Common Core “state” Standards for English Language Arts and Mathematics are a fraud


by Eric Holcombe

The Common Core “state” Standards have been pitched by both our state and federal governments as being “state-led” and something that a small group of state governors (12) cooked up in their spare time at National Governor’s Assocation (NGA) conferences. Phil Bredesen was among this group of twelve, though you will not remember the people of Tennessee, nor Phil Bredesen for that matter, requesting for Tennessee schools to be made exactly the same as all the other states in the country in English Language Arts (ELA) or Mathematics standards. He did spout the NGA-speak phrase “prepare our students to compete in the global marketplace” a lot. We mere taxpayers are to believe that allegedly this group of governors created these standards as part of the NGA. New standards for pre-Kindergarten through college age students and that we desired to measure all students for these school years and beyond to include four years AFTER the state has educated them for the first sixteen, thus the term P-20 you will find in the standards. This creation of standards allegedly occurred in 2008-2009, but for some reason, these state governors who just had to make us all exactly the same since we allegedly were begging them to, didn’t implement any of their academic standards back home. I’ll bet you can’t find a single press release from the Bredesen administration bragging about how he was instrumental in completely reforming our ELA or Mathematics standards for every public school in the country. Instead, implementing these standards was a requirement for obtaining the Race To The Trough federal funds. It was a part of most states’ applications to get the federal money – or of course, they wouldn’t get the federal money. Massive, online data mining is part of the Common Core and two new testing arms were created to administer all the data collection as part of Race To The Trough funding. Tennessee leadership is in deep. The fact is, our state committed to full implementation of Common Core in 2010 in order to get the federal carrot at Race To The Trough. When Governor Haslam later asked for and received a waiver from the No Child Left Behind federal requirements, this was a huge Common Core padlock that permits no deviation from the requirements of the Common Core “state” Standards. They cannot be deviated from,  only added to, but addition is capped at 15% because of the granted NCLB waiver. Of course we were having a hard time explaining why we were such a failure at NCLB that we needed a waiver since 80% of the schools would not make Adequate Yearly Progress, yet at the same time we had allegedly implemented Common Core two years earlier at Race To The Trough time and were wanting to report all this improvement with the “reforms”.  Of course all you ever remember reading are the stories about the “Mean Republicans” demanding teacher accountability, with Bill Frist and Jamie Woodson running interference with SCORE (a non-profit also created just in time to cash in on Race To The Trough). It is also important to note the arguments about Common Core being incessantly touted as  “rigorous” academic standards, though you will note once changing to them our scores went up, yet we still failed NCLB requirements simultaneously and begged for the waiver.

Of course the “official story” about Common Core is a lie. It was absolutely not “state-led”, nor was any of it implemented except as a condition to receive federal money. There are many players in this story, some benefit financially, some benefit ideologically. They don’t all come from the same political party. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation was instrumental on the financial side and has invested at least $120 million to various players in this scheme, including the NGA, the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), the NEA, the AFT, Memphis City Schools, Bill Frist’s SCORE among others. Other organizations were created as the game unfolded to cash in as the standards are implemented. So the school officers are paid off, the teacher’s unions are paid off, the governors are paid off. Did we leave anyone out?

Dr. Sandra Stotsky, professor emerita, University of Arkansas and R. James Milgram, professor emeritus of Stanford University are scheduled speakers for today’s conference at Notre Dame titled: The Changing Role of Education in America: Consequences of the Common Core.  Stotsky served as the English language arts (ELA) standards expert on the Common Core “state” Standards Validation Committee. Milgram served on the Validation Committee for the Mathematics standards. These folks have some very concerning things to say about these alleged “state-led” standards and the foundational meetings they were part of.  Stotsky has made her presentation available in advance which can be read in its entirety here. This is one serious smoking gun. I am including a few excerpts below.

For many months after the Common Core State Standards Initiative (CCSSI) was launched in early 2009, the identities of the people drafting the “college- and career-readiness standards” were unknown to the public. CCSSI eventually (in July) revealed the names of the 24 members of the “Standards Development Work Group” (designated as developing these standards) in response to complaints from parent groups and others about the lack of transparency. What did this Work Group look like? Focusing only on ELA, the make-up of the Work Group was quite astonishing: It included no English professors or high-school English teachers.

That right there seems kinda important don’t it?

The lead ELA writers were David Coleman and Susan Pimentel, neither of whom had experience teaching English either in K-12 or at the college level. Nor had either of them ever published serious work on K-12 curriculum and instruction. Neither had a reputation for scholarship or research; they were virtually unknown to the field of English language arts. But they had been chosen to transform ELA education in the US. Who recommended them and why, we still do not know.

Silly Professor….don’t you remember, these are all “state-led”; why all us dumb taxpayers recommended them back in 2008. By the way, I am certain Phil Bredesen MUST have been there and she has simply forgotten his input. David Coleman has since moved on to become president of the College Board, in order to rewrite the SAT college entrance exams. Apparently they have been measuring all the wrong college readiness stuff lo these many years and need to be changed to match our new Common Core “state” Standards too. What this means is that your “new” SAT score is absolutely meaningless compared to the “old” SAT scores. Don’t forget, this is the Bill Gates hit man that has zero experience teaching English.

As a condition of membership, all VC members had to agree to 10 conditions, among which were the following:

Ownership of the Common Core State Standards, including all drafts, copies, reviews, comments, and nonfinal versions (collectively, Common Core State Standards), shall reside solely and exclusively with the Council of Chief State School Officers (“CCSSO”) and the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices (“NGA Center”).

I agree to maintain the deliberations, discussions, and work of the Validation Committee, including the content of any draft or final documents, on a strictly confidential basis and shall not disclose or communicate any information related to the same, including in summary form, except within the membership of the Validation Committee and to CCSSO and the NGA Center.

As can be seen in the second condition listed above, members of the VC could never, then or in the future, discuss whether or not the VC discussed the meaning of college readiness or had any recommendations to offer on the matter.

Gee, it seems like these “state-led” standards should belong to the people or the states, not copyrighted by a couple of corporations. Why did “we” give them the standards “we” asked for? Why did the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation grant millions of dollars to the CCSSO simultaneously?

“The deadline for producing a good draft of the college-readiness and grade-level ELA (and mathematics) standards was before January 19, 2010, the date the U.S. Department of Education had set for state applications to indicate a commitment to adopting the standards to qualify for Race to the Top grants.

But the draft sent to state departments of education in early January was so poorly written and content-deficient that CCSSI had to delay releasing a public comment draft until March. The language in the March version had been cleaned up somewhat, but the draft was not much better in organization or substance – the result of unqualified drafters working with undue haste and untouchable premises.

None of the public feedback to the March draft has ever been made available. The final version released in June 2010 contained most of the problems apparent in the first draft: lack of rigor (especially in the secondary standards), minimal content, lack of international benchmarking, lack of research support.

In February 2010, I and presumably all other members of the VC received a “letter of certification” from the CCSSI staff for signing off on Common Core’s standards (even though the public comment draft wasn’t released until March 2010 and the final version wasn’t released until June).”

Still think Common Core is “state-led”?  Both Stotsky and Milgram refused to sign off on these standards.

Milgram served as an expert on the Mathematics standards Validation Committee and was the only mathematician. Others involved in mathematics education were on the committee, but no other content expert on mathematics. Milgram had been involved in the then current mathematics standards for Texas public education. A presentation he made before the Texas legislature regarding his experience on the Common Core Validation Committee and the reality of the low expectations of the Common Core Math standards can be read here. Another big smoking gun for the mathematics side. Some choice excerpts follow:

 “As a result, there are a number of extremely serious failings in Core Standards that make it premature for any state with serious hopes for improving the quality of the mathematical education of their children to adopt them. This remains true in spite of the fact that more than 35 states have already adopted them.  For example, by the end of fifth grade the material being covered in arithmetic and algebra in Core Standards is more than a year behind the early grade expectations in most high achieving countries. By the end of seventh grade Core Standards are roughly two years behind.”

The Core Mathematics Standards are written to reflect very low expectations. More exactly, the explicitly stated objective is to prepare students not to have to take remedial mathematics courses at a typical community college.”

So much for “rigorous”….

Time to up the ante state leaders. We aren’t buying your story. Time to parade Phil Bredesen around and get him to explain how it all went down, maybe produce those reams of emails from constituents begging for us to be just like everyone else so our children can “compete in the global marketplace” (and get data mined without our consent). Maybe you could trot out Arne Duncan for another round telling us how it is all “state-led”. Or, you could start telling the truth.

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