Archive for October, 2015

I said it over three years ago and I’ll say it again. Common Core was, and is, an agenda crafted by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). It was never about “communism,” or “socialism.” It was the state and federal governments serving as the delivery boys for the privatization of public education at the hands of global corporate interests (think: Trans Pacific Partnership and UNESCO).

Here’s a summary of what follows in a nutshell in the words of white paper authors entitled Redefining Teacher Education for Digital-Age Learners:

“Establish common national competency standards for digital-age educators. This is the next logical step to the Common Core State Standards. Common national competency standards must address 21st century skills and be informed by existing standards such as the UNESCO Competency Framework for Teachers,43 the ISTE National Education Standards for Teachers,44 and the International Association for K-12 Online Learning (iNACOL) Standards.45 The competency standards need to reward continuous improvement, dynamism, and evidence of responsiveness to changing conditions. Common national competency standards would eliminate issues caused by varying degrees of support from states and local entities for the changes needed to prepare educators across the United States for 21st century learning. Common competency standards will ensure state-to-state reciprocity.”

What are the outcomes?

Outsourcing K-12 education, eliminating teachers (union busting), eliminating Colleges of Education, data mining, creating for-profit alternative certification programs, and outsourcing teacher preparation to online corporations.

How: 1) Create a set of “common”standards, 2) break standards down into modules called student learning outcomes (SLO’s), 3) use SLO’s to manufacture Competency-Based Education (CBE) framework, which..4) can be provided by private/corporate entities via online education and technology-driven resources (no classroom or teacher…or school, required).

So let’s begin.

Common Core is the alpha and omega of this process. The end results of the Common Core plan directly reflect the model bills developed by ALEC (whose goals include: privatizing public education by outsourcing content, teachers, and schools to online education tech companies). With Lamar Alexander and John King at the helm, it’s a fait accompli. The only “human capital” left to be mined will be children.

Each step of this progression (described below/see visual chart at end) includes a few examples of evidence to support each step. These examples are by no means the ONLY examples, they are merely a sampling. This also does NOT cover the correlation between CCSS outcomes and CHARTER SCHOOLS (a whole separate post would be needed for that).


Start with the Who Created Common Core (CCSS).

Remember this?

JPEGLabyrinth Slide (2)

(Common Core flow chart made by Morna McDermott, made Power Point by Karen Bracken)

The same organizations that crafted CCSS are marketing and profiting from the outcomes. A majority of the corporations and politicians invested in CCSS are also members of ALEC.

The Business Roundtable (member of ALEC) notes: Recommendation: Create national standards for portable, ‘stackable’ credentials for certificates, apprenticeships and pathways for earning credit at two- and four-year programs.”

According to a promotional flyer created by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation:

“Education leaders have long talked about setting rigorous standards and allowing students more or less time as needed to demonstrate mastery of subjects and skills. This has been more a promise than a reality, but we believe it’s possible with the convergence of the Common Core State Standards, the work on new standards-based assessments, the development of new data systems, and the rapid growth of technology-enabled learning experiences.” 

Elements of the re-authorization of ESEA (“Every Child Achieves Act”) make this possible. In my previous blog:

“It lets states develop accountability systems – restoring to states the responsibility for determining how to use federally required tests for accountability purposes. States will also be permitted to include other measures of student and school performance in their accountability systems in order to provide teachers, parents, and other stakeholders with a more accurate determination of school performance. In addition to opening the flood gates to charter schools (aka online edu tech companies), “This bill affirms a State’s responsibility to identify and eliminate barriers to the coordination and integration of programs, initiatives, and funding streams, and provide technical assistance and training in order to disseminate best practices.”


From Common Core, Student Learning Objectives (SLO’s) can be created.  A Student Learning Objective is an academic goal for a teacher’s students that is set at the start of a course. “It represents the most important learning for the year (or, semester, where applicable). It must be specific and measurable, based on available prior student learning data, and aligned to Common Core, State, or National Standards, as well as any other school and District priorities.”

  • CTAC, the Boston-based Institute for Compensation Reform and Student Learning at the Community Training and Assistance Center partners with departments of education to develop and promote SLO’s. William Slotnik is executive director of CTAC. He advocates for VAM and merit pay schemes. “William Slotnik,… has argued that performance-based compensation tied directly to the educational mission of a school district can be a lever to transform schools.”
  • NASBE Annual Conference (2012). Common Core State Standards. The panel consisted of David Coleman, “The Architect of the Common Core,” along with Christopher Koch (CCSSO and CAEP), Illinois superintendent of schools, and Jean-Claude Brizard, CEO of Chicago Public Schools.
  • According to CAEP, Student Learning Objectives (SLOs) provide summative effectiveness ratings based in part on Student Growth, defined as a positive change in achievement.
  • Vamboozled writes: “The structure of a typical SLO is now determined by a national system of data gathering funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and U.S. Department of Education.”
  • In 2010 presentation at United States Mission to UNESCO, Arne Duncan cites Sir Michael Barber (now CEO at Pearson, and advocate for corporate model reform) and says:

    Sir Michael Barber’s book, Instruction to Deliver, reminds us that the unglamorous work of reform matters enormously. He urges us to ask five questions that are almost the opposite of the compliance-driven process of technical assistance that has prevailed at the U.S. Department of Education.

    His five, disarmingly simple questions are:
     What are you trying to do?
     How are you trying to do it?
     How do you know you are succeeding?
     If you’re not succeeding, how will you change things?
     And last yet not least, how can we help you?


For More See:

From SLO’s, competency-based instruction and assessment can be “streamlined” and used to evaluate students, teachers, schools and teacher preparation programs via new (or alternative) “accountability” systems.

  • One blog states: “Competency-based education has been part of Achieve’s strategic plan for a few years, … states and national organizations that have made this topic a priority: Nellie Mae Education Foundation, iNACOL, Digital Learning Now, CCSSO and NGA.”
  • Pearson. “With competency-based education, institutions can help students complete credentials in less time, at lower cost.”
  • CCSSO Network for Transforming Educator Preparation (NTEP) project.
  • Competency Based Education Network (C-BEN). Funded by Lumina.
  • Also see Emily Talmage expose on CBE’s here.


For More See:

Because CBE is modulated it can be streamlined into online education systems. CBE directly aligns with “Open Badges” and online competency programs which can replace traditional classrooms AND teachers, and teacher preparation programs.

  • Digital Learning Now!, is a national initiative of the Foundation for Excellence in Education.
  • New Student Learning Objectives Management Tool Ensuring an Effective Educator for Every Student: partnership between CTAC and TRUENORTHLOGIC.
  • Digital badges for teacher mastery: an exploratory study of a competency-based professional development badge system CCT REPORTS (NOVEMBER 2014).
  • Open Badges: “Improving Competency-Based and Online Education: pathway to accreditation for competency-based and online education advocates … competency-based education is beginning to partner with online education.”
  • From Edutopia: “One of the main goals of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) is to prepare students for “college- and career-ready performance.” Badges can acknowledge the learning that has occurred along the way.”
  • Pearson has unveiled Acclaim, an Open Badge platform designed for academic institutions, professional associations and other credentialing programs.
  • Need more evidence? “The nonprofit behind this digital push, Bush’s Foundation for Excellence in Education, is funded by online learning companies: K12 Inc., Pearson (which recently bought Connections Education), Apex Learning (a for-profit online education company launched by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen), Microsoft and McGraw-Hill Education among others. The advisory board for Bush’s ten digital elements agenda reads like a Who’s Who of education-technology executives, reformers, bureaucrats and lobbyists, including Michael Stanton, senior vice president for corporate affairs at Blackboard; Karen Cator, director of technology for the Education Department; Jaime Casap, a Google executive in charge of business development for the company’s K-12 division; Shafeen Charania, who until recently served as marketing director of Microsoft’s education products department; and Bob Moore, a Dell executive in charge of “facilitating growth” of the computer company’s K-12 education practice.”
  • And the game.set.match for Lou Gerstner, former CEO of IBM, co founder of Achieve:  Obama Administration Announces More than $375 Million in Support for Next-Generation High Schools: “Commitments to develop and launch 100 next-generation schools serving more than 50,000 students over the next five years, including IBM’s commitment to support an additional 25 P-TECH schools and totaling more than 125 in development over three years, the New Tech Network expanding to an additional 50 schools, Silicon Schools Fund investing $40 million to launch 40 more schools, EDWorks’ new campaign to seed 12 early-college high schools in the South, and the Institute for Student Achievement tripling the number of high school students they serve from 25,000 students to 75,000 students.”


For More See:

CAEP is the new accrediting body being formed through the unification of two organizations charged with assuring quality in educator preparation—the National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) and the Teacher Education Accreditation Council (TEAC).

College Board was founded in 1900, the College Board was created to expand access to higher education.

  • Now, with the two main original architects of Common Core, Chris Koch (now President of CEAP) and David Coleman (now President of College Board), at the helm of the two most influential university-level organizations, Common Core can be actualized via competency-based instruction at universities, and delivers courses (and teacher education preparation) by online (outsourced) providers.
  • Chris Koch served on the Board of the Council for Chief State School (CCSSO) (architect and funder of Common Core) for a number of years and served as President from 2010-11. In addition, he was selected by the Council to serve on the Presidential transition team in 2008. He also served on the Commission on Standards and Performance Reporting, a national commission that developed more rigorous performance standards for accreditation of educator preparation programs.
  • Koch endorses NCTQ: “State School Superintendent Chris Koch, Democrats for Education Reform, Advance Illinois and two former CEOs of Chicago Public Schools endorsed the NCTQ review.” NCTQ is a corporate-constructed mechanism for branding Colleges of Education as “failures” and ripe for “innovative” take-overs.
  • In February of 2012, CAEP announced: “In order to help ensure that every classroom in the nation has an effective teacher, a high profile Commission on Standards and Performance Reporting will develop rigorous accreditation standards for educator preparation that will raise the bar for preparation providers, the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP) announced today.” The announcement adds: “Support in helping to underwrite the costs of the Commission is provided by Tk20, Inc., Pearson, and Educational Testing Service (ETS). Tk20, Inc. and ETS are providing support for Commission meetings, and Pearson is providing support for outreach”
  • C-BEN. Competency Based Education Network “is an ‘incubator’ that the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is funding through its Next Generation Learning Challenges grant, which is managed by Educause … competency-based programs share goals with the Degree Qualifications Profile (DQP), a Lumina-funded effort …”
  • iNACOL.  Redefining Teacher Education: K-12 Online-Blended Learning and Virtual Schools
  • Language of the connections between iNACOL, Common Core and UNESCO can be found here: “One of UNESCO’s newest education efforts is guiding mobile learning as a strategy for reaching the Education for All goal, given the ubiquity of mobile phones, especially in the developing world, and the growth in low-cost tablet computers (Vosloo, 2012) … As K-12 schools consider and adopt mobile learning approaches to increase student access to learning experiences, “flip the classroom” to expand learning time and increase engagement, personalize learning of Common Core standards, and broaden avenues for teacher communities of practice, school leaders are seeking models and evidence that mobile learning programs work.”
  • and here: “Today, states are collaborating in more ways than ever on the goals of college and career readiness building on the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). This guide is meant to help educational institutions and state governments understand the benefits of fostering deeper learning and personalized learning through open educational resources (OER). Open educational resources (OER) are learning materials licensed in such a way as to freely permit educators to share, access, and collaborate in order to customize and personalize content and instruction … UNESCO OER Toolkit:”


Elements of each of the initiatives outlined here (CCSS, SLO’s, CBE, online outsourcing, higher education) can be seen in the language of these bills:

For more ALEC model bills also see Mercedes Schneider post. 


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.”

Peggy Robertson reminds us: “Revolution continues to be the only answer. If the test and punish system remains in any shape or form – then the structure remains for them to move silently forward with a new paradigm shift that will appear – at first – almost invisible to the public. Any sort of weak stance on our part that accepts any part of their plan allows them to move more quickly.”



(click to enlarge and view)




Is Obama’s Testing Action Plan, like Fruit Loops, part of a nutritious breakfast? Don’t believe the hype.

This has been over a decade in the making. In 2000 Business Week  listed the companies benefiting from the new boon in online education stating, “Dozens of new companies are springing up to serve the emerging K-12 market for digital learning. Investors have poured nearly $1 billion into these companies since the beginning of 1999, estimates Merrill Lynch.”

Obama’s “Testing Action Plan” declares a reduction in standardized testing! Is less testing a good thing? Yes, of course it is! But what are we getting in its stead? The privatizers are hoping we aren’t asking that, or hoping we won’t look. But we are looking and we are asking. These are the same folks who are driving the policies to privatize public education. What do they gain for reducing testing? Our trust? It makes them look good. And they hope it gets “us” off “their backs.”  But what are we getting in exchange for this?

Remember…the same folks crafting test and punish want to privatize public education. That is their goal.  We are getting rid of over-testing – yes….that is good. BUT … In lieu of that we are now going to have states outsource the “innovative” outcomes-based assessments to the edu-tech industry. Their mission accomplished. Federally mandated testing was getting too much heat. So they’ve built a better mouse trap. One they hope we will not recognize.

If the reduction or elimination of federal standardized testing were the GOAL of United Opt Out National we would find greater cause to feel hopeful. But we believe that HST was/is merely an instrument toward privatization (profit) and therefore testing refusal is a strategy to dismantle corporate reform. But corporate reformers have not  put down their weapons. They have changed weapons…and strategy. Our goal is not ending testing. Our goal is protecting children, public schools and democratic educational practices. And so our fight wages on with a new face.

This is what the “Testing Action Plan” (TAP) says:

The new plan will “include competency-based assessments, innovative item types.” It states also “The Department will also share tools already available to do this work, including The Council of Chief State School Officers’ (CCSSO) Comprehensive Statewide Assessment Systems: A Framework for the Role of the State Education Agency in Improving Quality and Reducing Burden and Achieve’s Student Assessment Inventory for School Districts.”

This is what it means:

Remember CCSSO? They are the ones who crafted the Common Core State Standards. The standards were developed to create a “standardized” system that allows third-party companies to develop systems for outsourcing education. Now with a set of “national” standards as benchmarks, instruction can be metered out by online edu-tech companies who provide new “competency” based instruction and assessment. No teacher required.

In 2010, the Foundation for Excellence in Education (who supported Common Core) convened the Digital Learning Council, a diverse group of more than 100 leaders in education, government, philanthropy, business, technology and members of policy think tanks led by Co-Chairmen Jeb Bush, and Bob Wise (both integral in the creation and promotion of Common Core).  It’s an ALEC model-endorsed comprehensive framework of state-level policies and actions  “designed to advance the meaningful and thoughtful integration of technology into K12 public education.”

This idea is stated again toward the end of the Testing Action Plan (TAP): “Congress should continue to require the Department to work with external assessment experts to ensure states are using high-quality assessments that are aligned with state-developed standards and valid for the purposes for which they are used.”

TAP Says:

“…the Department granted a temporary waiver to New Hampshire to pilot a competency-based assessment system in four districts ….” as a way to set a national example, (and),  “The Department will work with external assessment experts…”

What this means:

The department will outsource education curriculum and assessment to corporations just like it did in NH where they “…have adopted unique and innovative learning approaches, such as digital learning, that create a more flexible learning schedule that extends beyond the school day.”

EXTERNAL assessment experts. Why? State depts of education already hire folks with years of experience and/or PhDs in curriculum and evaluation. WHY do we need “external” experts? Who are they? And who defines their “expertise”?

The Alliance for Excellent Education  (Bob Wise serves as president) in 2013 stated: “Competency-based advancement is an important part of New Hampshire’s strategy for implementing the Common Core State Standards.”

TAP Says:

“The Department will be part of the community of researchers, technologists, and innovators within the assessment community who are piloting new models, by providing federal funding and incentives for these next-generation assessments and by, where feasible, removing policy barriers to advance this goal.”

What this means:

Researchers: Think-tanks funded by the corporations who profit from their “recommendations” like Alliance for Excellent Education who promoted the NH policies touted in the TAP. Also, Knowledge Works , who wrote a policy brief back in 2013 promoting “competency-based” policies for the role of the U.S. Dept of Education.

Technologists: Online education companies, as mentioned above, such as KnowledgeWorks (the ones writing the policy recommendation) who state, “Since our founding in 2000, KnowledgeWorks has evolved first from an involved philanthropy focused exclusively in Ohio to become an operating foundation and finally a social enterprise engaged in work across the United States.”

Or, CCSSO Innovation Labs: “The goal of the ILN is to spur system-level change by scaling locally-led innovation to widespread implementation” Innovators: For-profit enterprises who receive your tax payers dollars to have your child’s educational services outsourced to them. And here’s that ”next generation” language again (stated in TAP) mirrored from Alliance for Excellent Education  (2013): “… the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers and the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium are working to develop next generation assessments, as well as real-time digital assessment systems, all of which are aligned with the new the Common Core State Standards.

Removal of Barriers: Thanks ALEC.

TAP Says:

Invest in innovative assessments: Congress should provide dedicated competitive funding for states with new ideas to develop innovative ways to measure student learning.”

What This Means:

Monies will be directed toward private companies who will be hired by states to implement online education and assessment services.

Here it is stated again: “developing innovative new assessment instruments, such as performance and technology-based academic assessments.”

Here’s how your child’s learning will be assessed  in this next generation:

“Further instructional technology advances will ensure ever more sophisticated learning platforms and data systems that not only more efficiently identify student needs, but also more effectively identify and deliver matching interventions from a repository of adaptive software, engaging digital content and instructor-delivered resources (online and face-to-face) not otherwise available through traditional means. The maturity of data interoperability and content portability standards will enable educators, students, and software applications to assemble ever more unique, best of breed resources customized to each student.”

TAP Says:

“This review process must respond to changes in the field, such as accounting for the increased prevalence of the use of technology-based assessments as well as techniques for demonstrating their technical quality … This could include competency-based assessments, innovative item types (and) … using technology to administer and score assessments …”

What This Means: Computers will determine what children should learn, how they learn, why they should learn, and who they are as learners.

Scratch away all of the other words used for window dressing. Distill the document down to its essence (i.e how many times is something repeated or rephrased). Hold it up against Alexander’s ESEA language and you get a clear picture: WE WILL GET RID OF  UNNECESSARY FEDERAL TESTING (not to actually re empower teachers and recreate meaningful learning) BUT TO MAKE WAY FOR THE INFUSION OF ONLINE AND TECHNOLOGY BASED LEARNING OUTSOURCED  BY STATES TO PROFIT-DRIVEN COMPANIES. WE CALL IT OUTCOMES –BASED. WE CALL IT INNOVATION. OUTSOURCING WILL BE CALLED “EXTERNAL EXPERTS.”

What they call it behind closed doors is PROFITS AND PRIVATIZATION. Alexander’s ESEA revisions are leading the way.

Sure, it’s hard to imagine that schools, especially in well-off suburban neighborhoods would permit their teachers to be replaced with technology. Or their children’s education to be outsourced to online companies. But more and more technology is infused with classroom learning and its becoming “normalized” gradually. Some states require kids to take at least one on-line course in high school. But the best weapon privatizers have at their disposal is our disbelief that “it could happen.” The words “that’ll never happen” are the hallmark of nearly every horrifying affront to democracy and human rights we’ve seen happen in modern history.  I go with what history has to show. “Only history itself can convince you of such a truth. And once you’ve seen that truth-really seen it-you cannot look way” (Kostova, 2005).

Who is bending the ear and wallet of YOUR STATE-LEVEL POLICY MAKERS to determine WHAT performance-based assessments will look like? You? Or, the corporations who are in bed with ALEC (which meets with state legislators behind closed door to craft model legislation)? How often do WE get to meet behind closed doors with legislators? Who do you think they will LISTEN to?

ALEC Model Legislation Reflected Between the Lines

Adopting the 10 Elements of High Quality Digital Learning:

Statewide Online Education Act:

“Course Choice Program Act”:


Was Someone Mean to You Today? 


by T. Poetter and J. Googins (Eds)

A book review

I need to begin with full disclosure: I have known and been friends with the co-author Tom Poetter for fifteen years. I am a huge fan of his other work including The Education Sam Sanders and Teacher Leadership for the 21st Century , for which I was invited to write the Forward in the first edition.  Poetter is one of the finest education scholars of our time; a curriculum scholar who embraces the idea of public pedagogy (outside the comfy walls of the ivory tower), and who possesses a rich critical understanding of how education policies look and feel in the k12 arenas in which they are implemented.

Like the books that have preceded this one, Was Someone Mean to You Today does not disappoint its readers. Poetter and co-editor Jody Googins perform a feat of magic, in which they eloquently weave together scholarly theories (so often left lifeless on the graduate school floor) and examine how these theories are manifest in the real world lived experiences of educators, students and parents. As someone fairly well versed in curriculum theorizing and the idea of currere (a curricular concept created by William F Pinar circa 1975), I was impressed with how Poetter and Googins are able to “translate” currere into the central guiding framework for the book.  It is intelligible, practical and relevant in ways I could have never imagined prior to reading this book. Currere becomes a powerful tool for those of us wishing to reclaim public education from the destructive grip of “mean” policies.  Citing William F. Pinar, Poetter and Googins define currere as a “four step process that involves viewing life experience and our interpretations of reality as a venture into curriculum theorizing that is ‘the scholarly effort to understand the curriculum, conceived … as a complicated conversation’ (Pinar, 2012, p.1).”

The reader of this book need not be intimidated by dense and impenetrable theorizing, something which too often alienates non-curriculum scholars (aka “normal people”). Rather than spending too much time talking about it, Poetter and Googins show their readers HOW currere looks in action, and by example, make the case for its power in dismantling dominant discourses.

The question, “Was Someone Mean to You Today” is one we usually associate with children confronting bullies in the school hallways, except in this case, as the title implies, the bullies are the corporate-style reformers intimidating and terrorizing teachers and students with “bully” policies. The book demonstrates how currere becomes a tool for standing up to the bullies.

As Poetter explains in the Introduction:

“These ‘treatments’ (papers) would be four-page, scholarly essays with an autobiographical perspective, ‘synthesizing’ the course readings, course writing by other students, discussions in class, the news, societal trends, recent movements in the reform universe etc (currere’s synthesis step) … What I wanted them to begin seeing were the complex connections among our stories, the emergent themes that became resonant, and the power the larger story, told by all of us, about the problems that current ‘reform’ movement has created for American public schools ..” (p. 8).

And the multiple authors do not shy away from strong language, for example entitling Chapter One “NCLB: Educational Genocide.” They call ‘em as they see ’em. I respect writing like that.

Through the process of currere, these graduate students (now turned authors) transform  their own self-reflective journeys into a cohesive book that tackles the more painful and challenging issues in education including equity, racism, classism, accountability, technology, power, dominance and democracy. The students in this project reflect on their own stories of public schooling and interactions with education policies. The voices of each student, reflecting on their own journey expose the grotesque underbelly of the testing and accountability narratives. Their first -person accounts layer with, across and upon one another, forming a symphony of powerful anti-reform stories that truly speak “truth to power.” For example, on p. 19,  Googens, Shoen, and Smith demand that, “Data, statistics, and test scores cannot tell our story.”

And the book is undeniably relevant. The New York Times this past week examined how Texas is re-writing its social studies curriculum to soften the narrative of American slavery. And this news echoes the words of currere-author Kim Jenkins in her section entitled “Framing the Issue: Race and the Rhetoric of Disguise” where she says, “”Never let them dilute your history because if you let them, they will take control of your story and lessen the horror…” p, 84.

In between these individual personal narratives the editors and authors “zoom out” so as to guide the reader through a meta-analysis of the stories, drawing from various scholars such as Dewey, Kumashiro, or Heidegger, within the context of the bigger themes which the stories address. For example in Chapter Three the authors “frame” the story of “Peggy” (one of the many currere-authors), stating:

“In the following piece by Peggy Larrick, she speaks about the hidden curriculum in schools set forth by social norms for student behavior in terms of appearance and respect for authority figures. Peggy reflects on her naïve mission to help children in her district achieve social justice, but comes to realize that imposing her middle-class ways on students is not the answer to their success” (p. 91).

The stories are honest, difficult, heart-wrenching and inspirational. Through these stories we can relate, and consider the possibility of reflecting on our own stories, and changing ourselves. The story-tellers do not tell readers what they ought to do, they do not lecture, they do not preach; but they relate to us through their personal experiences.

Before I was even through the Introduction I was thinking to myself, “I need to get my colleagues to read this.” Before I was through Chapter One I was thinking, “I need to get my students to read this book.” I found myself highlighting nearly every line on every page. My final recommendation is that anyone who cares about the future of public education read this book. Rare is it find a text that is powerful, honest, informed, and accessible to all possible (real) stakeholders: teachers, parents, students, and community activists.

Poetter and Googins successfully elevate currere from the pages of graduate syllabi and textbooks, giving the currere process life and power through their own self -reflective narratives, and in doing so having given those of us fighting for democracy and equity in public education an invaluable resource.

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(A special thanks to Allison McDowell for provoking me to this research and to an amazing blog by Emily Talmage  that had mad amounts of information on this subject)

This has been over a decade on the making. In 2000 Business Week  listed the companies benefiting from the new boon in online education stating, “Dozens of new companies are springing up to serve the emerging K-12 market for digital learning. Investors have poured nearly $1 billion into these companies since the beginning of 1999, estimates Merrill Lynch.”

The development of what we now call Common Core, competency-based learning and the online education industry have a long history. Click here for more on that.

Begin with ALEC Model Legislation  called Resolution Adopting the 10 Elements of High-Quality Digital Learning for K-12

One element which states, “Advancement: Students progress based on demonstrated competency.”

This resolution was adopted in 2011 following a proposal crafted by Bob Wise and Jeb Bush. Tom Vander Ark, also proclaims himself an “architect of Digital Learning Now’s 10 Elements of Digital Learning”

Tom Vander Ark was the first business executive to serve as a public school superintendent and was the first executive director for education at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Mr. Vander Ark is chairman of theBoard of Directors for iNACOL, the International Association for K-12 Online Learning. You can see his blog.

Bob Wise and Jeb Bush along with Bill Gates were central to the development of the Common Core State Standards. These standards are an integral part of the new online competency based network.

According to Talmage: “A paper produced by the Gates Foundation describing current investments related to Common Core has a section titled “Proficiency-Based Pathways.” The report states that “conditions are ripe for creating personalized learning opportunities beyond school—in an anytime, anywhere fashion,” and that “we believe it’s possible with the convergence of the Common Core State Standards, the work on new standards-based assessments, the development of new data systems, and the rapid growth of technology-enabled learning experiences.”

Achieve (instrumental in development of CCSS) helps create state policy frameworks for graduation requirements tied to career and college ready standards.

According to a promotional flyer created by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation:

“Education leaders have long talked about setting rigorous standards and allowing students more or less time as needed to demonstrate mastery of subjects and skills. This has been more a promise than a reality, but we believe it’s possible with the convergence of the Common Core State Standards, the work on new standards-based assessments, the development of new data systems, and the rapid growth of technology-enabled learning experiences.” 

In 2010, the Foundation for Excellence in Education convened the Digital Learning Council, a diverse group of more than 100 leaders in education, government, philanthropy, business, technology and members of policy think tanks led by Co Chairmen Jeb Bush, and Bob Wise.  The 10 Elements of High-Quality Digital Learning were released at this 2010 National Summit on Education Reform. It’s an ALEC model-endorsedcomprehensive framework of state-level policies and actions “designed to advance the meaningful and thoughtful integration of technology into K12 public education.”

Read the full list of members and advisors (I am sure you will recognize quite a few of these names central to the ed reform playbook—hint: yes, Gates is in there). This policy is further promoted by International Association for K12 Online Learning (iNACOL) in their website statement:

“Digital Learning Now’s Roadmap For Reform provides lawmakers, Governors, and policymakers with tangible steps to transform education into a model for the world, a system where every student graduates from high school with the skills and knowledge to succeed in college and careers.”

On the Board of Dircetors of iNACOL is Nicholas C. Donohue who serves as President and CEO Nellie Mae Education Foundation “Which has been on the receiving end of the Gates Foundation’s investments in developing and promoting the concept of “proficiency based” education has been the Nellie Mae EducationFoundation, a non-profit that retained 250 million dollars as an endowment when it separated from the Nellie Mae Corporation in 1998. In 2010, the Nellie Mae Education Foundation also received 1.7 million dollars from the Gates Foundation.” Talmage.

Also  the vice chair of board of directors is Mickey Ravenaugh Executive Vice President Connections Learning. Notably she is the former co-chair of the Education Task Force for ALEC.

Also remember Tom Vanderark proclaimed architect of this bill is also on board of directors. He uses his blog for self promotional webinars and posts.

Competency Based Learning meets Online Education

In Maine, we are witnessing this very experiment take place in our schools in the form of proficiency-based learning. The Nellie Mae report writes, ‘Schools and districts are developing increasingly mature competency-based pathways and approaches that others can study and potentially replicate.’ States that have not adopted proficiency-based learning will look in the future to data gathered from students and schools in Maine when deciding whether or not to adopt similar legislation to LD 1422.”

The connections between state legislation in Maine and ALEC edutech companies going back to 2012 can also be found here.


Add another ALEC model bill called “Statewide Online Education Act”:

“This legislation creates a statewide program that provides high school students with access to online learning options regardless of where the student lives. The options are designed to be high quality and allow for maximized learning potential by focusing on student mastery of subjects at their own pace and own time, instead of the traditional seat-time learning requirements.”

Also see ALEC model legislation “Course Choice Program Act”

You can see now why Lamar Alexander’s re authorization of ESEA promoted a return to the states for decision making about assessment. It’s not the tests. It’s the online ed tech corporations that can now deliver state-wide curriculum and instruction. The ESEA reauth says states would be “responsible for establishing asingle statewide accountability system which differentiates between schools based on student achievement, and would determine specific interventions for identified schools.  The bill does not list specific strategies or requirements that must be used for these interventions.”

But the ALEC bills make clear what strategies will be used. The ALEC Statewide Online Act bill states: “The Statewide Online Education Program is designated as a program of the public education system.” Let’s review the beginning here: The 10 Elements of High-Quality Digital Learning for K-12 is “a comprehensive framework of state-level policies and actions designed to advance the meaningful and thoughtful integration of technology into K12 public education.”

This is a timely piece of model legislation given Lamar Alexander’s re authorization of ESEA giving states control over curriculum and assessment. While I am an advocate of the elimination of federally mandated testing and the opt out movement, we should have known better to trust Senator Alexander. One of the things this bill does is: “It lets states develop accountability systems – restoring to states the responsibility for determining how to use federally required tests for accountability purposes. States will also be permitted to include other measures of student and school performance in their accountability systems in order to provide teachers, parents, and other stakeholders with a more accurate determination of school performance.”

In addition to opening the flood gates to charter schools (aka online edu tech companies) “This bill affirms a State’s responsibility to identify and eliminate barriers to the coordination and integration of programs, initiatives, and funding streams, and provide technical assistance and training in order to disseminate best practices.”

Heck, even Microsoft is applauding the bill! (hashtag- not shocked).

See this link for iNACOL Statement on Support for Competency Education in Senate ESEA Reauthorization Discussion” in which they state:

“The International Association for K-12 Online Learning (iNACOL) applauds Chairman Lamar Alexander for taking the first step to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) by releasing a discussion draft that includes encouraging elements for supporting next generation accountability systems…and establish the option to implement competency-based systems of assessments.”

Oh, did I mention that iNACOL is a member of ALEC?

Did we REALLY ever believe that handing testing and assessment back to the states was going to be a “win” for the opt out movement knowing who it was behind the scenes crafting the legislation?

iNACOL proclaims: “A key challenge for Congress will be ensuring that a reauthorization of ESEA increases equity in our K-12 education system while rethinking how assessments and accountability systems are structured. iNACOL looks forward to working with Chairman Alexander on an ESEA reauthorization that begins a transformation of our education system to student centered learning.”


We have gone from the frying pan into the fire. So light it up.




Let’s Start with a Few Recent Headlines:

Teacher Prep Colleges Are Failing the Teachers

Study Delivers Failing Grades For Many Programs Training Teachers 

States Slow to Close Faltering Teacher Ed. Programs

(also see more recently: and )

Traditional colleges of education (aka 4 year undergraduate teacher preparation with state certification usually conferred in tandem) are under the gun in recent years. But WHO is it that is putting the element of doubt about the quality of teacher preparation programs into the mainstream media to begin with? Peter Taubman forewarned about this movement over seven years ago when he wrote: “It’s a remarkable sleight of hand. The best way we educators can address serious social, political, and economic problems is to comply with regulatory agencies and their mandated audit practices, subject ourselves to constant surveillance, render ourselves and our situations as quantifiable data, and surrender to normalizing discourses that drain our subjectivities.” (The Tie That Binds: Learning and Teaching in the New Educational Order, Journal of Curriculum and Pedagogy, 4 (2), 150-160)

And here we are.

Framing a Narrative

A close examination of the facts suggests that colleges of education as an extension of their public K12 counterparts are being subjected to the same strategies and tactics led by corporate-run “reform” policies in an effort to privatize public education. All that is needed is sufficient “doubt” about our faith or trust in Colleges of Education. The “doubt” strategy is evident in other extreme far right policies regarding their challenge climate change policies (do we really know if its human made?), voter ID fraud (the whopping fraction of a fraction of the population who could destroy our democracy, right?), and even evolution as a scientifically proven explanation for the origins of the human species (it is a theory after all). All that’s needed is that seed of “doubt” to maintain leverage in a debate to keep their agenda on the table with the illusion of legitimacy. Like other public service sectors (agriculture, health, prisons) this effort to profoundly alter the landscape of teacher preparation in America is both ideologically and economically motivated.

The ideological motive behind eliminating Colleges of Education comes from far right individuals and think tanks who fear that Colleges of Education are bastions of leftist thought and “brain washing”. Common assertions made by these critics such as Chester Finn claim that the typical school of education “has a Left-wing political bias, favoring Socialist philosophies such as Paulo Freire’s critical pedagogy “ and the “Teaching for Social Justice” movement” and are of lower academic standards and include “Mickey Mouse” courses” (Finn, C. E. [2001]. Getting better teachers—and treating them right. In T. M. Moe (Ed.), A primer on America’s schools (pp. 127-150). Stanford, CA: Hoover Institute).

It is not surprising that the voices leading the Pedagogy of Doubt are think tanks and non profits sponsored by The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), the most powerful organization “you’ve never heard of” (Moyers,, which is directly tied to the Koch Brothers. As a Rolling Stone article explains ALEC: “They don’t oppose big government so much as government – taxes, environmental protections, safety-net programs, public education: the whole bit. (By all accounts, the Kochs are true believers; they really buy that road-to-serfdom stuff about the holiness of free markets.”

The lesser known but equally important “man behind the ALEC curtain” is Paul Weyrich (1942-2008). In addition to being one of co- founding creators of ALEC he also co-founded the conservative think tanks, the Heritage Foundation, and the Free Congress Foundation. He coined the term “moral majority”, the name of the political action group Moral Majority that he co-founded in 1979 with Jerry Falwell.

According to Paul Weyrich:

“The next conservatism should renew the call to disestablish the Federal department of Education and leave local schools to local communities. If we don’t stop it, soon we will find that it doesn’t matter how we educate our children, their minds will still be poisoned by this anti-Western, anti-Christian ideology”

The economic motive also exists for attacking Colleges of Education is economic, a move also generated by ALEC to craft policy catering to free market incentives that reap billions of dollars in profits by closing or co opting public Colleges of Education into privately managed profit driven intuitions.

As Giroux  illustrates: “Neoliberalism is not merely an economic doctrine that prioritizes buying and selling, makes the supermarket and mall the temples of public life and defines the obligations of citizenship in strictly consumerist terms. It is also a mode of pedagogy and set of social arrangements that uses education to win consent, produce consumer-based notions of agency and militarize reason in the service of war, profits, power and violence while simultaneously instrumentalizing all forms of knowledge.”

See blog Part II for more data on this.

Three Easy Steps

There is the playbook which has been used to shutter schools from New Orleans to Chicago to Detroit and other urban locations.  This is not conjecture. It’s a proven pattern. Following this step by step How to Privatize in 3 easy steps I suggest this narrative has found its way into reforms making their way through higher education.

  1. Manufacture a Crisis (Berliner, 1996)

This is a very real strategy which was embraced by Paul Weyrich and the political and corporate members of ALEC. In the words of Eric Heubeck, a protégé of Weyrich:

We will use guerrilla tactics to undermine the legitimacy of the dominant regime. We will take advantage of every available opportunity to spread the idea that there is something fundamentally wrong with the existing state of affairs. For example, we could have every member of the movement put a bumper sticker on his car that says something to the effect of ‘Public Education is Rotten; Homeschool Your Kids.’ This will change nobody’s mind immediately; no one will choose to stop sending his children to public schools immediately after seeing such a bumper sticker; but it will raise awareness and consciousness that there is a problem. 

Crisis #1: Colleges of Education are “Failing!”: Huebeck’s tactic is being imitated by key corporate owned policy makers. In October 2009, U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan said that “by almost any standard, many if not most of the nation’s 1,450 schools, colleges and departments of education are doing a mediocre job of preparing teachers for the realities of the 21st-century classroom.” (Medina, Jennifer [22 October 2009] “Teacher Training Termed Mediocre”New York Times. Retrieved2012-03-02).

The manufacturing of faux ratings of Colleges of Education by National Council of Teacher Quality (NCTQ)  is the starkest evidence of a manufactured crisis created by the same individuals who seek to profit from marketing solutions ever created.  See blog Part II for more about NCTQ.

Crisis #2: Colleges of Education are Expendable–Now we are facing the message of “under enrollment” –the higher education version of “underutilization” in K12. The manufactured crisis of under utilization is used to justify closing k12 public schools and re opening them as privately managed charter schools.

Ed Week (funded by Bill Gates) refers to this as “an alarming trend.”

This narrative was repeated by Cabinet Report  whose corporate host is School Innovations & Achievement (SI&A), “a bellwether education consulting firm … among the nation’s leaders in providing software and service solutions to schools with a combined enrollment of nearly six million students.”

Maybe there are fewer students enrolling in colleges of education. However, the framing of the language as negative IS important. It implies that colleges of education must be doing something wrong causing low enrollment that we must “fix.” WHO is defining the numbers as “low”?  Low according to whom? Many college classes are often over-full lacking the financial resources to hire more faculty and open more sections of classes. So they extend the class sizes, making quality instruction often times challenging. How can we have insufficient numbers of sections available for classes necessary to complete a program of education within four years (note the counter criticism is that we fail to graduate student out in four years) but also be faced with under enrollment? Which is it? Reframing the language, might be an opportunity to provide more personalized instruction which in turn would help us prepare even better beginning educators. Maybe fewer students in each class would mean fewer students failing to get in to their needed courses within a four year time period. Maybe, given the financial constraints of most institutions we no longer have to stretch ourselves to hire more and more adjuncts to cover the overflow of students clamoring to complete our courses.

  1. Create A System of Self-fulfilling Prophecies:

Many of the so-called solutions to the so called crisis actually exacerbate existing problems, moving the crisis from manufactured to real. For example, CAEP (formerly NCATE) is requiring Colleges of Education collect data on their interns (student teachers) from two sources while they are teaching in the field. This is to measure the efficacy of the teacher preparation program and the quality of the intern (to appease Arne Duncan’s notion of mediocrity).  Refer back to headline Number Three.  which reported, “Louisiana, North Carolina, Ohio, and Tennessee, among others, are at the forefront of another effort. They are issuing annual reports showing teacher programs’ ability to raise student achievement, usually by connecting K-12 students’ test scores to each institution that prepared those students’ teachers.”

However, this over simplified solution to the problem ignores the myriad of factors that all educators know to be true about how student achievement is produced such as family dynamics, schools funding, health and wellness of the child, and most notably POVERTY.  As Taubman warns:

“Racism, poverty, class warfare, political corruption, as well as specific individual and local problems are translated into lack of qualified teachers who can be produced if we just have the right standards and practices in place. Furthermore, we know we’ll have succeeded by the results on tests taken by the teachers and by the students.”

With little to no consideration for these key factors, interns and colleges of education will be judged on their performance. Partnerships with schools within high poverty neighborhoods will have fewer interns and fewer interns will be prepared to work in such communities. Ravitch echoes this concern: “Judging them by the test scores of students taught by their graduates will discourage colleges from sending their graduates to distressed districts and serve as a warning to avoid special education and English language learners.”

In addition, one might imagine that if “data performance” will be attached to whether or not a student/intern may even graduate, one might imagine enrollment in colleges of education plummeting even further. As the saying goes, more rules make more criminals, just as more accountability will create more “failure”—the narrative framing has moved from manufactured to inevitable.

  1. Market a “Solution”:

The same entities manufacturing the crisis conveniently are also the same folks waiting in the wings to market the solution. Such is the case with Relay Graduate School and Teach for America. These organizations, whose key funders are the same people whose “think tanks” and non profits generated the “data” to create a crisis narrative in the first place, profit handsomely for their efforts. The end result also serves the ideological interests who created the crisis. Again, Paul Weyrich:

“Conservatives have also made progress in dealing with the corruption of our universities by the ideology of cultural Marxism, which includes all the phony “studies” departments we now see in most colleges. We have established new colleges and universities, both “brick and mortar” and on-line institutions, that offer the classics of Western culture. Conservative alumni groups are having real impact on some existing universities, working to restore freedom of thought and speech.”

Universities have become a new market for venture private investments to make their profits. According to University Venture Funds, “In the last few years … a new strain of entities has emerged. These use private (often investor-provided) capital to work with existing institutions to create entirely new institutions or enterprises.”

Let me recap: Colleges of Education are subjected to the same two manufactured narratives as their K12 counterparts: Failure and under utilization. These narratives of “doubt” are mobilized by the same corporate and political entities that market “solutions” to the crisis they fomented. Corporate members of ALEC finance non profits, think tanks and research that provide “data” to market these narratives. The motives for this are ideological (a blind faith in unfettered free market and privatization, and fear of “progressive” ideas) and economic (profits created via free market privatization).  

Do teacher preparation programs need to improve? Of course they do. Just as any professional program for lawyers, nurses or business majors could be improved. But our areas in need of improvement are not the “problems” framed by corporate reformers. And their “solutions” are not the real solutions to the problems we face. For example, we need to address how to attract more teachers of color (education is still largely a white female profession). We need to create curricula that emphasize critical theories which encourage beginning educators to critique “reform” and the attacks launched on public education and our profession. A pedagogy of doubt IS needed-one that WE frame, one that asks our students to doubt whether or not those promising “reform” have other economic or ideological motives NOT in the best interests of public education or children. So rather than responding to the manufactured crisis narratives such as how will we address “low enrollment” or “improve teacher quality” by twisting ourselves in knots to address these “crisis”-a task designed for our failure no matter how we try, we should put our energies into a deep critique of the narrative itself and whose bidding we are choosing to serve?



My Letter to Arne

Posted: October 3, 2015 in Uncategorized

Dear Arne,

I know many members of the education revolution, fighting for the rights of ALL children for an equitable, meaningful and sustainable public education, are doing a jig of joy over your resignation. I share in their collective joy…and yet…well, I’m gonna kind of miss you.

I’m going to miss your vapid blank facial expressions. I am going to miss the empty rhetoric which any dolt could have written on the inside of a Hallmark greeting card, and call it a genuine response to our genuine problems. I am REALLY gonna miss those horrible foot- in- the- mouth gaffs you made, like the racist response to the people of New Orleans after Katrina and the way n which you erase the voices and actions of people of color which are central to the opt out movement by calling it a movement of “white middle class soccer moms.”

You made it so easy to fight back. You gave us so much fuel for fodder. Now what? Will King, being the asshat that he is, continue to destroy public education as badly as you have? I am sure he will. But will he be as much fun?

The first time you and I met was in 2011 during the Save Our Schools march when i gave you my hand made doll-in-a-box (made especially for you). I am sure you’ll take it with you when you leave and keep it somewhere to treasure always.


We met again when United Opt Out occupied the US Department of Education. You invited us in and shared with us the black hole that is your intellectual void .

The last time was met was just under a year ago when you spoke at UMBC in Baltimore MD. At the Q and A session is asked you this:

“My name is Morna McDermott. We have met before though I doubt you remember it. I stand here today representing the thousands of members of Save Our Schools, the 50 thousand members of the Bad Ass Teachers Association, and the 30 thousand plus members of the opt out movement as a founding organizer of United Opt Out. Collectively we ARE the voices of teachers, parents and activists who are disgusted by the reforms YOU have put in place which are destroying our childrens’ education, our teaching profession, and our communities. We refuse to sit by idly while you privatize our schools and destroy our democratic rights. My question for you is this: ARE YOU READY FOR US?”

Ahh. The blank expression on your face was something I’ll remember always. Sigh. But then you leaned in to your microphone and responded, “I am ready for anything.”

But, now you are resigning…so I guess you aren’t ready for us. I like to believe you are leaving in large part because of us. Because the revolution is growing … and you know it.

If we drove you out, we can drive out John King or anyone else the corporate king- makers choose to appoint.

Game on.


Morna McDermott