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Common Core Connections

Make the lie big, make it simple, keep saying it,
and eventually they will believe it.
Adolf Hitler

My last post was about the Common Core Standards Terms of Use, and this one is about some of the players behind the Common Core Standards.  If you usually come here expecting some emotional post don’t despair…this will not be a trilogy.  Emotions will return in the next post.

When I first started teaching I needed “stuff” to guide me.  I used the text, teacher books, and other teacher aid things that helped me along in my very difficult first school.  I loved it when free samples would come in, or when some organization would send us material to use in class.

I can distinctly remember the first time I started to question what I was given.  It was a unit on industrialization.  Great images, handouts, and a super video cassette.  Each individual part of the unit was pretty good, but all together, it gave me some heebie jeebies.  It would leave the kids believing that workers were having a great time, factories saved the world, big corporations swooped in to save towns, and o’ ya…eat more candy.  There were great scenes of factories making candy, really neat interesting archival footage.  And at various points in the video it pointed out the benefits of making candy and eating some.  Turning over the box the unit came in reveled that the Hersey Corporation was now in the business of education.  I did use some of the video…but with the sound turned off 🙂

After that I used very few of the free boxed sets.  There was the one on the history of transportation.  Thank you Ford.  The one on The Constitution.  Thank you General Electric.  And the one on the highlights of American History.  Thank you Hyundai (I always thought that was a bit funny).  As they came in, some were very good, but they all had an agenda…but some were still very good.  Did using them mean I was selling-out?  Was I allowing big corporations to dictate what happened in my class and what my kids learned?

So what would you do?  Would you support a new science program that was written by Dupont?  A Civil Rights program produced by an anti-Semitic group?  How about if the units were actually good, and you couldn’t find the bias?

This September I will start in earnest teaching to the Common Core State Standards (CCSS).  Just like that very first unit sent to me by Hersey, something about them gives me the heebie jeebies.

What follows is not an investigative writing piece, and not a well researched post.  It is a quick outline of some of the players behind the CCSS.  As I have been reading about them I have been saving links here and there, jotting down notes on papers, and making a few mental notes.  This post will simply share those.  I wish I had more time to write a real analytical piece, complete with great descriptions of all the players, but I will leave it up to you to do the further research.  There will be some assumption on my part that you know some of the players and places (ex, Gates Foundation, National Education Summits), if you don’t, google is one tab away.

Let’s start in 1996…

In 1996 there is a National Educational Summit.  Most governors show up, and so do big CEOs.  The leaders of Xerox, Bell South, ATT, Boeing, IBM, Philips Petroleum and many more came to the conference and created the group Achieve, Inc.  The purpose was to build standards and assessment systems.  After Bush becomes president, he garners the business support to heavily lobby Congress to pass NCLB.  The business group was called Business Coalition for Excellence in Education(BCEE) who used some creative lobbying to get bipartisan support for the bill.

Let’s skip ahead…

In 2008 Gates starts to more vigorously fund efforts to create national standards.  He gives money to the  National Governors Association, Council of Chief State School Officers, and ACHIEVE, Inc. to fund the International Benchmarking Advisory Group report for Common Core Standards.  The following year he gives $2.2 million dollars to National Governor’s Association to push for National standards. In 2009, the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), National Governors Association (NGA), and ACHIEVE, Inc. agree to work together to create the CCSS.  Gates agrees to give $20, 000,000 over three years to support it. In 2009 Achieve begins to write the CCSS and the next year they are finished.  Keep in mind these are standards the states are agreeing to…not national standards.

NGA is divided into NGA and NGA Center for Best Practices.  The NGA Center is who is involved with the Common Core.  NGA Center has a corporate fellowship program.  On the NGA Center site it is explained as:

“The Corporate Fellows Program, established in 1988, promotes the exchange of knowledge and expertise between the private sector and governors on public policy issues affecting business and states. As a Corporate Fellow, your contribution supports the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices (NGA Center) and positions you and your colleagues as intellectual resources for providing governors ideas that work.”

Some of the many companies that have “positioned” themselves as “intellectual resources” are Microsoft, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company, McGraw Hill, Educational Testing Service, Pearson, Scantron, The College Board, ACT, and CCA.  CCA “designs, builds, manages and operates correctional facilities and detention centers on behalf of the Federal Bureau of Prisons, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the United States Marshals Service, nearly half of all states and nearly a dozen counties across the country.”  Not sure if the NGA consulted them on the CCSS 🙂 After contributing to be a fellow a couple things you get are ” Opportunities for in-person discussion with senior NGA executives and policy experts…and Invitations to briefings with NGA senior staff on Center policy initiatives.”

The Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) wants to build a series of  National Virtual Learning Magnet schools.  They worked with North American Council for Online Learning (NACOL) and the Monterey Institute for Technology in Education(MITE).  NACOL, which has added International to it’s name and is now iNACOL basically wants to drive online education.  Pearson is one of its coorporate sponsors.  The Hewlett Foundation gave them $315,000 for “for a coalition around uses of federal education stimulus funding for OER adoption.”  OER is Open Education Resources.  Using Open education Resources could allow one to bypass publishers resources for their education.  Hewlett has granted over $100,000,000 to develop OER resources.  OER Commons is being developed by the Institute for the Study of Knowledge Management in Education (ISKME) whose President and founder is Lisa Petrides. Lisa Petrides was a fellow at Educational Testing Services, they do the Praxis tests that teachers need to take to get state certifications.  OER Commons give teachers the tools they need to align their work with the CCSS and align their OER with the CCSS rubrics developed by Achieve.

The Monterey Institute for Technology in Education(MITE) is developing the National Repository of Online Courses (NROC) which will provide online course for grades K-college.  It’s an OER project supported by the Hewlett Foundation.
In order for MITE, ISKME, and iNACOL to be able to implement their programs smoothly they need the common standards that NGA and CCSSO have developed.  I will not touch in this post how almost all the players in this post also have fingers in the international cookie jar and how common world standards would assist all of the corporations involved.

The group that is responsible for spearheaded the CCSS is Achieve.  The architects of the CCSS for Math were William McCallum, Jason Zimba, and Phillip Daro.  Zimba went on to found Student Achievement Partners to which McCallum and Doro are advisors.  Doro has spoken at conferences for Pearson, and is a part of the launch team of Illustrative Mathematics.  They were funded by Gates to provide guidance to states on assessments and how to implement CCSS. They will provide tools for each standard.  Illustrative Mathematics is run by the Institute of Math and Education which is funded by Gates…and McCallum is the Advisory Board Chair.  Daro is also working with the Pearson Foundation and the Gates Foundation to develop a “digital curriculum for mathematics from Kindergarten to the college ready level.”

Jason Zimba is the co-founder of The Grow Network which helps schools use assessment to inform instruction.  The Grow Network was sold to McGraw-Hill.

The lead writers of the math CCSS just published a document to guide textbook publishers.  Already the Council of Great City Schools say that they will only consider books that follow the guideline.  Combined they have $2 billion in buying power.

The lead writers for the language arts portion were David Coleman, along with the chief language arts architect, Susan Pimentel. David Coleman can best be referred to as Chief Architect of the CCSS but not necessarily the language Arts portion…not officially. Susan along with David Coleman and Jason Zimba founded Student Achievement Partners in 2007.  While the language arts team does not have any teaching experience, they have worked with educators.  Pimentel has led training sessions for KIPP fellows to lead charter schools.  She also works for Education First whose mission is ” to partner with policymakers, education advocates, and foundation and business leaders to analyze education improvement options and strategy, move public policy agendas forward, and generate public and educator support for reform.”  Past clients include Achieve and the Gates Foundation.  The founder of Education First, Jennifer Vranek, founded Education First after being an advocacy grantmaker for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.  Paolo DeMaria is also with Education First. He works with Lumina.  Lumina used to loan money to college students until they sold all their loans to Sallie Mae and in turn used the money to get more kids into college by changing policy.  Lumina is one of the biggest foundations you have never heard of.

David Coleman is the other main writer of the Language Arts section, many sites will label him the architect of the language arts section and the entire CCSS.  He once tutored high school kids while at Yale.  He along with Jason Zimba founded The Grow Network which was sold to McGraw-Hill.  He left McGraw-Hill in 2007 to start Student Achievement Partners with Pimentel and Zimba.  McGraw-Hill currently has the only nationally available test for schools to test progress towards the CCSS.  Coleman was just recently named President of the College Board (AP, SATs).  He hopes to align the SAT to the CCSS.  If that happens, the SAT will no longer be needed, because the National tests will already be testing the CCSS.  So the focus will be on getting more kids into AP classes with AP materials, tests, training…  Coleman supports the grading of essays by robo-graders.  The Hewlett Foundation is currently offering prize money to anyone who can come up with software that can grade essays as well as humans.  The Hewlett Foundation is a contributor to Achieve.  Open Education Solutions and Common Pool will help manage the competition.  Open Education Solution’s CEO was the first Executive Director for the Gates Foundation.  Common Pool was founded by Jaison Morgan who worked closely with Gates.  Until recently, Coleman was also Treasurer of Students First.  Zimba was the Director of Students First.  The President of Students First is Michelle Rhee.

Back to Achieve which managed the process to develop the CCSS…

Achieve has a small number of big contributors such as Gates, Intel, MetLife, Nationwide, Prudential, Statefarm, and Noyce.  Noyce Board Member Robert Schwartz was the ex-President of Achieve.  Philip Doro, one of the math CCSS architects is also on their board.  Hillary Pennington, also on Noyce’s board, was with the Gates Foundation.  She is now on the board of Capella University which owns Sophia (think ready made for schools Khan’s Academy).

Achieve wants a K-20 alignment and has created the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARC).  PARC will be the next generation of tests our kids will take.  PARC has received $186 million Race-to-the-Top funds.  They wish to build a “pathway to college” and use technology to assist in the assessing along the way.  They will create the tools for teachers, and the assessments.  PARC will be able to declare a student college ready.  Essentially PARC represents 25 states.  PARC will develop the test they will use, more states I assume can sign on.

Achieve also created the the American Diploma Project (ADP) to make college readiness a priority of high schools.  States that have signed on are suppose to align their high school curriculum to prepare students for college.   For ADP there is no one-size-fits-all, apparently each state get to decide on it’s own.

At the beginning I mentioned the  Business Coalition for Excellence in Education(BCEE), which is now the Business Coalition for Student Achievement(BCSA).  They have been influential in making sure that NCLB does not go away.  On the Board of the BCSA is the Chairman of StateFarm, Prudential, Intel, and Accenture.  They along with Microsoft pushed for the re-authorization and expanded standardized testing in 2007. Edward Rust the CEO of State Farm is also on the board of McGraw-Hill.  Bill Green the CEO of Accenture is also on the Board of Directors of McGraw-Hill.  Accenture is closely aligned with Microsoft’s cloud computing Azure platform.

I was surprised to see that the PTA is making a push towards getting parents to mobilize schools to embrace CCSS, especially the ones that are in PARC states. Gates has given the National PTA $2 million over the last couple of years.  Gates gave $191, 424 to the Washington State PTA, and over $100,000,000 to various groups that support CCSS.  Gates and Pearson has also created a four year high school plan for schools to follow to complete the CCSS standards.

Many of the above corporate players are more interconnected than even what I have described above and many of the corporations have given money to multiple CCSS groups, and their foundations are involved in many ways with each group.  For example Prudential, All-State, and State Farm are also NGA Center sponsors (someone tell me why!)   Pearson gave $2,000,000 to a Smithsonian program that only CCSSO nominated teachers can participate in to develop learning materials aligned with the CCSS for online learning.

So as you can see, our kids are in good hands.  Again, the above is not an exhaustive research project, but I wish I began my reading with that in mind.  I would have loved to make a spreadsheet with names and companies and cross-referenced them.  I know there are many more connections than what I laid out above.  I was especially surprised by the number of times someone worked in Chicago or had a connection there.  Please excuse any errors like me calling someone a CEO when their title is President, or stating that someone was with a company when maybe they had just recently left.  My mental notes sometimes let me down.

I also stayed away from going through most people’s credentials.  While almost all have no experience actually inside of a school, personally I still do not know how important that is.  I do think it is ironic that out of the members of Student Achievement Partners, the folks pushing out the CCSS and developing the guidelines and tools, only one person had taught in a school before.  One person had not been to college.  Wonder what she says at the round table when they are stating you have to go to college to be successful.

Pic of my organized note taking system for this post below.
Untitled

6 comments

  1. Paul
    Thanks for sharing your research and for making your post a must-read for those of us entering Common Core World.
    I am leading PD sessions to help teachers get a handle on the expectations, always balancing that work with the reality of the motivations of those who wrote it and those who press it forward. I’m no huge cheerleader for Common Core (there are some positive shifts here and there) but we need to able to see the underlying motivations. Your post helps us keep a clear eye on things.
    Sincerely,
    Kevin

  2. I just came across your blog after someone posted a link to your “Terms of Use” post. I’ve read several posts, and you’ve got some great stuff here! (The photos are fantastic! It gives me the impression that I’m reading a blog by one of Thoreau’s personal friends!)

    You’ve done a great job of laying out some of the spider’s web of connections behind CC. Thanks!

    I found this post particularly interesting because I’ve also been looking at the spider’s web of connections behind Common Core. I think you might be interested in something a group of parents and teachers did in Utah. We are working to try to get our state to abandon the Common Core. We had a group of experts out to talk to public officials and the public about CC, and one of the experts spoke directly to

    1. (whoops!) the background and connections. The link is here, with the portion on history and background starting at 12:11 into the video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=O-1d6JhK858#!

      You’ll see that the forum has a certain political flavor, but I am finding that discomfort with the Common Core spans political persuasions. No matter where a person stands, the background on CC is what it is, and it makes people uncomfortable for a number of reasons. Thanks for your research into this! I look forward to what else you find.

  3. Paul, your blog is a breath of fresh air. Thank you for your honesty and for your research. I wish there were thousands of you.

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