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La. Legis Auditor Steps Into Common-Core-Promoting Game

September 23, 2014

On September 22, 2014, Louisiana Auditor Daryl Purpera issued a report on his objective opinion (?) of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS).

Whether Purpera intended it or not, he is now part of the game.

Purpera’s report is little more than another brochure for CCSS, one that glosses over issues such as who actually controlled the writing of CCSS— not the least of whom is David Coleman, a non-teacher who cashed in on No Child Left Behind (NCLB)-related assessment work with his first company, Grow Network– and whose connections to current US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan extend back to Duncan’s days as Chicago schools CEO– and who then benefited from CCSS via his second education business-gone-nonprofit, Student Achievement Partners (SAP), and who now conveniently is president of College Board, one of the three insider groups specifically named for CCSS development (the other two were ACT and Achieve).

Cozy– and worthy of closer scrutiny of one called “auditor.”

Purpera’s report also makes no mention of Coleman’s and then-CEO of Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) gene Wilhoit’s asking billionaire Bill Gates to bankroll CCSS in 2008.

As a billionaire funding a major American education initiative, Gates escapes audit. However, he has not escaped public suspicion for his continued purchasing and actively promoting– often via some strategic speeches — his views of how mass education “should be.”

The Gates role in buying CCSS— and a former CCSSO president’s asking him to do so— should have given Purpera pause.

Should have.

I suppose the most obvious indicator for me of Purpera’s blindly accepting the brochured CCSS “history” is the fact that he writes of the CCSS “anchors” and states that such can be found in Appendix B of his report– yet there exist no “officially publicized” math anchors. The CCSS website has none. (Google “common core anchor standards”– only ELA anchors appear.) The CCSS math anchors mysteriously went missing in 2009. So, contrary to Purpera’s report, CCSS math is “unanchored.”

Surely Purpera investigated this.

Now, Purpera’s Appendix B does include purported CCSS math anchors– a brief listing of some thrown-together information under a heading of “anchor standards for mathematics”– a list that appears hastily thrown together in comparison to the English language arts (ELA) anchors (also in Purpera’s Appendix B) and conspicuously absent from the “official” CCSS website.

Is this also not reason for pause– an iceberg-tip indication of CCSS rush-job, dissent-concealing reality?

Continuing. 

Purpera states that standards differ from curriculum, his justification being that states and districts can still select materials. However, CCSS not only restricts the curriculum; such restriction will be reinforced by the high-stakes CCSS assessments– assessments that the federal government not only funded, but which the federal government was involved in overseeing, as noted in the cooperative agreement that both assessment consortia signed in January 2011 in order to collect that federal $350 million plus.

The cooperative agreement includes language to the effect that states are to “strategize” a plan for providing “ongoing student-level data” to the federal government. But that is a story outside of the scope of Purpera’s initial report.

Let us return to that “standards are not curriculum” idea. CCSS directs curriculum by limiting the scope of what classroom materials states and districts might select in order to “align” with CCSS. A fine example is EngageNY/Eureka math. CCSS math “chair” Phil Daro admits that CCSS were written in such a way as to purposely alter math instruction– and Daro is the single individual with the final word on making certain that the EngageNY/Eureka math curriculum align with CCSS.

As the CCSS math “chair,” Daro has power over curriculum– curriculum that Louisiana State Superintendent John White is peddling as “LSU developed” without adding that EngageNY/Eureka math is owned by the Washington, DC nonprofit, Common Core, Inc. (not to be confused with CCSS).

CCSS ELA is also driven by one chief individual: David Coleman.

As a “lead writer” for the CCSS ELA, Coleman, prefers a certain treatment of texts that thoroughly discounts the experiences a reader brings to a text. Thus, all of CCSS, from kindergarten to grade 12, requires students to divorce texts from both historical and personal context.

Coleman, a non-educator with zero background in child or adolescent literacy, travels the country “teaching” teachers how to “close read” in his preferred “text divorced from reader” manner.

And those who unquestionably swallow CCSS as “what students should” learn/know/acquire– words Purpera not only uses in his report but repeats– fail to question the utter absence of any empirical proof that the CCSS product will indeed deliver on its promise to make “all students college and career ready.”

But on to the September 22, 2014, Times-Picayune article in which Purpera’s report is featured.

The first release of this article paints Purpera’s findings as speaking directly against Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal’s charge that CCSS will lead to a national curriculum:

“Common Core is the latest effort by big government disciples to strip away state rights and put Washington, D.C., in control of everything,” Jindal said in a written statement last month.

The auditor said this is not the case.

“Standards are not the same thing as curricula, textbooks, lesson plans or classroom activities and assignments. Those are the tools by which teachers and students learn; the choice of which materials teachers use continues to be a state and local decision,” according to auditor’s analysis.

The above statements lead readers to believe that Purpera has directly addressed Jindal’s claim that CCSS is a national curriculum. Purpera’s report includes no such direct statement.

Several hours later, Times-Picayune issued this update, which includes a statement from Jindal’s office– and a softer disagreement from Purpera:

The Legislative Auditor was careful not to take a position for or against Common Core in its writeup, but the governor’s office interpreted its analysis as supporting Jindal’s critique of the academic standards.

“We appreciate the Legislative Auditor’s report as it confirms what parents, educators, legislators and the Governor have been saying all along – standards drive curriculum,” said Stafford Palmieri, Jindal’s assistant chief of staff, in a written statement. 

The Auditor’s office put the report’s conclusion about Common Core in a slightly different light than the governor’s office.

“I might not use the word ‘drives,’ but I might use the word ‘guides.’ The [Common Core] standards certainly guide the curriculum,” said Legislative Auditor Daryl Pupera, when asked about Jindal’s statements about the report.   

If Purpera investigated Daro’s and Coleman’s roles in setting the direction of CCSS– and their influence upon “proper standards interpretation,” he might see that the statement, “CCSS drives curriculum” is more accurate that the benign “CCSS guides curriculum.”

As for the federal government’s strong-arming states into retaining CCSS: All one must consider is that Louisiana is beholden to US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan via Louisiana’s NCLB waiver— which promises to implement both CCSS and the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) tests in exchange for being excused from punitive consequences related to not reaching the unreachable goal of “100 percent proficiency in reading and math by 2014.”

And then look at Duncan’s behavior towards CCSS-rejecting Oklahoma:

NCLB waiver revoked.

If Louisiana runs the risk of federal punishment for rejecting CCSS, then yes, that is federal overreach into state education affairs.

According to ESEA Subpart 2, section 9527(c)(1), Duncan is not supposed to tie ESEA money to federal oversight of standards.

NCLB is a reauthorization of ESEA.

Once he revoked Oklahoma’s waiver, Duncan broke the law.

If Jindal can get his words right and stop making it sound as though Duncan is forcing curricular materials onto Louisiana schools, he has a case for federal intrusion into state education affairs.

CCSS is not so innocent as Purpera is reporting it to be.

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4 Comments
  1. Jill Reifschneider permalink

    The state of Washington is feeling the wrath of Arne Duncan this year for failing to pass a law that requires the use of test scores to evaluate its teachers. We lost our waiver as a result and control over the federal funding of our schools. I fear this winter’s state legislative session unless your accusations of government overreach are made clear to all states and a larger movement arises against the hold of the unattainable NCLB “goals” of 100% proficiency as measured by standardized tests. We were so, so lucky to come out of last winter without a law bending to Duncan’s threats. Our governor and others (especially the media) were pushing for the waiver at all costs. Parents and teachers had their voices heard, but I think we were honestly lucky simply because our legislature was dysfunctional enough to not be able to pass the law that Arne insisted we do.Thank you for letting me know we are not alone. Oklahoma too, eh?

  2. Derek permalink

    Awesome background on their plan. To own it is to lease it or to sell it for profit with no guarantees, or in NGA’s case subvert it to initiate in states to get money from government who want to control it because they are in bed with big business who is already on the government tit to much to fail. Now exposed with no substance and plan other than milking the system more through crony kickbacks which come from taxpayer dollars. They have to whine and use their payed supporters to “jin up” more support saying its workin but with lower overall standards for now. Can we say, “endless freakin cycle of the elite status quo”? Thank you Mercedes

  3. Derek permalink

    This is like the never-ending gobstopper with so many “nonprofit” supporters being resurrected out of the woodwork to breath new life into something that was born out of corruption long ago. With similar results like Senator Fattah in Philadelphia having to distance himself from his son’s corruption in his school district and initiation by Darling Hammond who didn’t have bipartisan support for education secretary this thing should have been in the dump long ago. Come on, wakeup people and kick these types out “socalled leadership” positions before they cost us anymore money.

  4. Derek permalink

    Sure looks like US Secretary of Education is blackmailing the state into implementation based on meeting mandates. Mandates that will cost us more money in a failing economy when these tax payer dollars are misappropriated like FBI investigations in chater schools in New Orleans and unfinished overpayed contracts. Mandates enforced to benefit more crony opportunists to dole out moke kickbacks. SHAMEONEM !!!!

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