy, sadness, grief, worry, sensitivity, tears, whaling, heart ache, heart break, rocking, whining…..
    You name it, he can get it.
    At times, he has Melinda produce whatever she can muster, or they buy as much as the world needs.
    Oh, the Rich are Different.

  17. Andrea Lancer permalink

    As Lily Tomlin once remarked, “No matter how cynical you become, it’s never enough to keep up.” I wonder if anybody ever said to Bill Gates, “”Wait a second — what if we take all this money that we are putting into education ‘reforming’ and created a model community with all the resources that a thriving community needs — you know, like wipe out poverty?

  18. KARA TOMSA permalink


Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. Water is to Cats As Common Core is to Moms. Opt Your Child Out. | Missouri Education Watchdog
  2. Water is to Cats As Common Core is to Moms. Opt Your Child Out. | Grumpy Opinions
  3. Petrilli’s New PR Common Core Campaign. How’s That Working? | Missouri Education Watchdog
  4. Petrilli’s New PR Common Core Campaign. How’s That Working? | Viewpoints of a Sagitarrian
  5. Chester Finn Laments Maryland’s Corporate Reform Resistance; Fails to Connect Common Core to Falling NAEP Scores | deutsch29

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