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Hewlett Funds a Common-Core-Centered, Statewide, “New Accountability” Push

October 16, 2014

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

previti chronicle pic





  1. Is there no “authority” untainted by the largesse of the EdReformers? The national unions are blemished, Linda Darling-Hammond and Stanford looking more and more like arms length some how doesn’t think participation in this nonsense affects their reputation…sickening. Thanks for being ever vigilant.

  2. Laura chapman permalink

    Meticulous deconstruction. Been thinking that the accountability movement really needs to be turned on its head no more value added just more on the other side of the ledger…value subtracted by the effort to commercialize very part of the public sector.

  3. You are so correct. Does this look like a nation at risk?

    The U.S. High School Graduation Rate is 89%

    47% of adult Americans have a college degree

    Only 27% of jobs require a college degree

    The OECD average for high school graduation is 75%

    Among all OECD nations, less than 35% of adults have a college degree

    18.5% of America’s foreign students come from China, the largest group of foreign students in the U.S.

  4. Jill Reifschneider permalink

    Thank you so much for keeping track of all the players for me and their incestuous relationships. I don’t know how you do it! I so appreciate the digging and revealing you do, and I loved you poke at No Child Left Behind. How about that?

  5. Jeff permalink

    Thanks for all you are doing. Here in CA, we have two reformers battling for State Super. But one is endorsed by the teacher unions and hence characterized in the press as anti-reform. All of the educated folks I talk to are buying this analysis, but either winner will be firmly in the broad-gates-smarter-better-ballanced camp and we are screwed. A couple of more generations of education like that and there will be no turning back.

  6. I’m not ready to write Linda Darling Hammond off as having gone over to the other side. She has no need for Gates money as she has her own extremely well funded kingdom at Stanford which I have visited and studied as part of another grant’s research. If you have taken the time to hear her presentations and read her work, she is no fan of what is going on. Perhaps her involvement is an attempt to get things right through participation in the discussion. So I’ll not lump her in with the rest just now. Love this blog.

  7. Robert Tellman permalink

    “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.”

    This very real push is indeed happening now. At the LDOE, with the latest reorg, the Talent Office has shifted much of its former tasks over to another Office. Their focus is now on “reforming” teacher and leader prep. I suspect where they are now is waiting for ALEC to compose the laws for the next legislative session. This is a clear pattern- backwards design from the next legislative session to get it all set up. Start with the pretend “Focus Group” sessions that are happening now. Do plenty of behind the scenes work talking to legislators. Roll out the teacher evaluation results that “show” that the more successful districts rate their teachers harder, etc.

    I suspect this is going on all over the country, since none of the reformers seem to have an original idea in their heads. It’s all the master plan from the financiers, which has proven to be a very successful model so far.

    A lot of behind the scenes work going on with strategic public announcements. I’d bet if someone tracks this nationally, it is a pattern being repeated in every state. It will go as planned and when we teachers and citizens wake up during the next legislative session, it is going to be too late to stop this next train wreck. Colleges of education will be decimated and everybody and their brother will become certified to teach via those wonderful alternate certification programs (for-profit providers).

    When you create this much churn, no one can keep track of anything and that’s not coincidental. Watch for the Teach Louisiana website to either come down or change drastically so the public cannot tell who got what certification from where.

    Along with the public release of reports showing “better districts rate their teachers harder” and the release of district letter grades should come data showing the percentage of TFAs and alternatively certified “teachers” in each district in Louisiana.

    What can be done to stop the destruction of colleges of education and letting more poorly trained folks stand in front of our children barking commands? I suspect not much. Our side (the caring, intelligent, rational one) just does not have the funds that the profiteers do. Heaven help our children and our society.

  8. Cosmic Tinker permalink

    Mercedes, The link to the report leads only to your AOL email. Can it be accessed somewhere else?

  9. Linda permalink

    AP reported 6 days ago that the Hewlett Foundation funded a research project by Stanford and Dartmouth professors. The Montana Secretary of State filed a complaint alleging the project broke 4 election laws by sending 100,000 election mailers to voters.
    501(c)(3) charities, receiving tax breaks!

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. Schneider: Hewlett Foundation Proposes an Accountability Program for CCSS | Diane Ravitch's blog
  2. Gates Is at It Again: The Common Core-Centered “Collaborative for Student Success” | Dick Rylander 4 District 4

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