Common Core “state” Standards – Whodunit Part 1

by Eric Holcombe

As the Tennessee Senate Education Committee meets this week for a “fact-finding” session on the Common Core “state” Standards, I thought it was important to show you where these came from, who approved and lobbied for them at the state level and who should have a good memory about what they are and where they came from.

The “official” story we have been given is that the Common Core “state” Standards are a “state-led” initiative and originated through the work of a small number of state governors (including Phil Bredesen) via the National Governors Association (NGA); that they are internationally benchmarked academic standards for Math and English Language Arts (ELA) only; that these are “proven” and “rigorous” standards;  and that they apply to the P-20 years (meaning pre-Kingergarten to four years post college graduation). I have previously shown how the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation spent hundreds of millions of dollars influencing the creation and implementation of these standards and that federal taxpayer funds were used as a bribe in the Race To The Top (RTTT), a.k.a. Race To The Trough, initiative to force acceptance of the Common Core “state” Standards on the states in order to have any chance of receiving the federal money. In this post, I will introduce you to Tennessee’s application for RTTT and point out some key promises made in that application and more importantly WHEN those promises were made and exactly WHO made the promises. Future posts will explore some of the interesting players in the application that endorsed the idea of committing all the public schools in the state to the Common Core “state” Standards upon the condition of receiving federal money.

After you see some of this information and the players involved, you will like me be scratching your head at the idea that the state legislature needs to have a “fact-finding” meeting about Common Core or what is in it. The RTTT application is a lengthy document comprised of 264 pages that has seven appendices which include an additional 847 pages. The total application contains 1111 pages. At the time of this writing, the state Department of Education still has the documents on their website here. The RTTT application is dated January 18, 2010. The RTTT application deadline date set by the U.S. Department of Education was January 19, 2010. This date is important because of the testimony of Dr. Sandra Stotsky, the ELA expert on the Common Core Validation Committee:

“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).”

This is important because the people who signed off on this application and wrote letters of endorsement/encouragement and signed a memorandum of understanding agreeing to the promises made in the application did so without even knowing what the Common Core “state” Standards were yet. At best, assuming the “poorly written, content-deficient” draft was available January 4, 2010, in a two-week span this 1111 pages was assembled along with many rubber-stamp letters of endorsement. Some of those were even made in December of 2009. We, the public, are told in the “official” story that this effort is “state-led”, that allegedly this is something we the people must have asked our state leaders for, yet, there was not even a public-comment draft of the Common Core “state” Standards available until two months after the state of Tennessee committed to them. So who made that commitment that the public didn’t ask for?

Here is the RTTT application (less appendices):

Race To The Trough Application by horbunce

You will find the signatory parties to the application on pages 2 and 3 of the pdf. They are: Governor Phil Bredesen, “Chief State School Officer” Timothy Webb (the former Lewis County School superintendent and deputy education commissioner that was appointed to Commissioner of Education by Bredesen), the President of the State Board of Education, B. Fielding Rolston (also appointed by the Executive branch and confirmed by the legislature), and the TN State Attorney General, Bob Cooper (appointed by the TN State Supreme Court judges, who are illegally selected by the governor contrary to our state constitution). This “Chief State School Officer” language is not used by the state of Tennessee, but is a federal term referring to the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), which is one of the parties paid multi-millions by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation over recent years in Common Core implementation “encouragement”.

Beginning on page 10, there is a nice “imagine” story about a utopian public education system that would exist if only we had enough money. Some interesting quotes from that section:

page 11:“Two years ago, the American Diploma Project established the framework in our state for a public education system that is truly focused on college- and career-readiness. Today,
because of his powerful commitment and Tennessee’s extraordinary progress, Governor Bredesen is the national co-chair of Achieve, which leads the Diploma Project.

The Diploma Project was another program funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Achieve Inc. was given over $12.6 million for this purpose in 2008. As I have written before, Bredesen out, Haslam in at the board of Achieve Inc. and the Gates money kept rolling in. I would like to know why our governors felt it necessary to be on the board of a Washington D.C. company that wasn’t part of creating these “state-led” standards and yet it is a bragging point in our application to get federal money which, if we receive, we will then implement the Common Core “state” Standards.


page 12:

“To demonstrate our commitment to the Race to the Top philosophy — and to meet President Obama and Secretary Duncan’s bold challenge for transforming public education in America — Tennessee is responding in a comprehensive and bipartisan manner.”

Wait a minute, shouldn’t this say something more like, let us states show you the “state-led” standards we have already created and are implementing? I thought the federal government had nothing to do with this…

Last week, Governor Bredesen, Democrat and Republican lawmakers, the State Board of Education, the Tennessee Education Association, school districts, business groups, and child advocates joined together in the State Capitol for an extraordinary session of the legislature in order to focus the total energy and will of government on the single task of improving education. The result? Lawmakers enacted the most sweeping set of education reform measures in a generation – the Tennessee First to the Top Act of 2010.”

This piece of legislation (Senate Bill 5), along with the Complete College of Tennessee Act of 2010 (Senate Bill 6) were both passed in special session. The Tennessee First to the Top Act of 2010 is also contained within the RTTP application in Appendix E (p. 16). It was passed on January 15 and signed by Governor Bredesen on January 16, 2010.  Judging by the name of the bill, apparently they may have known they would be “first” ahead of time and awarded Round 1 RTTT money. The Complete College of Tennessee Act of 2010 was passed the next week on January 21 and signed by Governor Bredesen on January 26, 2010. These bills amount to the education “reforms” that were passed by the Tennessee Legislature dealing with a litany of things: charter schools, teacher evaluations and merit pay, achievement school districts and otherwise laying the foundation required to implement the Common Core “state” Standards in order to keep the promises made in the application for the federal taxpayer funds. Much has been made of charters and teacher evaluations, but you didn’t hear much about those “state-led” standards that we allegedly were asking for.

In fact, this application includes a letter of support from all seven Democrat and Republican candidates for governor – a show of bipartisan support that ensures our application will be carried out no matter who holds the governor’s office.

This is true and in a future post I will highlight the candidates for governor along with other elected and unelected officials that committed to enforcing Common Core on the state. Notice that only the Big Two parties are invited. Apparently they also know in advance that no one else will be elected as governor. More importantly, it proves this is not an R vs. D issue. They are both involved in the federal takeover of public education. Neither private political party will step up to rescue you, because they are both in on the game.

In the next post, we will see whom else had committed to these standards without being able to review them as well as the specific promises to implement the Common Core “state” Standards within Race To the Top.

4 thoughts on “Common Core “state” Standards – Whodunit Part 1

  1. Pingback: Common Core “state” Standards – Whodunit Part 2 | Blount County (BC) Public Record

  2. Pingback: Common Core “state” Standards – Whodunit Part 3 – Commiting to standards that don’t exist | Blount County (BC) Public Record

  3. Hey Eric,
    As a teacher I am seeing firsthand the affects of Common Core as it is implemented across the state. You are dead-on correct in stating that this is not a political issue in terms of Democrats or Republicans, but I don’t think you are correct in placing the blame squarely on the Federal government. The Feds are now so far in bed with the Gates Foundation and testing companies like Pearson that those companies are deciding educational policy and essentially dictating that to the Federal government.

  4. Gabe,

    Both our state and federal governments are corrupt and certain individuals within are getting paid in this scam. Mainly pointing out the outright lie told by our state and federal governments that the Common Core “state” Standards are/were “state-led”. Both have worked hard to spin this and more recently Arne Duncan gave the press marching orders on how to “report” on Common Core.

    It is no less than a federal government takeover. Easier to corrupt one (unconstitutional) federal department of education than to attack 50 states individually. There are many opportunists taking advantage and trying for their skim off the top. These include Haslam (Achieve Inc.), Huffman, Emily Barton (PARCC), State Board of Ed. (Federal taxpayer money, Gates Diploma Project/Achieve/Memphis Schools money), Frist/Woodson/Pinkston (TNSCORE funded by Gates, state of TN tax dollars and ?), Public/private charter organizations hoping to expand, private businesses/common core endorsers thinking they will get pre-trained factory robots.

    Yes, Gates was/is bankrolling much of the beginning of it (and has his 2004 contract with UNESCO), but all these parties took the money while claiming they have the children’s best interests in mind. They couldn’t pull it off without the hundreds of millions of federal tax dollars bribed in Race To The Top. It has been a long time in the making most visible in recent times as ­Goals 2000, School-to-Work, and Workforce Investment in the Clinton era and then No Child Left Behind in the Bush era. All UN or federal driven, all unconstitutional. Thus the need for the ruse of “state-led”.

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