The Simplest and Most Obvious Incontrovertible Reason to Oppose Common Core


Spoiler alert: Its money. And ownership …of our children, our schools, and our democracy.

There’s a lot of critical critiques of Common Core pertaining to the content itself. Examples of ridiculous math samples and interpretations of social studies hidden curriculum abound on Facebook and blogs. I have no intention to dispute the opinions of people who find the content questionable, even if I don’t always agree. I am not offended by words like “equity” and “diversity” in the new standards, nor are my children personally struggling with the new math methods. But I oppose CCSS vehemently nevertheless. Liking or disliking particular standards, language, or strategies is not a solid ground on which we can create a unified front to fight Common Core. I know many highly qualified good teachers and parents who like some of the standards. I know other highly qualified good teachers and parents who hate them. These are not stupid or uninformed people either. The collective experience with the standards themselves vary from child to child, teacher to teacher, grade level to grade level, and district to district. We will never arrive at consensus on their overall “quality.” For some schools, some of the standards might be better. For many school, they are far worse. You will confront many parents and teachers who will say to you, “But this is great for my class- or my child!” How can we respond to this without invalidating anyone’s personal experience? We cannot simply say, “No you don’t. You’re just being naïve.” We must appeal to fact, not opinion. We could debate this for decades and get nowhere trying to convince others to see what we see. And therefore it will be difficult to build solidarity of opposition using this tactic.

What matters to me, and what I believe to be the obvious and indesputable way to dispute the Common Core standards is by illustrating who it is that stands to really GAIN from their implementation. And what they will really cost the rest of us.

Let’s revisit who wrote the standards: Of the 30 or so people who wrote the standards they largely all hail from major non-profits or testing companies: ACT, College Board, Students Achievement Partners and Achieve. For more detail see Mercedes Scheinder blog.

This makes sense when you look back at who created and continues to promote their implementation. The same testing companies and non-profits: College Board, ACT, Achieve, Pearson, Student Achievement Partners and more. Billionaire corporations notably Bill Gates, Eli Broad, and the Walton Foundation, and other corporate members of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) have been devising a corporate takeover of public education for decades. Se the entire Who’s Who on this chart.

As test scores sink (which they are predicted to do with new PARCC), schools with low performing test takers (read English Language Learners, children with special needs, and students living in poverty)  in urban communities are ripe for profit-mongering charter take-overs. But even for those nice suburban schools with happy test takers and high test scores, the take- over, while less “in your face”, is still evident. There’s ample evidence that Pearson alone spent millions of dollars lobbying to create the legislation revolving around new teacher evaluations and tests (PARCC and SBAC). That Pearson partners with PARCC should be no shock to us. For example:

“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.”

According to a paper from Fordham Institute, called How Will the Common Core Impact the Testing Industry, the motivation to create creation of the PARCC and SBAC consortia is that they eliminate the need for every state to “create its own tests and thus cut down on the production costs” that are aligned to the Common Core.

Further, online and education technology companies have had significant influence in shaping education policy over the last decade. Why? Because Common Core materials, instruction, tutorials for teachers, and assessments can be delivered online, thus creating a boon of profits to these companies to sell us, manage, and assess the goods. The profits to these companies ca be seen here on this chart.

A report from Knowledge Enterprise Publishers reads as follows:

“Big businesses have discovered how important management is to be well run, efficient and competitive … they utilized the potential of technology to restructure their procedures and overhaul their processes of production, distribution, training, feedback, maintenance and administration. But the education systems have been slow in exploiting the power of technology. Many educational institutions and systems have introduced simple management and statistical information systems. But this should be only the beginning. Two inter-related measures are needed: First, education systems need to undergo a structural re-engineering of their processes and techniques and to modernize their procedures and applications — at different levels of decision-making and administration. Second, communication and information technologies must be an integral part of the restructuring design and application.

Of course, the multiple interests in gathering students’ private data goes hand in hand with the interests of private companies who via online education can chart, track and “mine” volumes of private information from our children. This video from Knewton (a private education technology company that partners with Pearson) says it all.

According to a recent article posted by Sean Cavanagh, “Data released by the Software & Information Industry Association, a Washington trade organization, show that the market for prekindergarten through grade 12 testing has grown by about 57 percent over two years ago, and now stands at an estimated $2.5 billion.”

So while profits to testing and textbook companies sky rocket, the expenses to states and districts to implement new testing and curricular policies will bankrupt schools and communities. When the “coupon” to buy Pearson products foisted upon states called  Race to the Top funding runs out, who will continue to pay for these more costly and ineffective standards and assessments? We will pay with our tax dollars, our children’s future, and our democracy.

These facts are not a matter of interpretation. Simplest way to stop this?

Deny them the data.

Refuse the tests.

And share these facts with your schools and communities. The costs to our pocket books, to the future of our pubic schools, to the quality of instruction for our children, and to the loss of privacy and protection of our children from the grips of corporate vampires is something upon which we can all agree. It’s ample reason to end the madness. No debate required.

Published by educationalchemy

Morna McDermott has been an educator for over twenty years in both k-12 and post secondary classrooms. She received her doctorate in education, with a dissertation focus on arts-based educational research, from The University of Virginia in 2001. Morna's teaching, scholarship, and activism center around the ways in which creativity, art, social justice, and democracy can transform education and empower communities. She is currently a Professor of Education at Towson University.

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