In Part 3, I showed the ridiculous promises made by the signatories of the Tennessee Race To The Top (RTTT) application to unconditionally commit to the Common Core “state” Standards, when they did not yet exist and in fact only a “Confidential” draft from five days earlier was available. Yet, they were able to assemble an 1100+ page application centered on these standards in five days. This post will highlight the endorsements of this 1100-page commitment by political leaders, “higher” education officials, the teacher’s union and others.
The RTTP application boasts (page 39):
“…Tennessee has relied on a number of education, business, foundation, and community partners to carry out its ambitious plans. In this application, we are pleased to submit a number of letters of support from key leaders and organizations across the state…All letters can be found in Appendix A-2-3. They are from:
• The Tennessee Education Association
• Associations representing principals, administrators, superintendents, urban superintendents, and school boards
• The General Assembly leadership
• The state’s Congressional delegation
• All seven candidates for the 2010 gubernatorial election
• Several leading national non-profit organizations that are dedicated to working in Tennessee
• The state charter school association, representing our 21 charter schools
• The business community, including groups that signed on to support the Tennessee Diploma Project
• Civil rights organizations
• Parents’ groups
• Higher education institutions
• Community-based organizations
• STEM leaders STEM
• Philanthropic foundations”
Here is a link to Appendix A from the RTTT application for your review. The letters begin on page A-27 and follow in the order they are listed in the application bullet list above.
A cursory review of these letters reveals that many of the “stakeholder” parties were obviously spoon-fed a form letter to use. In fact, many of them used it verbatim. Several changed a sentence or two but kept almost all of the unaltered text. The charter school proponents were the only group to consistently write original material that seems to espouse their goals rather than parrot the form letter.
First letter up is by the TEA who state: “We advised all of our local affiliates to sign their LEAs Memorandum of Understanding in order to support Tennessee’s RTTT application.” Now keep in mind that the First to the Top Act of 2010 was rushed through the week of the application and signed by Governor Bredesen on January 16, 2010 to be included in the RTTT application two days later on January 18, 2010. This legislation contained most of the teacher evaluation and tenure reform that the teachers were up in arms about in the following months. TEA’s letter is dated the same day this legislation was signed – two days before the application date. Did the TEA know the First To The Top Act was in the RTTT application they advised their membership to endorse? Did they look at the 1100+ pages first? Did they review the “confidential” draft of the Common Core standards that came out only three days before the letter of endorsement on January 13, 2010?
On Page A-30 is a letter from the Tennessee state legislative leadership to Arne Duncan, signed by Ron Ramsey, Kent Williams, Jamie Woodson (soon to become a SCORE employee with Bill Frist), Lois Deberry, Delores Gresham, Harry Brooks, Randy McNally and Craig Fitzhugh. As we saw in Part 1, most all of these legislators were involved in sponsoring the First To The Top Act of 2010 that was part of the RTTT application. The reforms in that act were things these legislators appeared to want, having the first opportunity in several generations to make some movement in that direction. However, did they know the RTTT application signed by Governor Bredesen, Tim Webb and B. Fielding Rolston committed the state to the Common Core “state” Standards also? Was the First To The Top Act a “bipartisan” deal of federal wants and state wants? There is an interesting line in their letter of endorsement. It reads: “The Tennessee plan outlines reforms in four specific areas aligned to the federal guidelines”. What? Don’t they mean “state-led” guidelines that we thought up? What are these “federal” guidelines they are talking about if it isn’t the Common Core? Did the legislators know the commitment to the Common Core was in the RTTT application? Did they look at the 1100+ pages prior to writing this letter? Did they review the “confidential” draft of the Common Core standards that came out only two days before their letter of endorsement?
Next on Page A-32 is a letter from the Tennessee U.S. Senators and Representatives to Arne Duncan that is consistent with the ambiguous quality of their robo-emails. It does have the verbatim “four specific areas” most of the letters contain. I seriously doubt they ever laid eyes on the application. Their letter of endorsement is dated January 11, 2010 TWO DAYS BEFORE the Common Core “state” Standards “confidential” draft was made available to the state which were committed to in the RTTT application.
On Page A-34 is a letter signed by the Republican and Democrat candidates for governor at the time of the RTTT Application. Apparently, these were the only people who would be allowed to become governor, and it was necessary to obtain commitment from each of them to the Common Core “state” Standards contained in the RTTT application. Their letter is dated January 18, 2010, the same day as the application. Did the candidates for governor know the commitment to the Common Core “state” Standards was in the RTTT application? Did they look at the 1100+ pages prior to writing this letter? Did they review the “confidential” draft of the Common Core standards that came out only two days before their letter of endorsement?
Next come a series of letters to Governor Bredesen from Nashville Mayor Karl Dean, Charter School Growth Fund, KIPP, New Leaders for New Schools (a New York company), Teach For America and The New Teacher Project. Besides Dean, I believe most of these organizations were going to benefit from the First To The Top legislation as opportunities for charter schools and teacher tenure limitations were promised in the reforms. Besides Dean, their letters are more original. All are dated the week of the First To The Top Act legislation being passed or the week prior, meaning many of them could not have seen the first “confidential” draft of the Common Core “state” Standards that were released to the state on January 13, 2010. How could these organizations endorse the RTTT Application when it couldn’t even be complete yet for them to read?
Pages A-42 through A-45 contain two identical letters to Governor Bredesen signed by various Tennessee charter school executive directors or principals from KIPP Nashville, LEAD Academy, Smithson Craighead Elementary, Smithson Craighead Middle, Nashville Global Academy, Ivy Academy, Chattanooga Girls Leadership Academy, Circles of Success Charter School, Memphis Business Academy, City University Schools, Power Center Academy, Freedom Preparatory Academy Charter School, Promise Academy, KIPP Memphis, Soulsville Charter School, Memphis Academy of Health Sciences, Southern Avenue Charter School, Memphis Academy of Science and Engineering and STAR Academy. These letters offer “enthusiastic support ” for the RTTT proposal. Notice the date of the identical letters: December 18, 2009. Mack Throckmorton’s (Tennessee Charter School Association Executive Director) letter is next, also dated December 18, 2009. How could these charter school operators endorse a RTTT application that includes the Common Core “state” Standards, when those standards will not have been made available to the state in only a “confidential” draft form for another three weeks?
After a few letters from chambers of commerce and other “business leaders” we come to the magnum opus of rubber stamp letters. Starting on page A-53 are a series of verbatim letters that only change the opening or closing paragraphs (if any) where the organizations plug themselves. These rubber-stamp frauds are:
The NAACP, TN Urban League Affiliates, Memphis Urban League, The Tennessee PTA, Junior Achievement, Volunteer Tennessee, Tennessee Organization of School Superintendents, Tennessee School Boards Association, The Public School Forum of East Tennessee, State of Tennessee Higher Education Commission, The University of Tennessee Chattanooga, The University of Tennessee Knoxville, The University of Tennessee Martin, Cleveland State Community College, Dyersburg State Community College, Motlow State Community College, Roane State Community College, Volunteer State Community College, Walter’s State Community College, The Tennessee Board of Regents, Tennessee Technology Center at Dixon and Murfreesboro, BIOTN, Tennessee Governor’s Academy, Middle Tennessee State University, Biomimetic Therapeutics, Memphis Bioworks, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, Smith&Nephew, Tennessee Biotechnology Association, Benwood Foundation, Nashville Healthcare Council, Niswonger Foundation,
Nothing says “educational reform” like mass plagiarism.
Each of these letters have some very significant common traits beyond the obvious regurgitation of a provided form letter:
1. All of them are written prior to the release of the “confidential” draft of the Common Core “state” Standards made available to the state on January 13, 2010. Most of them were written in December of 2009.
2. They all contain the same phrase found in the letter from the Tennessee legislature leadership letter to Arne Duncan: “The Tennessee plan outlines reforms in four specific areas aligned to the federal guidelines”
How could these organizations endorse the RTTT Application when it couldn’t even be complete yet for them to read? What “federal guidelines” are they writing about if not the Common Core “state” Standards, which were not yet available to the state in a “confidential” draft form?
Who provided the form letter all the rubber-stampers used?
Note that several of the other letters in Appendix A were obviously based on the form letter, they just weren’t blatant, verbatim copies like those listed above. Did all these businesses and foundations know about the Common Core “state” Standards being contained in the RTTT application or were they sold on “First To The Top” legislation instead? I think Cal Turner Jr.’s letter to Governor Bredesen (Appendix A, page A-139) is revealing. Cal’s letter is one of the later dated ones found in the application, written on January 12, 2010 (still a day before the “confidential” draft of the Common Core “state” Standards are made available to the state).
He writes: “This letter is written as an enthusiastic endorsement of the legislation you are proposing during this week’s special session of the Tennessee legislature“.
His letter demonstrates there was a confusion between First To the Top Act legislation and the RTTT application as possibly being one and the same. They aren’t the same thing. The Eastman and Bridgestone letters were dated January 7 and January 12, 2010 respectively and have similar language. It appears the businesses in January were part of a separate campaign to support the First To The Top Act of 2010. They may have been deceived or just ignorant about what would really come within the RTTT application.
One thing is certain, Very few of these “endorsers” could have even had the opportunity to see the “confidential” draft of the Common Core “state” Standards because they were not made available to the state until January 13, 2010. The public didn’t get to see them until March of 2010.
Of course, none of those letters are from you. But allegedly, we the people all asked for this.