Tell Common Core to Get Lost

Posted: April 14, 2014 in Uncategorized

Get Lost

I’ve been groping my way along … I’ve been concentrating so long on my vision that I lost sight … You see, it’s not the vision. It’s the groping, it’s the yearning, it’s the groping and the yearning, it’s the moving forward. I was so fixated on flinging that cow that when Ed told me that Monty Python had already painted that picture I thought I was through. I had to let go of that cow so I could see the other possibilities …and this is most important: It’s not the thing you fling; It’s the fling itself.

-“Chris” from the television series Northern Exposure

This past Friday I was excited to be joining a group of parents, teachers, and grad students for a Teach In discussion about corporate reform and opting out being held at Columbia Teachers College.

I was amongst strong resistance advocates including Daiyu Suzuki, Jason Wozniak, Sue Schutt, Jean McTavish, Denny Taylor, Rosalie Friend, members from Change the Stakes and others.

I had never been to Teachers College (TC) before and therefore I needed to find out how I was going to get there from my sister’s house in CT.

I used Map Quest to see what they had to say. The directions felt confusing and hard to picture in my head.

I looked at maps of the area and tried to envision the number of blocks I might need to walk if I got off at 125th St train station to get to 121st Street. Or how far from Grand Central?  How much might a cab cost? What if I took the subway? Which stop? Which subway line?

I asked Jason, who gave me good directions. My sister called her boyfriend who works in the city and knows the terrain well. I called the help desk at TC. Everyone had a different suggestion. Because there was more than one way to gtet there.

I made it there without incident (i.e winding up in Hoboken). We had a fabulous and powerful discussion that will lead to more opting out actions in the NY and NJ areas.

But as I rode the train from CT to NY, the Grand Central shuttle and then the number 1 subway to 116th St I began thinking about how my journey paralleled the issues we face in an education landscape colonized by the Common Core and high stakes testing. More than once, when I asked “How do I get to TC?” different people said to me, “Well, it depends on how quickly you need to get there.” Or, “How much do you like to walk?” I realized there were many ways to get from here to there…much depended on what my time frame was, my purpose, and the kind of journey I wished to have. Did I want to walk and sight see? Or was I on a mission? What about variable costs of a taxi versus the subway? There were so many questions, and so many options.

That is what education is supposed to be about. Learning is a journey. Common Core treats it as a destination—with one right way to get there. I don’t care that the “new math” supposedly encourages students to problem solve and remain open ended as to how to solve a problem. That’s like dropping me in middle of Manhattan and saying “Go find TC.” And then demand that the journey be direct (via standardized testing), and the destination fixed (“measured progress” that defines every child’s readiness for career and college). And then fail me for arriving late. Maybe I stopped to visit Central Park. Giving children opportunities to be confused by saying “figure it out” but then exacting asnwers on one fixed set of questions to measure their “progress” is just harfmful. It is not the same things as allowing them and their teachers to embrace learning as a journey constructed by them, and to be evaluated by them as the journey-takers.

Common Core creates a set of prefixed predetermined outcomes, measured in only one way, and tracks students along the way, to make sure they’re “on track”–God forbid they wander. But not all children learn the same way. Or at the same pace. Or with the same interests. Sometimes you want the subway, sometimes you want a cab. Learning as a journey is far less about the end point and focuses more on the process…and is valued for more than simply arriving at the end point by the fastest route. Imagine the limitations we place on the journey of learning when we tell all students there is only one place to go and only one way to get there. Career and college readiness –whatever that means to begin with—can be defined in more ways than a narrow set of Common Core standards and progress that’s measured in one way…and not “how was the trip?” Or “What did you see along the way?” Rather the only thing we demand is that you get here as soon as possible. But why? What are we rushing to? Why race to the top? What’s up there anyway? Profits for testing companies, and empty promises for children.

I’d rather take a cue from Alan Block who writes, “(Real) education … has nothing to do with marked paths and coming home. Rather (it) has more to do with meandering: with getting lost.” We need more wandering, more exploration…more getting off the pathway being forced upon us. Common Core has got caution flags, flares, orange cones, maps and security guards marking off every possible exit ramp. Reformers are afraid we might discover the road less travelled is indeed the preferred one.

In a reform era increasingly marked by concepts such as predictability, accountability, measurability, and homogeneity, more creative risk taking practices are being watered down or filtered out altogether. The journey through this terrain, using the birds-eye map view of the world as a metaphor here, is one staked out with push point pins, which exact the journey to be traveled. This is especially true for beginning teachers terrorized by the thought of “getting lost” as they begin their teaching quest. Common Core related policies and outcomes discourage teachers from knowing the landscape of teaching and learning so that they might be able to begin and end the journey from a myriad of locations, to embrace the idea of “wandering” at times. Common Core teacher “training” demands they become consumers of the curricular “map” with all the directions scripted out ahead of time, rather than asking students and teachers to be the creators of the journey.

If I had been more familiar with NYC, you could drop me anywhere and I could find six ways to get to where I was going. But not knowing the terrain, I had to follow one set of directions and feared the slightest mistake. What if I end up on the subway line #2 instead of #1? Empowered experienced teachers can begin anywhere and go anywhere by any sorts of ways appropriate to the needs and desires of their students.  Teachers who are new to education are given one map…one set of instructions…and like me travelling to TC not knowing the terrain, have a fear of getting “lost” because they have been told there is a fixed arrival time and they will be evaluated on each step of the journey. Under such immense pressure there is no time to allow students to stop anywhere along the way and have a moment of curiosity. There is nothing of value in experience except to have accomplished it. And where will students even be when they’ve arrived?



Here’s the basic rule of practice for reformers. When the truth is no longer is their favor, they resort to silencing and fear tactics to win their battle. After all, if you knew the truth, you might do something about it. Case in point: sometime over the weekend of March 29th-31st, during our Denver event, our United Opt Out website was hacked in such a wholesale fashion that every part of the website database was trashed,. Given that I need my nine year old to help me with my iPhone 6 you can imagine how much I understand about the world of hacking, but our tech savvy friends working on the problem have concluded that given the size and scope of the hacking job that “it is purely malicious…” The hacker crippled every single SQL table and left them unrepairable. The site is frozen more or less and inaccessible to administrate.

In spite of the headache this gives to us as the site administrators it does not deter us from our goals to take education back from the grips of federal and corporate interests, and to build a democratically-led effort for public education founded on human and civil rights for all children. When we started as a group three years ago, we had a simple goal in mind: Help parents opt their children out of high stakes standardized testing. As the political and educational landscapes became more rabid with harmful policies, bullying practices, and oppressive billionaire interests calling the shots, our movement has grown. We defined ourselves simply as “six pissed off radical educators with fifty dollars between us.” What we lacked in financial sponsorship, or political savvy, we made up for in knowledge and a passion for meaningful and sustainable education for all children. We still have little more than fifty dollars between us, but we are wiser and more pissed off than ever. Whomever hacked into our site is a fool if they think this little stunt deters us in any way. We eat adversity for lunch. (…we have no money or time for real food anyway). In fact, all headaches aside we find it par for the course. After all, we are fighting against education hackers every day.

This type of tacit seems only fitting for any person, organization or corporation involved with predatory-style education “reform”  given that their entire approach to privatizing public education (which appears to be the end goal looking at the way the puzzle pieces fit together) is to HACK THEIR WAY into public education. Hacking into someone’s database, computer or website is done invisibly. And with self-serving ill intent. The goal is not to be known, but to achieve certain ends which include gathering private information and/or dismantling the distribution of information from that source. Predatory reformers seem to be pulling from this playbook. Like a hacker, they snuck their way into public schools seemingly innocuous or completely unseen. Their strategies are intimdation, deception, and silencing dissent.

Take for example model legislation crafted by ALEC last fall called the Student Achievement Backpack Act, and Course Choice Act which discreetly and somewhere in the fine print inserts the language that:

No later than {insert date}, an authorized LEA user shall be able to access student data  in a Student Achievement Backpack, which shall include the data listed in Section 7 (A) (1) through (4) and the following data, or request the data be transferred from one LEA to another:  (1) section attendance; (2) the name of a student’s teacher for classes or courses the student takes;  (3) teacher qualifications for a student’s teacher, including years of experience, degree, license, and endorsement; (4) results of formative, interim, and summative computer adaptive assessments administered pursuant to {insert applicable state code};  (5) detailed data demonstrating a student’s mastery of core standards and objectives as measured by computer adaptive assessments administered pursuant to {insert  applicable state code}; (6) a student’s writing sample written for an online writing assessment administered pursuant to {insert applicable state code}; (7) student growth scores for {insert state} performance assessment; (8) a school’s grade assigned pursuant to {insert applicable state code}; (9) results of benchmark assessments of reading administered pursuant to {insert applicable state code}; and  (10) a student’s reading level at the end of grade 3.

The new authorized LEA’s include third party private companies who will be contracted to provide education delivery systems in public school classrooms in lieu of face to face learning with an actual teacher. Like the real hacking job to our website, the knowledge created and emanating from real places or moments of learning will be frozen or locked out.

The Course Choice Program created by this Act would allow students in public schools and public charter schools to enroll in online, blended, and face-to-face courses not offered by the student’s school, and would allow a portion of that student’s funding to flow to the course provider. This Act creates an authorization process for providers and identifies provider and course eligibility criteria

Let’s not forget how corporate interests and hedge fund companies have worm-holed their way in via new testing mandates, as well as the profit driven motives of organizations using Common Core as their point of entry. They are non profts sprung up to “help” schools manage new Common Core materials and processes. Sometimes their entry seems benign, like the new person you add to a member list, or the small mindless click to download something onto your computer-it seemed like such a nice download, or person…and they’ve been “pre- approved” by what we once thought of as trusted and credible sources like so-called research or education-based entities. For example, The Wall Street Journal “reported” a story about edu-tech companies involvement in school-based data collection, but it wasn’t as much “reporting” as it was free advertising for New Classrooms Innovation Partners trying to assuage the fears of communities that their involvement in data collection was “safe”—like a “trusted” link on your computer. The report FAILS to mention that this company is funded by a host of ALEC-affiliated corporations with links to the creation of new testing mandates and Common Core, including Gates, Bezos, Carnegie, New Schools Venture, and Broad Foundation. They sneak in the front end and profit out the back end. Take a moment and read the bios of their board of directors while you’re at it.

Even the title of the WSJ article: “Big Data Enters the Classroom,” has hacker written all over it in my opinion. The report states, “The amount of data collected is expected to swell as more schools use apps and tablets that can collect information down to individual keystrokes, or even how long a student holds a mouse pointer above a certain answer.

One reason that education hackers are as successful as they have been thus far (beside the billions of dollars being pushed via Bill Gates, Eli Broad, Walton and others) is because the average teacher or parent doesn’t even know they’re there.  In the endless hours of Common Core training, how many teachers are made aware of the corporate interests that created Common Core, or the lobbying efforts of Pearson for new testing legislation?

At how many back-to-school nights are parents informed of who really wrote the new Common Core standards, or how much of their children’s private data will actually be collected and stored by companies such as inBloom? And if those parents and teachers knew they were there, they’d promptly want them out. Except that once they’ve gotten in it’s hard to track them and remove them. They’ve all snuck in like hackers, and once inside the metaphorical walls of public schools and every classroom in America, they will have behind the scenes control to redirect the system as they see fit.   And the average teacher, parent, student and community member will cease to have any control.

They are in fact a virus.

(A response from the United Opt Out organizers: Morna McDermott, Tim Slekar, Ruth Rodriguez, Peggy Robertson, Ceresta Smith and Shaun Johnson)


In the effort to stay “current” in reporting about the rising tide of the Opt Out movement (aka high stakes standardized testing refusal), journalists are eager to tell the story…but do they do their homework?  Take for instance Greenblatt’s article for NPR.

Greenblatt in his NPR article creates a narrow and limited reporting of the Opt Out movement both in regards to who is representative of this movement and why it matters.

To the first point: it’s clear in the subtext that Greenblatt presupposes that the movement consists entirely of conservative minded folks focused on Constitutional rights and what he perceives to be their concerns with “their own child.” Under the sound bite narrative-style of reporting Greenblatt translates the entire opt out movement to that of the interests of “individualism.” While that may be the focus for some members of the Opt Out movement, Greenblatt assumes as many erroneously do, that libertarians and other conservative “momma bears” and “soccer moms” alone drive the effort, and that the concerns of one ideology speaks for us all.  It is clear that Greenblatt is using the opt out story to discredit the Tea Party style initiatives including, as he so references, The Affordable Care Act. One wonders if his article’s purpose is to run defense for Obama’s policies by placing the Opt Out movement squarely in the arena of Tea Party-ism. While it is indeed true that push back against high stakes standardized testing does in many places around the country emanate from conservative fronts, the bigger movement to eliminate high stakes testing as the central driving force behind current education policy neither began with, nor ends, with a sole conservative “agenda.”

Case in point: Greenblatt identifies United Opt Out as a centerpiece organization in this movement, yet never contacted nor bothered to interview any of the six United Opt Out organizers.  Our emails are publicly accessible on our website. If he had, he would have found that none of the six are in any way affiliated with conservative, libertarian or Tea Party ideologies. However that does not mean that “across the aisle” allainces are not being built in towns and cities everywhere. Many of us realize a common ground and move forward from that realization.

Additionally, many scholars, teachers and activists who hail from progressive, liberal, radical-left and socialist beliefs have been highly critical of the high stakes testing, top-down standardization movement for decades. The voices from “the left” have consistently been marginalized from current reporting on the Opt Out movement, as Duncan tried to do in accusing the Opt Out movement of consisting of “extremists” and “pissed off white soccer moms.” Perhaps Greenblatt and other journalists like him are trying to create the false illusion that resistance to testing belongs to “those Tea Party folks” and thus deter movement building with more moderate individuals or groups. Such misconceptions help to further alienate people of color from finding allies in the Opt Out movement. It might be that the status quo Democrats who have been cheerleading corporate-driven reform refuse to admit that many progressives themselves realize they’ve been sold out, and millions of us refuse to be associated any longer with their bogus policies. Maybe they don’t want the public to know that their own progressive constituents have abandoned their reform policies and are fighting to take public education back from the grips of predatory reform.

This leads me to my second point: the Opt Out movement is not, and cannot, be simply reduced to a culture of parents concerned with the individual rights of “their” children. Sure there are many in this fight for that reason. But there’s more, Mr. Greenblatt.

If Greenblatt had done his homework, hell if he had ever even visited our website he would have received a fuller and more informed picture of why the testing resistance is growing. By the way, the movement is not “small”– as indicated by the hundreds of teachers, parents, and students refusing the tests from Seattle to Chicago to New York, and every other city, town, and state in between. Maybe he needs to read the newspaper more.

The conservative voice is merely one voice in the resistance against high stakes testing. The voices and perspectives of testing resistance are far more many and varied than that. Who were the keynote speakers at the United Opt Out event in Denver? Glenn Beck? No. Our speakers included:

Dr. Sam Anderson, retired math professor and radical black education activist who sees education as a human right. Dr. Pasi Sahlberg, Finnish educator, scholar, and author of the book Finnish Lessons, who believes that equity must come before the promise of educational quality and that competition must be replaced with cooperation. Dr. Lois Wiener Professor at New Jersey City University, who was speaking about teachers unions and social justice. On Sunday Angela Engel stated that high stakes testing is a cancer on our education systems and that we need each other because “people matter.”

The movement to refuse testing demands cooperation, collaboration, and a notion of the “we.” In the words of Dr. Ricardo Rosa an education and social justice professor at UMASS-Dartmouth, who was another Denver keynote speaker, “Diverse social struggles can coalesce around issues of high stakes testing.”  The Denver event was one of creating a sustainable and democratically/community-led movement for public education as a human right. Opposite to the notion of seeking our “individual rights” we convened to work with teachers, parents and students. We had leaders representing numerous national organizations including Chicago Teachers UnionSave Our SchoolsBadass Teacher Association, Voices for Public EducationThe Network for Public EducationSchools MatterCoalition for Public EducationFair TestSubstance News, and Uniting4Kids. Too bad Greenblatt didn’t do any actual investigative reporting about the things which he feels so privileged to judge.

Too bad he wasn’t there.

If anything screams “individualism” it’s a national policy called Race to the Top. Winners and losers. Of me I sing, Mr. Greenblatt. It’s a policy that pits child against child, comparing their data on humiliating “data walls” where they can be compared and tracked against one another.  Opt Out is the resistance to a national policy grounded on competition, driven by corporate profits and data mining through which billions of dollars are funneled from public schools and go into the pockets of corporations like Pearson and inBloom. High stakes testing is a policy of greed, fear, and control. The high stakes testing agenda also leads toward the privatizing of public education. The communities most greatly harmed by testing reform are communities of color where high stakes testing scores are used to fire teachers, close community schools, and fragment the fabric of the schools and the quality of learning for the students. That largely white middle class moms are the media’s chosen “face” of the Opt Out movement rather than voices from urban black and brown communities who have been most greatly harmed by testing policies, says more about the racist nature of our media narratives. Or it requires we examine the continuation of privilege in our society where race, economic means, and political clout enable some people more able to speak out than others. Greenblatt fails to mention that many of us are in this fight for other people’s children, not only our own.

What else did Greenblatt fail to report? Sound documented research shows:

Legitimate concerns over data mining by private corporations who are getting paid millions of dollars to gather, and hold, thousands of data points of private student information.

That meaningful instruction is being replaced with hours and hours of increased test prep and testing, nearly one-third of the school year in some places.

That testing reform initiatives have never been proven to improve student learning, school equity or “career and college readiness” in spite of its rhetoric.

The damage that these policies are having on students and communities of color where increasingly public schools are being closed or teachers are being fired because of test score results.

The billions of dollars spent building new testing infrastructures while schools languish, unable to provide basic resources, lose libraries, librarians, nurses, and qualified teachers.

How testing, as the center piece for market driven reform, monetizes children, treating them as nothing more than test scores; scores which are used to sell, buy, and trade our public schools and students like stocks on Wall Street.

That standardized testing is grounded in an ideology of eugenics; increasing oppressive, racist, and biased policies and outcomes. Standardized testing, by its content, reinforces a Eurocentric world view and styles of learning.

The facts speak for themselves. It’s a shame Greenblatt didn’t do his own homework first. But again… this is the narrative the mainstream media doesn’t want you to hear about. Because if you knew the facts, you just might join us.


(McKinsey, Pearson, Gates and ALEC colonizing the K-12 to college arena)


Kahn Academy is the darling of education “reformers” and entrepreneurs, spearheading the movement to provide online instruction in lieu of bodied and interactive learning, to the tune of millions of dollars.

Hailed by Forbes and others as the public face of the “flipped learning” movement, Salman Kahn believes that basic learning should be done by video before a pupil arrives in class. “Khan envisages pupils being taught in ‘super-classes’ of 100 with three or four teachers, and has called for the abolition of separate subjects and even the summer holiday break   (Here’s) the man Gates has described as a ‘true education pioneer’”.

Kahn’s vision is not without his criticisms. Former Kahn employee Karim Kai Ani suggests, “Officials might see them as a cheap replacement for teachers.” He says, “It reminds me of tackling the obesity epidemic. We need to exercise and eat better but instead people go on the Atkins diet. This is the educational equivalent of the Atkins diet.”

But it’s financial success is no surprise considering that Salman Kahn who was a senior analyst for venture capitalist firms before created Kahn Academy, knows how to game a system for financial gain. From 2003-08 he was a Senior analyst for Wohl Capital Management; from 2008-09 he was a Senior analyst for Connective Capital Management and from 1998-99 he was a Senior product manager for Oracle Corporation.

And he’s had help from Bill Gates, himself a self-proclaimed educational expert who believes (in his non-existent knowledge of developmental and pedagogical theories) that 100 children seated in front of computers qualifies as meaningful learning.

Khan Academy received large grants from Google ($2 million) and the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation ($1.5 million) to help with his latest “venture”- public education.

David Coleman announced that College Board would revising the existing SAT’s and partner with Kahn Academy to provide delivery/training/support for the new and “improved” version of the SAT’s. It’s simply an extended version of Common Core. For more “nonsense” on the SAT “reboot” itself read Paul Thomas.

Privatization is on the move.

McKinsey strikes again

The global consulting firm McKinsey and Co has had a deep hand in the direction that education reform has taken over the last several years. A mere handful of their connections with predatory reformers in public education include:

Louis Gerstner (co-chair of Achieve-the group that helped sponsor Nation Common Core), Rajat Gupta (financial backer of the Harlem Children’s Zone), Marshall Lux (on the Board of the Harlem Children’s Zone), Andrés Satizábal (Harlem Charter School), Michael Stone (Chief External Relations Officer at New Schools for New Orleans),  Terrence McDonough (English Teacher and Department Chair at Edward W. Brooke Charter School  and 5th Grade Teacher at Teach for America), Luis de la Fuente (with the Broad Foundation, who develops and manages a portfolio of grants to school districts, charter management organizations, and innovative non-profits), Shantanu Sinha (COO of Kahn Academies), and Jerry Hauser ( who served as the Chief Operating Officer at Teach For America). This list could go on ad infinitum.  But one final player of note is Bobby Jindal, former McKinsey consultant, and now Governor of Louisiana. He is forming policies to privatize public education for the entire state of Louisiana.

For a full report see my McKinsey research:

But suffice to say, David Coleman, leader in the Common Core initiative, Sir Michael Barber, CEO of Pearson (now delivering PARCC and Common Core materials), and Lou Gerstner the co-creator and CEO of Achieve all hailed from McKinsey and Company. Indeed, the stars are aligned now that Kahn Academy will have a hand in the tests that will replace SAT and ACT. And Salman Kahn’s right-hand man, Shantanu Sinha, formerly an Associate Principal for McKinsey & Company, is now President & COO of Kahn Academy. Shantanu and Sal were former high-school math competitors in New Orleans, freshman-year roommates at MIT, and long-time friends.

Many of the other current leaders in Kahn Academy also worked for McKinsey.

It’s worth noting too that the Head of Finance for Kahn Academy served as the CFO for New Schools Venture Fund.

What a tidy little web, considering that our new Undersecretary for the the U.S. Department of Education will be Ted Mitchell who was formerly the CEO for New Schools Venture. BFF’s!!!

According to The Nation: “Mitchell’s NewSchool Venture Fund also reportedly partners with Pearson, the education mega-corporation that owns a number of testing and textbook companies, along with one prominent for-profit virtual charter school,Connections Academy.”

Coleman makes it all sound so “nice.” You know, free access to test prep materials and free college applications for “poor kids.”  But….Phillip Morris can make the Marlborough Man look pretty hot too. According to the CNN report: “To prepare students for the test, the College Board will partner for the first time with Khan Academy to provide free test preparation materials, starting in spring 2015. Afterward, income-eligible students will receive fee waivers to apply to four colleges for free.”

Question: Did we really need Kahn Academy to make test prep and college applications freely available to poor kids?  Never mind the wealth of documentation out there that has rightly challenged and debunked Kahn’s myth of success. It’s kind of like “the Texas Miracle” 2.0

Never mind about the facts. It certainly fits the agenda for Ted Mitchell who some predict will, “advocate for more federal promotion of online learning, ‘blended’ models of instruction, ‘adaptive learning’ systems, and public-private partnerships involving education technology.”

This plan fits nicely into ALEC’s scheme as well, with their “Course Choice Program Act”, which allows third-party private companies (i.e. Connections Academy and Kahn Academy) to be paid to “deliver” educational materials online IN SCHOOLS:

“The Course Choice Program created by this Act would allow students in public schools and public charter schools to enroll in online, blended, and face-to-face courses not offered by the student’s school, and would allow a portion of that student’s funding to flow to the course provider.

WHO are the course providers to be? Hmmm..what a mystery!

The Act adds: “Course Provider shall mean “an entity that offers individual courses in person or online, including but not limited to online or virtual education providers, public or private elementary and secondary education institutions, education service agencies, private or nonprofit providers, postsecondary education institutions, and vocational or technical course providers, and have been authorized to provide such courses by the State Department of Education.”

Kahn Academy itself has sat at the ALEC table of bribery and secrecy itself. As part of the “2011 Philanthropy Roundtable” where many of ALEC’s funding foundations, think tanks and others including Kahn Academy met to discuss philanthropic activities for 2012. 

Bob Sloan reflects:

Consider that ALEC’s corporate members include companies manufacturing and selling the software for long distance learning, companies that provide internet access services, computer companies and companies involved in privatizing public transportation.  Each one has an interest in increasing sales and profits, and otherwise benefitting from a “front” organization such as the Khan academy.

Hell, if we can’t close ALL the schools and make them come to charters, then gosh darn it we will come to them!



Do you want to know how to tell the difference between a testing “reformer” and a testing resistor?

Easy…. Reformers are paid (and handsomely) to be spokespersons for Pearson, Achieve, PARCC, and the myriad of other corporate interests that have hatched Common Core standards and the new rounds of testing that are required under Race to the Top legislation. They take monies from Gates, Broad, and other billionaires to buy and sell their voices.

Resistors, on the other hand, are not paid at all for their efforts. In fact, if anything, they choose to stand up and speak out against education reform at the risk of personal, professional, and financial peril. There will be no promotions among the ranks for their efforts. Many have lost jobs, or been threatened with job loss. And right now, even more resistors are speaking out in Chicago.

The Wall Street Journal in an article today (States Rethink School Testing) showcased resistance efforts including: The Network for Public Education conference in Austin, Texas, happening as I type.  Additionally, United Opt Out has partnered with other national organizations including FairTest, Parents Across America, and Save Our Schools (SOS) to launch the Testing Resistance and Reform Spring.

But the major kudos right now goes to the teachers in Chicago.

Despite threats from CPS which warned teachers that the state can revoke their certification if they encourage students to boycott the ISAT exams, Chicago teachers are protesting against ISAT. While Michelle Rhee, the CEO’s of Achieve and Pearson receive comfortable, often six figure paychecks, to speak for the “need” for a national curriculum and “accountability” via testing…..teachers…REAL teachers…are risking their livelihood to do what they believe is right for children. And parents are facing punitive responses for refusing to test their children. We arent getting paychecks and promotions. We’re getting threats.

Testing resistance and refusal are acts of civil disobedience. Quite simply, what Chicago teachers and other resistors knows is this:

High stakes testing does not serve the interests of children….Instead, children are being forced to serve the interests of testing companies, and the other tentacles of “reform” that rely on test scores to achieve their goals.

Chicago has created a tipping point. To all those who have asked, “This is too big. It’s too powerful. How can defeat this?” the answer is: “HERE. NOW. US.”

Don’t leave Chicago out on the front lines alone to fight this for us. Chicago is fighting for my children. So I fight for and with them.

Visit to see how you can help. Spread the word.

Solidarity, not profits, are what we are working for!!!

Light it up.


I can’t believe I’m going to say this but … all this news about data mining in new edu-ventures by corporate sponsored curricula and testing makes me long for the days of passive television entertainment.

The American Legislation Exchange Council (ALEC) crafts “model” legislation behind closed doors with coprorations and state policy makers, which will authorizie edu-tech corporations to come directly into our classrooms as the new LEA’s, thus permitting them access to our childrens’ private data. As corporate data mining sneaks into our schools, like that exposed recently by a piece by Jonathan Pelto indicates, I long for Dora The Explorer. While corporations like Chromebooks now DIRECTLY market their products via “curriculum” and use my child’s data to serve their own financial interests, and sway their patterns of behavior and consumption with little or no intermediaries I miss days gone by when “interactive engagement of behavior” meant my kids shouting “Abuela!” at the TV screen following Dora’s prompt, “Can you say grandmother in Spanish with me?” Or, those times when commercials insisted my child “must have the latest” X,Y,Z item, when at least I was able to act as the ultimate screen between my child and the corporations, with the parental power to say “No” –or at least say, “tell Grandma you want that for Christmas” by which time they’ve usually forgotten they wanted X, Y, or Z in the first place.

Now, as Pelto reveals, “Google explicitly admits for the first time that it scans the email of Google Apps for Education users for ad-serving purposes even when ad serving is turned off.” – 1/31/14

The “medium is the message” as McLuhan says. Before the age of online interactive games, curriculum, and the Internet…before NSA…. marketing to children consisted of television programming and product placement in school buildings via vending machines, sponsoring school events, and sales to school cafeterias. I’ve been historically been adamantly opposed to these coprorate ventures! And we keep moving in the wrong direction-away from the interests and welfare of children, selling them out to powerful billionaires.

The tactics of Chromebooks, inBloom, and the education technology industry are really no different than those of companies who, back in the 1980’s, launched a mega campaign to cater commercials to children. They were attempting to create early childhood brand loyalty and realized that children were a million dollar untapped industry. According to the Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood, “In what the industry calls a ‘cradle-to-grave’ strategy, marketers want to get to children early, often, and in as many places as they can – not just to sell them products and services, but to turn them into life-long consumers.”

And now, the tentacles are far more reaching, and insidious. The profit potential far greater. The control? Intoxicating. Using Common Core and high stakes testing (PARCC via Pearson and SBAC via inBloom), corporations can by-pass all other filters (aka parents and teachers). There are fewer people or firewalls left between children and the corporate interests who see them as little more than (at best) a consumer and (at worst), a product.

ALEC’s latest round of legislation, called The Student Achievement Backpack states:

This bill provides access by a student’s parent or guardian or an authorized LEA user to the learning profile of a student from kindergarten through grade 12 in an electronic format known as a Student Achievement Backpack.”

Ok… who the hell is the LEA????

(A)   “Authorized LEA user” means a teacher or other person who is: (1) employed by an LEA that provides instruction to a student; and (2) authorized to access data in a Student Achievement Backpack through the {insert state} Student Record Store. (B) “LEA” means a school district, charter school, or the {schooling options in the state specific to the deaf and blind}

This act will: “allow an education provider to (a) research and find student users who are interested in various educational outcomes; (b) promote the education provider’s programs and schools to student users;  and (c) connect with student users within the Student Futures website;  (3) allow a {insert state} business to: (a) research and find student users who are pursuing educational outcomes that are consistent with jobs the {insert state} business is trying to fill now or in the future; and  (b) market jobs and communicate with student users through the Student Futures website as allowed by law..”

Not unlike the “model legislation” of ALEC, back in the 1980’s the FTC Improvement Act mandated that the FTC would no longer have any authority whatsoever to regulate advertising and marketing to children, leaving marketers virtually free to target kids as they saw fit.  And by 1984, the Reagan administration had succeeded in dismantling the last vestiges of government oversight, completely deregulating children’s television.

Now, it’s not passive brainwashing via TV that worries parents. Its interactive privacy piracy directly invading the mental and physical spaces of our children’s lives. According to one section of ALEC’s legislation, “In addition to an enhanced kindergarten program described in Subsection (B), the early intervention program includes a component to address early intervention through the use of an interactive computer software program.”

Television is “so last season”–today, it’s deregulation of computer-driven content including that which our children are forced to engage with via education policies, and that can directly engage in uninterrupted direct contact with children. No parental guidance allowed.


Posted: February 13, 2014 in Uncategorized


I read an article by Alice Crites about the influence of big business (corn and sugar) on the food policies and productions. I was astounded at how, within the first minute of reading about how BIG BUSINESS manipulates legislation and public perception in food production, I was able to see how that system of corruption reflects current education reform policies, especially policies involving Common Core “State” Standards (CCSS). The original article can be found here.

I have previously examined the relationships between the giant con-ag industries and education policies, illustrating comparisons between factory farms and education as in a chapter in J. Bowers and PL Thomas (eds) De-testing and De-grading Schools. I have blogged previously about how multinational corporations like Nestle are destroying water supplies in economically struggling and impoverished countries, buying the “water rights,” and then selling people their own water back to them in a bottle and at a profit.

What I intend to do here is create line item comparisons between what Alice Crites examines in the sugar wars and my own research on HOW CCSS came to be, WHY is came to be, and WHO it is that benefits from it.

This is important– because as those of us opposed to CCSS move forward, we must be clear about the who, what and why of CCSS.

Line Item One: “Sugar companies’ investments in this nonprofit group, detailed in newly released internal documents, are part of a growing strategy used by corporate interests seeking to influence Washington policymaking.” (Crites)

Bill and Melinda Gates, Carnegie, Walton, Broad, GE, Exxon, and AT &T (all members of ALEC) all fund the non-profit groups promoting Common Core. In order to sway policy, corporations hide behind non-profits, foundations, and think tanks. Essentially these corporations buy their way into shaping policy and public opinion disguised as public interest groups, which of course promote the values and idea that the corporations want them to promote! Achieve-the organization contracted by the US Dept. of Education via Race to the Top was paid to create and manage common core. Achieve is funded by giant corporations, many who are members of The American Legislative Exchange Commission. Other non-profits such as Hope Street, Bellwether and Education Delivery Institute all have corporate members and corporate interests swaying their mission and actions.

Line Item Two: The revolving door. The romance between big corporations and big federal government occurs because CEO’s prevsiously from giant corporations take positions as “policy makers” within the governement and conversely individuals previously serving in the federal government  take new jobs or sit on cushy board of directors positions in these privately run corporations or “non profit” associations. For example, Bellwether, Hope Street, and Education Delivery Institute (EDI) all share partnerships (direct and indirect) with government by playing musical chairs between their government roles and their jobs in the private sector. Hope Street has among its Board of Directors former West Virginia Governor Bob Wise and Governor Jack Markall.

Dr. Jeri Echeverria retired Executive Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs in the Chancellor’s Office of the California State University sits on the board of directors for EDI (created by Pearson CEO Sir Michael Barber).

Leading the team at Bellwether is Chad Aldeman. Previously, Aldeman was a Policy Advisor in the Office of Planning, Evaluation, and Policy Development at the U.S. Department of Education, where he worked on teacher policy and secondary schools

Line Item Three: “No longer content to rely on traditional lobbyists, companies are investing in other messengers such as nonprofit groups or academicians who can provide expert testimony, shape news media coverage and change public opinion in ways that ultimately affect decisions in the nation’s capital.” (Crites).

Lobbyists and paid- for- research. To sway public opinion through the guise of research, corporations (via think tanks) pay scholars and researchers to conduct studies which (not shockingly) will produce findings that support the interests of the corporate agenda. Their job is to create the illusion that their product (in this case Common Core) is grounded in research to support it.  For example,  in one particular issue of Education Researcher (the “premiere” journal published by AERA) I found that of nine total authors published in that issue, FIVE of them listed their associations not with universities but with “non- profit” or education corporations. And those five were all invested somehow in promoting Common Core. In this way they believe they can “legitimate” their agenda to other scholars and academic institutions.

Likewise, lobbyists paid for by corporate interests have a toe hold in creating or influencing state and federal legislation. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has sold out to Monsanto. The U.S. Department of Energy has sold out to the fracking lobbyists. And the U.S Department of Education has sold out to Pearson. Pearson publishing, the giant octopus  in the room which cannot be ignored, invested millions in lobbying for new copyright, assessment, teacher preparation, and curricular policies. In 2009, Pearson lobbied for something aptly titled “Common Core Education Standards.”

That same year, when PARCC and SBAC placed their bids in to the U.S. Dept of Education which, via RtTT, was seeking organizations to whom they could “outsource” their efforts (aka Common Core), Achieve had contracted with Pearson as their partner to pursue this effort.  

Pearson lobbied a minimum of thirty times between 2008 and 2012 for Elementary and Secondary Act (ESEA) or reauthorization of ESEA, including “preparation for reauthorization, advocated for quality student assessments, literacy programs, data systems, utilization of education technology, (and) electronic student records”; by far one of the largest portion of their lobbying efforts.

Line Item Four: Grass Roots Bullshit: “Nonprofit organizations, now playing an increasing role in lobbying and electoral politics, are not required to publicly reveal their donors.”

In the sugar/corn wars the group is called “Citizens for Health.” In politics it’s called “Citizens United.” And in education it’s called “Parent Trigger.” What all these have in common is the illusion of being grass roots when in fact they’re front groups for billionaires like the Koch Brothers, Eli Broad, and the Walton Foundation.

Line Item Five: Insider fighting. “The documents reveal how both sides poured money into nonprofit groups that have had feel-good names but promoted industry agendas in public campaigns and government proceedings.”  (Crite).  According to Crites, the sugar industry is at war with corn syrup. They spend billions trying to top one other in the market. But really…if you were worried about diet, health, diabetes or obesity, is the difference between sugar and corn syrup a serious game changer for you??? Either one in high doses spells trouble. Likewise, as states who are still interested in corporate model reform pretend to be the friend and ally of parents and teachers against Common Core claim that they reject federal intrusion into their state education policies. But they have created “their own” common core standards. Really? It’s high fructose corn syrup versus sugar. Is your state still pushing high stakes testing, teacher “accountability” via test scores, union bashing, merit pay, vouchers and charters? It’s no different than the sugar companies fighting with the big corn producers. PARCC, ACT, Pearson, McGraw-Hill, inBloom, and ALEC…they’re still just fighting for a piece of your child.

One important digression here, let’s not forget that even opposition to CCSS can be motivated by corporate interests and we must remain informed. Many corporate funded think tanks and non-profits such as Heritage Foundation are opposed to CCSS but support other conservative measures to privatize public education, and Koch brothers, with an aim to eliminate public education altogether, have secretly funded many “grass roots” Common Core resistance groups.

The identical nature of the predatory corporate ed reformers and those in sugar/corn war playbook IS NOT COINCIDENTAL!

Common Core: It’s not communism. It’s predatory reform-style billionaire business as usual taken from the playbook of other areas of industry.  It’s corporate greed and control.  Repeat as necessary. Common Core is corporate led, and federally fed.  By 2015, US Dept of Education will begin defunding the intitaive and it will wind up wholly in the hands of private organizations. Whether I like this truth or not is irrelevant.

It’s a deliberate strategy used not only in the sugar wars and in education but by predatory reformers from across all areas of service and production housing/real estate, and banking. But they’ve laid waste to our land, and to our homes, and to our financial security. Education was just next on the list of line items. Profit. Data. Control.

Fruit Loops cereal can claim its part of “a nutritious breakfast” because it’s made with “real fruit juice.” This is marketing. It’s sales. It’s advertising. It’s a product. As smart consumers we read the ingredients and know better. That’s fine. Free market. Free choice. Buyer beware. No one is forcing me to feed my child Fruit Loops. Yada yada.

However–Common Core claims to be a “21st century learning effort” to make all children “career and college ready.”  It’s marketing. It’s sales. It’s advertising. It’s a product … Being forced down the throat of my child. MANDATED. And we should know better.