Washington Post Editorial Board Supports Bush in His Common Core Quandary
On August 17, 2015, the Washington Post editorial board wrote a piece in which it “did not blame Mr. [Jeb] Bush from shying away from the term [Common Core].”
Bush has his political career on his mind, and using the term “Common Core” is “poison” to that career. So, Bush is using a carefully-crafted Common-Core euphemism, saying that he is for “higher standards, state-created, locally implemented, where the federal government has no role in the creation of standards, content or curriculum.”
The Washington Post editorial board sympathizes with Bush, who supposedly was put in this position because of the “bogus premise” that Common Core is a “federal takeover of education.”
In 2009, the federal government used future Race to the Top (RTTT) funding to entice governors to sign their states up for a Common Core that did not yet exist. The 2009 National Governors Association (NGA) Symposium is clear about this in its 16-page document from the Symposium.
However, the intention was not only for there to be a Common Core. Common Core was only one of four interconnected, test-centric reforms known as the Four Assurances (listed here in brief):
1. Common standards and assessments
2. Teacher performance (value-added assessment)
3. “Turnaround” of “low performing” schools
4. Building data systems.
In 2009, the governors of 46 states and three territories signed NGA’s agreement detailing how Common Core was to be developed (note that “states” were being directed by the nonprofit NGA and another nonprofit, the Council of Chief State School Officers, CCSSO, on this “state led” development) and which was intended to lead to unquestioned, automatic Common Core adoption.
Why would so many governors fall for this?
The money. US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan was at this 2009 NGA Symposium, and he promised these governors a potential slice of billions of dollars in American Reinvestment and Recovery Act (ARRA) funding– but only if they agreed to incorporate all Four Assurances into the education systems of their states. The excerpt below is from the NGA’s 16-page, 2009 report:
Governors have an unprecedented opportunity through the ARRA to make bold reforms in education. With momentum building around the four assurances and the Race to the Top funds, governors may want to consider the following as they move forward with their education reform agendas:
1. The four assurances do not exist in a vacuum. To improve educational outcomes for students in the U.S. and qualify for RTT funding, governors will need to work on all four assurances simultaneously. The issues discussed in this report are all interconnected, and policies which may seem likely to improve one area could have unintended consequences for another area of reform. Joanne Weiss from the U.S. Department of Education explained that when deciding which states will receive awards from the $4.35 billion Race to the Top competitive grant program, the Department will be watching for integrated plans that address all four of the reform areas. Therefore, states must work in concert on improving standards and assessments, increasing teacher effectiveness, providing support for low-performing schools, and strengthening data quality. [Emphasis added.]
At the 2009 NGA Symposium, Duncan made the grand announcement that the feds would cover the costs to get the “common assessments” off of the ground:
At the Symposium, Secretary Duncan made an important announcement regarding these [ARRA] funds: $350 million of the Race to the Top funds has been earmarked to support the development of high-quality common assessments.
These governors were led right into the federal will for state-level education by the promise of federal money. It was just that easy.
The governors traded state autonomy for federal money. And the federal government– US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan backed by President Barack Obama– encouraged them to do so and allowed it to happen.
In its Jeb Bush defense, the Washington Post editorial staff not only downplays the federal enticement; the Washington Post editorial board defends the federal role:
The pressure [Republicans in the presidential race to turn against Common Core] is built on bogus premises. Common Core is not a federal takeover of education. States developed the standards, accepted them voluntarily and implement them with local flexibility. The federal government merely encouraged states to adopt them, as it should have. [Emphasis added.]
The Washington Post editorial board assumes that the governors who signed on for Common Core did so for some primary reason greater that the federal dollars doing so would possibly bring into their states. However, any governor who really wanted “higher standards” would surely have insisted on some empirical evidence that the resulting standards were indeed “higher” prior to agreeing to adopt them. Yet this common-sense insistence did not happen.
The promise of federal dollars won.
The RTTT competition for federal funding if a state agreed to institute the Four Assurances did happen, as did the federal “competition” to fund two Common Core testing consortia, PARCC and Smarter Balanced.
Even the pro-Common Core Fordham Institute could not could not construct “evidence” that Common Core was “higher” than the current standards in all 50 states and DC– but it still not only endorsed Common Core but also traveled to states with standards it rated as “higher” than Common Core, only to try to convince these states to settle for Common Core.
However, it was bound to happen that a number of these governors would put their own careers ahead of any Common Core allegiance since their initial commitment was only a superficial, bandwagon commitment to federal money.
And now, we have the Washington Post giving a thumbs-up to Republican Jeb Bush and Democratic governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo, for “fighting the poison.” However, the Washington Post’s publicly aligning Republican Jeb! with a Democratic governor– and one whose approval rating is at an all-time low (also here)– probably does little to advance Jeb! and his euphemistic “higher standards” before a public that is growing increasingly wise to federally-enticed Common Core.
Schneider is a southern Louisiana native, career teacher, trained researcher, and author of the ed reform whistle blower, A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education.
She also has a second book, Common Core Dilemma: Who Owns Our Schools?, published on June 12, 2015.