Hewlett Funds a Common-Core-Centered, Statewide, “New Accountability” Push
Before the proverbial ink is dry on the assessments to be given in 2014-15 by both federally-funded testing consortia wed to the never-piloted Common Core State Standards (CCSS), along comes yet another *philanthropic* organization with the Next Great Idea: To structure statewide accountability systems around CCSS.
The Hewlett Foundation *convened* a group of individuals, some of whom I readily recognize as key players in the CCSS-and-assessments game, to formulate this *new accountability system.* Though previously released in September 2014, on October 16, 2014, the group officially released its report, entitled, Accountability for College and Career Readiness: Developing a New Paradigm. The report is credited to Linda Darling-Hammond, Gene Wilhoit, and Linda Pittenger. Darling-Hammond is a Stanford education professor and senior research advisor for one of the two CCSS consortia, Smarter Balanced. Wilhoit is the former CEO of the CCSS copyright holder, the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO). It was Wilhoit and CCSS “lead writer” David Coleman who asked billionaire Bill Gates and his wife to fund CCSS. Wilhoit is now with the University of Kentucky Center for Innovation in Education (CIE), which Gates paid one million dollars in February 2013 to help launch expressly “to advance implementation of the common core.” Pittenger, also formerly of CCSSO, is with Wilhoit as CEO of CIE.
There is also an extended group of individuals who contributed to the Hewlett-induced, CCSS-centered, statewide accountability discussion. Among them are Michael Cohen of Achieve (Achieve was the nucleus of CCSS development, along with ACT, College Board, and Student Achievement Partners); Carmel Martin of the Center for American Progress (Though decidedly for CCSS because it’s “better,” Martin, who participated in the Intelligence Squared debate on CCSS in New York on September 9, 2014, did not know CCSS was copyrighted.), and Phillip Lovell and Charmaine Mercer, both from the Alliance for Excellent Education (AEE), a group dependent upon the Gates Foundation “for general operating support” to the tune of $6 million since 2012 for that purpose alone, plus multiple millions more since 2003.
Thus, it is no stretch to note that all of these folks are clearly motivated to promote CCSS and its attendant assessments as the center of a massive “accountability” push.
Nevertheless, their Hewlett-funded report includes this disclaimer:
The final product — authored by Linda Darling-Hammond, Gene Wilhoit, and Linda Pittenger — reflects the individual and collective insights of the participants, but it does not reflect an endorsement by any of these individuals or the organizations with which they are affiliated. [Emphasis added.]
Now that’s just over-the-top funny to me: “We took the money, we wrote the report, we are promoting the report publicly, but we aren’t endorsing the report.”
Here’s the knee-slapper: The report is a call to accountability, but the writers and contributors want an exit clause from being held accountable for promoting it.
I must say, before this group of influential individuals rushes ahead to promote the idea that states should construct complete accountability systems around CCSS, it seems that a report holding CCSS and its diehard promoters accountable should be issued.
Indeed, the CCSS assessments haven’t even been administered yet. How about focusing those “generous” philanthropic dollars on a report on the rollout of the PARCC and Smarter Balanced tests?
Or does educational research now bow to what those with the dollars state as “accountability-worthy”?
Let’s back it up even further: The Hewlett-purchased “new accountability” report hinges on the too-oft-repeated premise that CCSS *ensures* college- and career-readiness.
That CCSS “ensures” anything is only opinion.
This truth makes any proposal constructed on a CCSS center nothing more than crackers crumbling.
The October 16, 2014, version of the Hewlett-funded report is over 40 pages long. That’s how many pages it apparently takes to “get the conversation started” on the CCSS-centered, statewide accountability system. The authors state that “considerable discussion and debate will be needed before a new approach can take shape,” yet nowhere do they pause long enough to consider that “discussion and debate” are not justification enough for constructing a CCSS-centered statewide accountability system: Piloting is needed.
Forget all else that those 40-plus pages try to sell (for it s a sale).
Piloting was needed for CCSS, and it never happened. Instead, overly eager governors and state superintendents signed on for an as-of-then, not-yet-created CCSS. No wise caution. Just, “let’s do it!”
That word “urgency” was continuously thrown around, and it makes an appearance in the current, Hewlett-funded report. No time to pilot a finished CCSS product. Simply declare that CCSS was “based on research” and push for implementation.
This is how fools operate.
America has been hearing since 1983 that Our Education System Places Our Nation at Risk. I was 16 years old then. I am now 47.
America is not facing impending collapse.
We do have time to test the likes of CCSS before rushing in.
Darling-Hammond, Wilhoit, and Pittenger, how about an accountability report on CCSS?
Let’s go back a bit more.
How about an accountability report on No Child Left Behind (NCLB) and its strategic placement on a life support that enables former-basketball-playing US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan to hold states hostage to the federal whim?
The Hewlett-funded report notes that between 2000 and 2012, PISA scores have “declined.” Those are chiefly the NCLB years and beyond, with the continued “test-driven reform” focus. It is the test-driven focus that could use a hefty helping of “accountability.”
And let us not forget the NCLB-instituted push for privatization of public education via charters, vouchers, and online “education.” An accountability study on the effects of “market-driven,” under-regulated “reform” upon the quality of American education would prove useful.
There is also the very real push to erase teaching as a profession and replace it with temporary teachers hailing from the amply-funded and -connected teacher temp agency, Teach for America (TFA). A nationwide accountability study on the effects of the teacher revolving door exacerbated by TFA would be a long-overdue first of its kind.
I will leave it to those willing to read the Hewlett-produced 40-plus page report. But know that it serves a practical purpose for those advancing CCSS:
As CCSS continues to falter, fail, and face rejection by both locals and the politicians who realize they are elected by locals, the Hewlett report provides CCSS proponents with the ultimate “faulty implementation” exit:
CCSS failed because it lacked complete system support.
But don’t you buy it.
Tell Hewlett et al. to back it with the first step in a true accountability system:
The pilot test.
Then, leaving “urgency” where it belongs– in the toolbox of manufactured panic– we can calmly and rationally take it from there.
Schneider is also author of the ed reform whistleblower, A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education