Exxon CEO Just Knows Common Core Is the Answer
The Common Core State Standards (CCSS) are advertised on the CCSS website as “ensuring all students are ready for success after high school”:
Today’s students are preparing to enter a world in which colleges and businesses are demanding more than ever before. 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.
The standards …are designed to ensure students are prepared for today’s entry-level careers, freshman-level college courses, and workforce training programs.
That is the extent of any documented connection between CCSS and “the demands of business”: Because the CCSS website says so.
No research exists establishing a sound connection between the claims of CCSS as “ensuring all students are prepared for today’s entry-level careers” and actual empirical evidence that it does so. Nevertheless, CCSS is being promoted by the rich and powerful as The Answer to Corporate-declared Skills Gaps.
Take Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson.
On December 3, 2014, Tillerson told MSNBC:
…In conjunction with an organization called Change the Equation, we surveyed their member companies, as well, and what we found is that 98 percent of CEOs identify skills gap as a serious issue for their companies. Today there are somewhere north of 4 million jobs open simply because we cannot find the right skilled employees to fill those jobs. Now, this is symptomatic of an education system that is not delivering. So, the Roundtable’s education and workforce committee is focused upon, how do we make improvements in K through 12 education? …How do we incentivize states to put in high standards and to put in assessment capability to test their performance against those standards? …The real critical issue, though, is improving educational outcome in the K through 12 system.
A December 3, 2014, Dallas News article continues by noting that Tillerson believes CCSS to be that “skills gap” solution:
“Some have found it opportunistic” to paint Common Core as an example of federal overreach, [Tillerson] said. “But what the common core is not is a mandate on your curriculum. And yet it has been described as the federal government telling you what you will teach. It is anything but that.”
Tillerson believes that Texas has a “skills gap” that CCSS will solve.
Now, Tillerson is the CEO of Exxon, which is located in Texas– Texas, as in the “Texas education miracle” that former President George W. Bush promoted from the Oval Office as the springboard for his punitive, test-driven No Child Left Behind (NCLB). When it came to test-driven reform, Texas was supposed to have already arrived by the mid-1990s, and by 2014, according to G.W., the rest of the nation was supposed to follow.
Except there never was a “Texas miracle.”
Whereas Texas state test scores rose, so did the eventual dropout rates of frustrated students who were not promoted in school. This contributed to an artificial “improvements” in state tests. However, the supposed gains on the Texas state tests were not corroborated with concurrent gains on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). (For more on Texas Miracle and NCLB, see Diane Ravitch’s Death and Life of the Great American School System.)
Even though the Texas Miracle was a farce, from 2001 until today, the nation is still saddled with NCLB and its test-score-worshiping focus.
Where the goal is the appearance of a test-driven system, there will be gaming of that system. One issue that is overlooked by the likes of Tillerson in his promotion of “higher” standards is that sometimes, the standards are not higher– but the college expectations become lower. If this were not so in the case of CCSS, there would be no need to bring college admissions tests “in line” with CCSS or insist that higher education conform to CCSS.
All is to be centered on an experimental CCSS.
Texas could not bring itself to be “state led” into CCSS and is one of five states that did not adopt it in the first place.
Untested CCSS is a corporate-and-ed-policy outgrowth of a failed NCLB.
One would think that the test-crazy promoters of CCSS would have tested it first— especially since CCSS is built on NCLB, which is a failure built on yet another– a Texas– failure.
And one would think that the CEO of a major corporation like Exxon would first investigate the connections among CCSS, NCLB, and the supposed Texas miracle that he is now complaining about because it never happened in the first place.
To do so would require Tillerson to admit that the decades of test-score-driven reform in Texas might have actually exacerbated his publicly-lamented, Exxon-employee “skills gap.”
Not likely. Bad for the business of CCSS promotion.
But here is the best part of Tillerson’s December 3, 2014, lament:
“I don’t think the [K-12] schools realize that we’re their customer,” [Tillerson] said. “They need to produce students with skills that allow them to get a job. If they don’t, they are essentially producing a defective product. And in this case, the product is a human being. It’s tragic.” [Emphasis added.]
What is “tragic” is Tillerson’s and other arrogant, entitled CEOs’ twisted perspective that the chief goal of educating human beings is for those human beings to become objects of corporate use.
The end game of education is to convince the 99 percent that the 1 percent is “their customer” in order to milk that 99 percent for as much as is possible— which leads to another important angle, one that involves Exxon’s position as a member of the American Legislative Exchange Council’s (ALEC’s) corporate board.
But back to ALEC and CCSS:
In December 2011, ALEC actually approved an anti-CCSS resolution. In it, ALEC cited CCSS for having “no empirical evidence” to indicate that “centralized education standards result in higher student achievement.” And though in December 2014 Tillerson tries to convey that CCSS is not “the federal government telling you what to teach,” in 2011, the approved ALEC resolution stated that “imposing a set of national standards is likely to lead to the imposition of a national curriculum and national assessment upon the various states, a clear violation of the Elementary Secondary Education Act…”
So, just to be clear, what Tillerson now calls a “badly distorted… nationwide push for common academic standards” ALEC agreed with even as Exxon served as a member of its corporate board.
Less than a year after voting to approve ALEC’s anti-CCSS stance, in November 2012, former Florida Governor and influential ALEC member Jeb Bush convinced ALEC to rescind its official anti-CCSS stance.
Jeb Bush continues to staunchly support CCSS, and now the CEO of an ALEC corporate board member is right there with him.
One Bush brother screwed up American education with NCLB, and now another stands firmly by yet another test-score-driven, nationwide education experiment in CCSS.
Tillerson ought to use some of that critical thinking he expects of Exxon workers to mull over the facts in this post.
Schneider is also author of the ed reform whistleblower, A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education