The Truth About Common Core.
As simple a title as this seems, getting a good definition about who created Common Core, who supports it, how it was created, and what the purpose behind it really is can be quite daunting. Depending on whom you ask you might get some of these answers.
- Common Core is a communist and/or fascist takeover of education
- Common Core is a purely philanthropic and benevolent endeavor created for the betterment of humankind
- Common Core was created and tested by zillions of teachers over centuries
- Common Core was written by one guy in his garage over a bet
- The Common Core Standards themselves are so perfect in their conception that they might as well have been derived from the same holy tablets Ten Commandments were written on, so no testing was necessary
- Common Core was never tested before it was implemented and it is not evidence based. However, now the creators are actually testing the standards using millions of students nationwide as unwitting test subjects
Depending on whom you ask you might easily get a wide range of answers to these questions like the ones I’ve given you. What’s hard is getting people to agree on the answers publicly. Fortunately, over time, proponents of the standards have revealed their true intentions, mindsets, and missions. Surprisingly, while they are not exactly as bad as some people have been saying, they are actually not all that far off from the worst case scenarios either.
But you need not take my word for it, you really should read theirs.
For instance, one of the chief complaints about Common Core is that it was not really a state led endeavor that included hundreds and thousands of teachers, but a corporately sponsored project led and written by a few folks like Jason Zimba and David Coleman founders of Student Achievement Partners (which was founded by Zimba and Coleman to accept large sums of undisclosed funds from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to draft and promote Common Core, which they had also written largely by themselves.)
According to Jason Zimba’s own accounts in a recent NPR article, Common Core was actually written in a “barn”, largely by him, a physics professor with a dream about remaking the way math was taught in the United States. This is an account by one of the principle creators of Common Core in an article hosted by “liberal” NPR, a Bill Gates funded entity. (Liberal and Conservative are not as important as dollars and cents when it comes to Common Core coverage.)
Writing The Common Core
In September 2009, Zimba started writing the Common Core math standards. Although his second daughter was due the same month, the standards were all-consuming. Zimba recalled getting a text in the delivery room from one of his co-writers telling him to stop responding to emails about the project: “It’s time to be a dad now.”
That fall, though, finishing the Common Core math standards came first. He was still on the faculty at Bennington, although on leave for part of the time, so the standards were mostly written at night, in “the barn,” an old garage on his property that he had transformed into a study.
“It was hard on us as a family,” he says. “I gave an awful lot.” In October, his mother, who had worked most of her life as waitress, died. Zimba kept working.
This account does not pair well with the popular account often relayed by Common Core proponents (that the standards were an extensive projects involving thousands of writers and stakeholder’s input), but it is Jason’s account, the lead (and perhaps sole) writer of the K-12 standards for Math. Jason was so obsessed with writing these standards himself he neglected his family, a pregnant wife in the delivery room, and even his dying mother. When opponents of Common Core explain they feel like the standards were written without human concerns for children and parents, it’s easy to see how that situation might have come to be. Someone who spent so much time isolated in a barn/garage while his wife was in the hospital or raising their child and while his mother was expiring from a terminal illness might not have a lot of compassion for others.
This feel-good piece was written by NPR, which is funded by the Gates Foundation and Carnegie Corp which were also, coincidentally, the primary funders of Common Core.
In 2007, Coleman and Zimba wrote a paper for the Carnegie Corp., a foundation with interests in education (and one of the many funders of both The Hechinger Report and NPR).
The CCSSO contracted with a new organization Zimba and Coleman founded, Student Achievement Partners. It declined to disclose the amount of the contract or the total spent on the development of the Common Core but said funding was provided by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (another supporter of NPR), Carnegie and other foundations, as well as state membership dues from CCSSO and the NGA.
That answers who created Common Core, but what about some of the answers to the other questions? What do Achieve and their representatives say about the Core? Here is a slide and the notes associated with that slide from a Microsoft PowerPoint Presentation branded as a Student Achievement Partners/Achievethecore.org product hosted on LDOE’s “Louisiana Believes” website.
So, where do the Common Core State Standards fit in with this conversation? In order to improve education, we need to have a set of standards that are powerful, meaningful, and achievable. During the development of the Standards, the design principles were often described as fewer, clearer, and higher. Although these are relevant, and perhaps even subjective terms, it is worth understanding how these make the Common Core State Standards different in approach than typical state standards.
- By fewer, the design principle is that these standards can be learned within a year. There is very little repetition from year to year of the same standards.
- The standards are clearer in that they more precisely describe outcome expectations, rather than vague or broad descriptions of learning.
- The standards are higher with respect to what is meant by higher – not harder – standards. Having higher standards means that what is included in the Common Core State Standards is actually intended for all students each year; there is congruence between what is stated and what is expected.
The next issue then is how to get to fewer, clearer, higher. Unlike typical standards development or revision processes in which groups of stakeholders are gathered in committees to advocate for their individual positions, preferences, pet topics, these standards relied on evidence for what students need to be prepared for college and careers. It turns out that a lot of what we spend time and energy on in school K-12, doesn’t buy students much after graduation. This of course wouldn’t be a problem if time was not such a finite resource. Because time is limited however, decisions had to be made. Rarely in education do we pay so much attention to the limited resource of time. We often, rather, keep adding and adding initiatives. It is always easy to add one more thing. These Standards will built with the awareness that each additional expectation came at the cost of time spent on what was already included. It is exceptionally important in understanding these Common Core State Standards that we acknowledge and accept the power of the eraser as well as, perhaps after, the power of the pen.
This is a remarkable example of doublespeak that makes a lot of vague assumptions while at the same time complaining about how other standards were overly vague and broad. This passage starts with the statement that “in order to improve education, we have to have a set of standards that are powerful, meaningful and achievable.” I suppose the implication here is that all other standards were weak, meaningless and unachievable? How did we ever manage to pull ourselves out of the sludge pits with our old standards? I am at a loss, but at least the old standards strong enough to get us to the moon and help Al Gore build the internet.
Now comes the redefinition part of the mind games being played where we redefine what the words fewer, clearer and higher mean and hope you don’t notice.
“By fewer, the design principle is that these standards can be learned within a year. There is very little repetition from year to year of the same standards. “ So fewer does not mean less than before? It just means they can be learned in a year! Wow. Fewer can actually mean more, but basically it’s a lie that is used to make the standards sound more palatable to the public. Who doesn’t like the sound of making something simpler, even if it isn’t true?
“The standards are clearer in that they more precisely describe outcome expectations, rather than vague or broad descriptions of learning.” Oh. Like vague and broad descriptions of learning like standards that are “powerful, meaningful and achievable” that some might consider “relevant but subjective terms”? What kind of moron would do that? Probably the same intentionally obscure folks that use terms like scaffolding to say they are built upon one another. . .
Frankly I think learning should be broadly defined. The only reason you would want to define it very narrowly is because you don’t really understand what learning is, or what education is.
Learning is not just what we are tested on, it’s not what we find between two pages of an assigned book, except perhaps in Common Core World where all “learning” must be strictly defined, measured and benchmarked or it is not considered valid. This is one of the most glaring blind-spots of the Common Core Movement that only values learning that can be measured and disparages and disregards less measurable goals and expectations (such as inquisitiveness, joy of learning, and ingenuity) as valueless rather than invaluable.
This is the kind of logic you would expect from a computer, or perhaps the Father of the PC, Bill Gates? It’s a cold logic that is devoid of humanity and depth. It is a superficial look at education and the role of education in society, from the perspective of a machine with the goal of treating people like tools to serve a single specialized function. Common Core proponents ironically claim the previous standards (in all States including states with much more advanced standards like Massachusetts) were a mile wide and an inch deep. The irony is that the framework behind the standards themselves is actually very shallow. They see “learning” as having 100 percent congruence between what is taught and what is tested. In this shallow context, any learning activity that is not testable is not valuable and is discouraged.
“The standards are higher with respect to what is meant by higher – not harder – standards. Having higher standards means that what is included in the Common Core State Standards is actually intended for all students each year; there is congruence between what is stated and what is expected.” So for those of you that pointed out the “rigorous” standards were not actually higher in the traditional sense, you were actually correct according to the creators and chief advocates of Common Core. What Common Core advocates like Laci Maniscalco, Jason Zimba and Phil Daro (contributor to Common Core and creator of Eureka Math) mean is that having higher standards simply means reducing the standards to the lowest “common” denominator so the difference between individual students is not that steep. A frequent complaint I get from parents of children in gifted programs is that the standards are actually lower that what their kids were achieving in their advanced placement and gifted classes. Higher standards simply means that what is taught is testable and the expectation is that 100% of students will ultimately be able to pass all the material.
When parents and communities of advanced districts complain about this actual lowering of standards in the name of testing and commonality, they are always, always, always told that these Common Core standards are “just a minimum” and school districts are free to select higher standards for themselves. This is complete lie, but a frequently repeated one. Schools and districts are not free to change or supplement up to 15% of the curriculum with their own material. There is no mechanism to do this and that was never the intent! This presentation produced by Achieve.org, a group sponsored by Student Achievement Partners (which was founded by Jason Zimba who wrote the Common Core State standards for Math in his garage) clearly debunks that myth. That statement was simply a ruse meant to placate folks. When Achieve and Student Achievement Partners tell you that you are free to modify the standards to make them more “rigorous”, what they really mean is you must not modify them. They designed these standards to be so time consuming as to not allow for any plausible modification. Don’t take my word for it. This statement is from the creators and promoters of Common Core clearly and unequivocally explained in their own branded presentation.
It turns out that a lot of what we spend time and energy on in school K-12, doesn’t buy students much after graduation. This of course wouldn’t be a problem if time was not such a finite resource. Because time is limited however, decisions had to be made. Rarely in education do we pay so much attention to the limited resource of time. We often, rather, keep adding and adding initiatives. It is always easy to add one more thing. These Standards will built with the awareness that each additional expectation came at the cost of time spent on what was already included. It is exceptionally important in understanding these Common Core State Standards that we acknowledge and accept the power of the eraser as well as, perhaps after, the power of the pen.
But make no mistake. The pen is theirs. The eraser is theirs.
I would also like to return to the point often made by Common Core proponents that these were a state led initiate with thousands of stakeholders being included and the implication that there were hundreds of meetings, discussions and committees throughout the United States about how to craft these standards. That is not just the exact opposite of what occurred according to Jason Zimba (who claims he wrote these in his garage while his wife was in labor and his mother was dying of a terminal illness). This was an outcome they were dreadfully fearful of allowing and went to great pains to prevent this collaboration from happening. A great amount of planning and forethought went into finding ways to exclude any and all stakeholders that might have interfered with “their vision”. These are not my claims. These are not my words. These are theirs.
The next issue then is how to get to fewer, clearer, higher. Unlike typical standards development or revision processes in which groups of stakeholders are gathered in committees to advocate for their individual positions, preferences, pet topics, these standards relied on evidence for what students need to be prepared for college and careers.
Unlike typical standards that included the input from a wide variety of experts and stakeholders, these did not. To claim these were state led and developed is a complete bald faced lie and one they and their allies are happy to make in public while privately they meet with your education leaders and reveal the truth. But don’t take my word for it, take the word of Student Achievement Partners, owner of this presentation and this website: http://achievethecore.org/
From Achieve the Core.org:
Take the word of Laci Maniscalco. . .
. . .an LDOE selected teacher leader from Lafayette, who is presenting this info to superintendents and stakeholders across the statewith this presentation. LDOE is currently hosting and promoting this presentation (and has been for the last 6 months at least.)
Laci is also one of the textbook selectors for Eureka Math for LDOE (Which is owned by Common Core) She got 1700 bucks for that gig.
Laci is also a contractor for LDOE paid 5630 dollars to serve as a “Common Core expert” and emissary. Their words, not mine.
Laci is also a 2013 and 2014 Learnzillion Dream Team member earning at least 4000 dollars for that as well as some fame and other work I’m sure. (Learnzillion’s “business” is leveraging people like Laci to produce Common Core products for the masses and selling those products to school districts.) So Laci is being paid to design the products she is also responsible for evaluating and endorsing.
Laci is also an education panelist of some renown as you can see from this Conference where she quizzed Lafayette School Board Candidates about Common Core and actually advertised as someone trained by Student Achievement Partners.
and Laci Maniscalco, Common Core Advocate trained by Student Achievement Partners, Louisiana Teacher Leader, Advisor with the Louisiana Department of Education and 3rd grade teacher at Broadmoor Elementary.
But good ole Laci Maniscalco can also be “just a simple teacher” inside the Common Core echo chamber that reuses the same proponents without revealing their true financial ties to Common Core. Take this article in the New York Times produced by Motoko Rich.
Laci Maniscalco, a third-grade teacher in Lafayette, La., who said that sometimes her students cried during the past year when working on problems under the new curriculum, said she had seen genuine progress in their understanding — and in her own, as well.
“I have told my students countless times that I wish I had been taught the way you are having the opportunity to learn,” she said.
That got cross-posted by another Gates funded affiliate (over 3 million recently) and staunch Common Core proponent, ASCD.org
But this isn’t the only place this happens. For instance thetowntalk.com recently did a story criticizing David Vitter (not for his previously documented diaper fetishes or his frequent prostitute phone calls while on the House floor) but for switching his stance on Common Core. Good ‘ole teacher Laci is there to stick it to him (and not in the way he usually likes it.)
“Not only did I see the greatest amount of academic growth, but also the greatest growth in their confidence that I have in the years that I’ve taught,” said Laci Maniscalco, an elementary teacher from Lafayette Parish. “It’s because we’re giving them that ownership of their education … They’re having an educated discussion around what they’re learning, which makes their learning more meaningful and more concrete.”
But what shill article would be complete without a cross-posting by another Gates-funded, education reform affiliate like educationpost.org?
And the teachers have seen firsthand how the standards are making a difference in the classroom:
“Not only did I see the greatest amount of academic growth, but also the greatest growth in their confidence that I have in the years that I’ve taught,” said Laci Maniscalco, an elementary teacher from Lafayette Parish. “It’s because we’re giving them that ownership of their education…They’re having an educated discussion around what they’re learning, which makes their learning more meaningful and more concrete.”
See what they did there? Just a simple teacher from Lafayette giving her unbiased opinion. You would never know how deeply affiliated with this movement that Laci really is; that she is a representative of Student Achievement Partners through Achieve the Core.org or that she was paid over 10 grand in publicly disclosed funds.
I wonder how much she has been given in private contracts?
There are like a half dozen or so stories about “simple teacher Laci”, like this one from katc.com helping to spread the Common Core gospel under the guise of an ordinary teacher from Louisiana who loves Common Core and doesn’t understand what all that fuss is about.
Teacher Laci Maniscalco said “we want them to realize you are still a kid and yes it’s a big deal, but we don’t want them to be so stressed out it affects the outcome of the test.”
Wow. I thought about writing a post called “Where in the World is Laci Maniscalco” but didn’t think enough of you would “get it” or find that an interesting enough title to click on. :)
So back to the Truth About Common Core, as told by the proponents of Common Core: (Here’s the summary you’ve all been waiting for.)
The Common Core for math was mostly written by an egomaniacal and obsessive physics professor in his garage (is that redundant or stereotypical?) over a very short period of time with minimal input from anyone that might corrupt his personal vision of what math should look like in all US schools. It was not written with input from all the states or any significant stakeholders that might have their own opinions and have polluted the final product with all their own ideas “individual positions, preferences, pet topics,”. Ain’t nobody got time for that.
What Common Core proponents mean when they say the standards are fewer, clearer and higher is:
- They wanted to create standards that can be taught in a year to most kids
- They decided to “erase” anything that can’t be tested (Cursive anyone?)
- The standards were designed to be filled with lots of busywork to make adding to them impossible (so the 15% adding to them claim was always meant to be a lie) and dumbed down in many cases so all kids can get 100% of the material
This last point finally helps me understand something I’ve been very confused about. Why were schools mixing he advanced kids with the slower/hyper-active/disabled ones in middle school and why the joint/team grades? This is frustrating the advanced kids and making them discouraged because they get lower grades even if they personally know the material. It’s also frustrating to the kids that need more support from teachers, and not peers.
The reason this is being done is to bring all the kids to the same level. Rather than trying to raise all the boats, Common Core’s solution is to try and sink them all, so they all rest at the bottom together . . . comfortably.
That certainly is one way to reach towards parity across lines of race and poverty.
It probably makes a certain type of sense to a computer, or to Bill Gates, their leader.
Having Bill in charge worked out so well last time.