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To Education Post’s Peter Cunningham on His Common-Core-Promotion Effort

May 21, 2015

Peter Cunningham is in charge of what blogger Anthony Cody terms, “education’s only multi-million-dollar blog,” Education Post. In an interview with another blogger, corporate-reform bee charmer Jennifer Berkshire (“EduShyster”), Cunningham divulges the privatizing-reform origins of Education Post:

When I was asked to create this organization—it wasn’t my idea; I was initially approached by Broad—it was specifically because a lot of reform leaders felt like they were being piled on and that no one would come to their defense. They said somebody just needs to help right the ship here. There was a broad feeling that the anti-reform community was very effective at piling on and that no one was organizing that on our side. There was unequivocally a call to create a community of voices that would rise to the defense of people pushing reform who felt like they were isolated and alone. 

Twelve million Broad,Bloomberg, and Walton* Foundation dollars later, we have Cunningham doing as he was asked by billionaire Eli Broad. We have the pro-privatizing-reform blog haven, Education Post, a place for “a different conversation about public education.”

A $12 million blog surely is “different.” As for the “conversation”– well– that’s become all-too-predictable.

apple cash

On May 20, 2015, I read a piece on Cunningham’s amply-funded Education Post about a Louisiana third-grade teacher, Meredith Starks, who is “clinging to” the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and is “terrified that they will be taken away.”

Regarding her teaching capabilities with her students, Starks maintains that CCSS is what enables her “to push them further, to question them deeper, and to support them more than ever before.”  She simply cannot teach well without CCSS.

Those are some powerful standards.

Starks continues her CCSS defense by stating that CCSS will even be able to move Louisiana up in some nebulously-defined rankings if only they are implemented properly:

I advocate so our politicians know that our state can make this transition, but we need more time, and so they don’t vote to take us back ten years to standards that had Louisiana ranked 49th out of 50 states.

Louisiana was “ranked 49th out of 50 states” in something, and it was the fault of Louisiana’s state standards. Thank goodness CCSS is here to raise every state that adopts them in any and all undefined rankings.

Powerful standards, indeed.

But what happens if the 40-plus states that have adopted CCSS don’t all defy the characteristics of rankings by all rising in the rankings? Or, will CCSS do away with the need for rankings when all states that adopted them amazingly tie for first place?

And if those states don’t all astoundingly tie for first place in the whatever-rankings, will the convenient reason be “poor implementation”?

If only we had information from a field test to help inform us of the strengths and weaknesses of CCSS-in-practice. But we don’t. There was no testing of CCSS, just adoption and concurrently declaring that CCSS would work.

And here is Cunningham using Stark’s story on a pro-corporate-reform-funded blog to sell CCSS. The shame is that Ed Post’s Cunningham had to borrow this pro-CCSS story from another corporate-reform-funded group, Stand for Children, and recycle it on his blog.

Are there not two Louisiana third-grade teachers who could have written pro-CCSS posts that would have been original to both Stand for Children and Ed Post?

Better yet– and I know this might require some effort, but it’s not like Cunningham has another full time job to interfere with the task– Ed Post should pound the US pavement for a pro-CCSS teacher for each grade, kindergarten through 12, in both English language arts (ELA) and math, and have each teacher write a pro-CCSS blog post.

Now, with all of those Broad, Bloomberg, and Walton Foundation millions available, Cunningham might be tempted to offer any solicited pro-CCSS teachers a token slice of the walton-Broad Foundation pie for their pro-CCSS post-writing efforts. But don’t do it. It just looks bad, even if those teachers insist that their CCSS devotion is separate from a gift, a stipend, or– in the case of Starks– “contracts posted on social media.” It’s like a parent paying a kid to be friends with his kid– and the “friend” insisting he would have been friends anyway– but still pocketing the money.

I write against CCSS on my blog for free, and no one has any leverage in connecting my position with plump, so-called “reform” financing. I suggest that this K-12, ELA-and-math, pro-CCSS series of Ed Post blog entries be written by teachers in no way connected to any such funding.

After Ed Post produces such a series, we can continue with our “conversation” on the matter.

Meanwhile, my non-Broad-enticed, non-Walton-Bloomberg-Broad-funded book on the history, development, and promotion of CCSS, Common Core Dilemma: Who Owns Our Schools?, will be published by Teachers College Press on June 12, 2015.

CC book cover


*Eariler verison had Arnold Foundation as the Ed Post funder. This was an error. The Broad, Bloomberg, and Walton Foundations appear to be the chief Ed Post backers, though there is also an anonymous donor.



From → Common Core

  1. Laura H. Chapman permalink

    great post. Look forward to you book. I will not order through AMAZON. I support my independent bookstore.

  2. Karla permalink

    For free is why we support you. You are the real deal!

  3. When I read about somebody taking over an education reform PR outfit, I want to tell them to buy a big container of aspirin. They’re going to get headaches trying to sell something that nobody is buying.

  4. The expression about ‘knowing the price of everything but the value of nothing’ comes to mind

  5. Is it possible that Starks is a TFA alum?

  6. Thanks for this! Not that I enjoyed reading it. I’ve read and commented on a couple of Cunningham’s blogs. It gives me a horrible queasy feeling to even go near that site, and that carried over to reading about it here. I don’t care if someone wants to write pro-reform copy. But the unbelievably smarmy presentation of that site is a powerfully disturbing reminder of the utter disdain the reform crowd has for actual public-school parents and teachers. I too write and comment for free, participating in conversations with citizens across the country honestly trying to figure all this out. Paid flaks posing as participants in the democratic culture of the blogosphere — as opposed to oligarchs putting out propaganda through commercial media outlets they own — literally make me sick. All I can say is thank you for being one of the best-informed, sanest, most eloquent and unsparing critics of the hypocritical oligarchs who would run — and ruin — our society given half a chance!

  7. Several months ago, I replied to an Ed Post article “Standardized Testing Opponents Find Themselves on the Wrong Side of Civil Rights”. Ironically, It was Arne Duncan’s Civil Rights in Ed office that made a cogent argument that a narrow curriculum was particularly detrimental to minorities and the poor. Laura Waters just kept recycling the identical, canned comment for every reply. Unimpressive.

  8. Lisa Smith permalink

    Starks is a paid “teacher leader” (a.k.a. shill) for LDOE and a frequent contributor to Education Post. I don’t think she’s a TFA alum (she interrupted her teaching career for several years).

  9. Just thinking about the blog made me queasy too, but it’s part of the territory we work so we need to check it out. Recycled canned comment sounds like copy / paste — or even a bot

  10. This shows how desperate the Ed Post has become. Their recent blog kept repeating the following to every non-astroturf comment:

    “Here’s a counterpoint to your view, _________ (insert the name of whoever wrote in) that “no significant progress has been made” in student outcomes since 1988: from Hanushek, Peterson, et, al., “A new study of international and U.S. state trends in student achievement growth shows that the United States is squarely in the middle of a group of 49 nations in 4th and 8th grade test score gains in math, reading, and science over the period 1995-2009.” ( Nothing to toot horns about, but certainly student achievement hasn’t dropped over the last 25 years.”

    Hmm. All they can say is at least NCLB hasn’t lowered scores?

  11. Congratulations on the new publication. I’m interested in the word “own” in the title. Who, in fact, owns the public schools? What does “ownership” mean anyway and in general?

    • Who owns the public schools? Diane Ravitch wrote a post on that topic here:

      And here’s another answer from

      When a public school (USA) buys property it is paid for with public funds. That makes it publically-owned property. Public schools in the USA do not own property… the school districts do, and again that makes it tax-payer owned property.

      Then there is this: file:///C:/Users/Lloyd/Downloads/Usher_Paper_FederalLandGrants_041311.pdf

      From the late 18th century through the middle of the 20th century, the federal
      government granted control of millions of acres of federal land to each state as it
      entered the Union. These lands were given in trust, with the stipulation that proceeds
      from their sale or lease be used to support various public institutions—most notably,
      public elementary and secondary schools and universities. These state land grants have
      played an important role in the development of the American system of public
      education and continue to provide revenues to maintain that system today. …

      The state’s role in schooling is well-established, and even clearer is the local
      government’s role. What is perhaps less obvious, though no less important, is the role of
      the federal government. To summarize the conclusions of this paper, the very idea of
      public schools may have never taken hold without federal involvement to motivate
      states to establish public schools and emphasize the value of doing so. Rallying the
      nation around broad and ambitious goals has always been the purview of the national
      government, and in education it does the same. Encouraging and unifying our system
      of schools is no less important today than it was in the 18th century.

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