The National Common Core Standards (NCCS) are coming to a school near you. While the name might sound familiar, what do parents (and often even teachers) really know about the Common Core. Who wrote it? Where did it originate? Who owns it? What’s in it?
Most parents concerned with their child’s nutrition read beyond the labels, and look carefully at the actual ingredients. For example, the front of the Trix cereal box announces it is “vitamin fortified with a daily allowance of calcium.” But look at the ingredients. Second ingredient is sugar. Similarly, many fruit snacks proclaim to be made with “real fruit.” That may be so, but look carefully-what else are they made of? I’m not saying that parents are right or wrong for allowing their children to eat such food items, but at least we should all know what’s really in the food we feed our kids and make informed choices. So why would we not make an informed decision about the quality of education our children are receiving? When you hear the phrase Common Core, know the front of the box advertises all sorts of promises. But be careful-read the ingredients on the side of the box so that you are fully informed about what’s being thrust into our classrooms and ingested by our children.
I work with teachers. Lots of teachers. I listen. Many teachers have told me that there are facets of the common core standards that they like- That it promotes critical thinking for example. Fair enough. But why would we need to spend millions of dollars to teach teachers how to do something that any really well- prepared educator is doing anyway? That’s the trick that turns educators from being creative developers of meaningful curriculum into consumers of curriculum. The state of MD received millions of dollars of Race to the Top funds in exchange for adopting new instructional methods, assessments, teacher evaluations, and training resources. So where does this money go? To pay for the new instructional materials, the assessments, the teacher evaluations, and the teacher training to go with it all. In one door and right out the other. Yet, there’s nothing actually in this Common Core that effective educators and schools aren’t doing already. And there’s nothing in it, nor the high stakes testing, that will eliminate bad teachers. Bad teachers can blindly follow directions and teach to a test much better than a good educator can.
Common Core and the testing requirements to which they are tethered are like the pair of jeans that some company manufactured in a factory to appear faded and distressed, and selling them at Nordstroms for $200.00. They’re fake. And they won’t last.
In fact, while the Common Core may have some redeeming values, it also comes with many not so redeeming values. For example, in reading content, students will have reduced exposure to fiction. Currently the ratio of fiction to non fiction is 80-20 but it will shift to 40-60%. Why? Because, as David Coleman (one of the lead authors of the Common Core), and now newly appointed the College Board stated in a speech told his audience, ““As you grow up in this world,” Coleman said at a conference last year, “you realize people really don’t give a sh&* about what you feel or what you think.” He added that in the working world, for someone to say, “Johnson, I need a market analysis by Friday, but before that I need a compelling account of your childhood.”
Yeah, let’s rid those first graders of that nasty imagination of theirs. Lest they envision a world NOT devised by people like David Coleman and inspire real change for themselves. Imagination is DANGEROUS, and Mr Coleman knows this.
On the front of the metaphorical box, the Common Core promotes its ability to promote “consistent standards” which apparently will solve all our educational ills. But as emeritus education professor Stephen Krashen at the University of Southern California says:
“The rationale for the standards and national tests is the belief that our schools are broken. The only evidence for this is our mediocre scores on international tests. But middle-class children who go to well-funded schools do very well on international tests, scoring at the top of the world. Our overall scores are unimpressive because we have so many children living in poverty, about 22%, the highest percentage of all industrialized countries …This shows that the problem in American education is poverty, not a lack of standards and tests and not teaching quality. Poverty means food deprivation, lack of health care, and little access to books. The best tests and the most inspiring teachers will have little impact when children are hungry, sick, and have little access to books.”
Think: “includes 100% real fruit juice,” but the first ingredient on the list is high fructose corn syrup. Why not just give the kid a 50 cent apple instead of an overpriced pre packaged fruit-like snack? And why do we NEED the over-priced Common Core and the host of standardized tests that go with it? Why not prepare great educators and evaluate them and their students in meaningful authentic ways that don’t necessarily come in a box?
And who owns the Common Core?
The National Governors Association (NGA) and Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), the central Common Core developers have the copyright. They play shell games with billions of dollars, using education and our children’s lives as poker chips. According to one source:
Dr. Tony Bennett, the Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction, presented the pro-Common Core case to the board of ALEC. Dr. Bennett is also on the Board of Directors of the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), one of the two trade associations managing the Common Core Standards (along with the National Governors Association). Additionally, he is the Chairman of Chiefs for Change, an initiative of Jeb Bush’s Foundation for Excellence in Education. The Foundation for Excellence in Education and CCSSO have received $1,000,000 and $70,000,000, respectively, from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the primary force financing and pushing the Common Core.
Are the Common Core Standards even any good? No one knows yet. Quite a bank roll for something yet unproven. According to Tienken:
The standards have not been validated empirically and no metric has been set to monitor the intended and unintended consequences they will have on the education system and children (Mathis, 2010). Yet most of the nation’s governors, state education leaders, and many education organizations remain committed to the initiative.
But we know for sure they are quite profitable. Here’s another example:
General Electric (A MEMBER OF ALEC) is so certain that the Common Core standards are the best way to boost student achievement that it recently made the largest corporate grant in history to further their implementation, $18 million. The money will go to a non-profit group Student Achievement Partners to help teachers implement the standards. David Coleman, one of the non-profit’s founders (and also a major contributor to the Common Core standards), said the GE-funded tools that his group will provide are “elegant” and will help teachers make sense of standards that arguably are more arduous than basic reading and math.
According to Hartmann:
“From the website of the Institute for Policy Studies (“IPS”) GE is the largest contributor to ALEC including ALEC’s Union Busting ways.” So how much is ALEC really in opposition to the Common Core. Ya gotta wonder.
Notice how deftly the 18 million dollars changes hands- not a dime actually staying in the schools or going toward the student’s development? What about more art programs? Hiring teachers or teaching assistants? What about clean school facilities? What about equitable funding for materials? Nope. $18 million to the “non profit” founded by the man who designed the Common Core to help train teachers in using a product that good teachers don’t need in the first place.
Maybe David Coleman can say it best in his own words:
The Common Core State Standards aim to change everything—and for innovators and entrepreneurs, they may. With the simultaneous implementation of the Common Core State Standards in 46 states and DC, there is the potential for a truly national market. But how will the Common Core actually affect the classroom?
The members of ALEC and free market educational entrepreneurs see Common Core as a financial opportunity. So what we’re seeing in our schools now directly reflects ALEC’s model legislation, placing billions of dollars into the pockets of corporations as the expense of childrens education. The 2011 ALEC Annual Conference Substantive Agenda on Education shows their current interests:
“…the Task Force voted on several proposed bills and resolutions, with topics including: digital learning, the Common Core State Standards, charter schools, curriculum on free enterprise, taxpayers’ savings grants, amendments to the existing model legislation on higher education accountability, and a comprehensive bill that incorporates many components of the landmark school reforms Indiana passed this legislative session. Attendees will hear a presentation on the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards’ initiative to grow great schools, as well as one on innovations in higher education.”
Don’t be fooled. Lately ALEC has been hemming and hawing about supporting the Common Core, but that is because of its ties between federal mandates pressed upon on state and local policies. It’s not Common Core they reject, just its delivery boy.
“The resolution was approved by the ALEC Education Task Force overwhelmingly last December, and ALEC has discussed it at three of its national meetings. The well-financed private entities and the federal government are moving forward with their implementation of the Common Core, and Americans have been cut out of the process.”
David Coleman is leading the charge to shift the sands beneath our feet via Common Core. This is a man who once served as the Treasurer for Michelle Rhee’s StudentsFirst. Take a stab at which side of the reform debate he is on. Coleman told states “not buy mediocre materials with a ‘Common Core’ stamp. Wait for the good stuff to be available.” Hmm. “Waiting for Superman” to bring them maybe?
Conversely, Joanne Weiss, Chief of Staff to US Secretary of Education states:
“The development of common standards and shared assessments radically alters the market for innovation in curriculum development, professional development, and formative assessments. Previously, these markets operated on a state-by-state basis, and often on a district-by-district basis. But the adoption of common standards and shared assessments means that education entrepreneurs will enjoy national markets where the best products can be taken to scale”
The fighting between ALEC’s agenda and the federal government isn’t about whether or not Common Core is even good for children. This is a gun fight at sundown over who will win the rights to profit, economically, politically and ideologically from it.
And it won’t be children.