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Empowering the Public?

The Trojan Horse of Common Core State Standards

by SETH SANDRONSKY

The Common Core State Standards deserve the support of Californians, opine Dean Vogel and Cheryl Scott Williams in The Sacramento Bee.  He is president of the 325,000-member California Teachers Association; she is executive director of Learning First Alliance, a nonprofit group in Va.

“In tandem with the changes the state made to the local school funding formula, parents and educators now have a say in determining what works best for local students,” according to them. To be clear, the duo argue the CCSS gives voice to those who most need it in kids’ education.

Really? Well, not so much, according to one authority.

We turn to Mercedes K. Schneider, who teaches in a traditional public school classroom in southern Louisiana. A blogger on education issues at deutsch29.wordpress.com, her book A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who in the Implosion of American Public Education (Information Age Publishing) in part unravels assumptions such as Vogel’s and Williams’ about the virtues of the CCSS.

In an interview with this reporter, Schneider offered a critical view of the CCSS.

“CCSS is an unprecedented experiment. Bill Gates, the man who has pumped at least $2.3 billion into CCSS (Georgia State Univ. Prof. Jack Hassard’s calculation) has admitted in different interviews documented by Washington Post education writer Valerie Strauss that CCSS is an experiment.”

Following the CCSS money trail led Schneider to discover this. Hint: despite the lofty rhetoric redolent of benefitting the public’s interest, CCSS is not local empowerment of parents and teachers on behalf of students.

“CCSS is a rigid anchor to which mega-corporations such as Pearson Education, “the world’s leading learning company,” might construct the profoundly profitable, national education experience for the masses,” according to Schneider.

Pearson is a global corporate monopoly in the education business. The company’s diversified holdings range from Penguin Books to The Financial Times, and its fiduciary responsibilities are first and foremost to shareholders, not citizens of California or any other local community, state or nation.

This brings us to the matter of who owns the CCSS. Hint: the public is not the owner.

“The National Governors Association (NGA) and Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) are the copyright holders of CCSS,” Schneider said. “In signing the CCSS Memorandum of Understanding, governors and state education superintendents have agreed to not alter CCSS. Thus, the “states” have agreed to forego any future “state leading” away from CCSS, and they did so before CCSS was even created. “States” can add some content to CCSS but cannot remove content.”

That is to say, the CCSS provides addition but not subtraction of public input. Think about this concept for a second.

What a preposterous deformation of public policy. If Vogel and Williams’ idea of the CCSS giving “parents and educators” a bigger say in local public education issues, we need a new definition of speaking, learning and teaching.

Oh, and David Coleman, the architect of the Common Core State Standards, is not a classroom teacher. Student Achievement Partners, his for-profit firm, composed and promoted the CCSS in conjunction with the NGA and the CCSSO, Schneider writes.

Meanwhile, Learning First Alliance has accepted funding from the Gates Foundation. The op-ed Cheryl Scott Williams, the group’s executive director, penned with Dean Vogel, CTA’s president, makes no mention of such a financial link.

Furthermore, why is the head of the CTA, purported super-power union of school teachers in California in and out of the state Capitol, supporting a measure that further strengthens corporate power over the state’s public classrooms? How does supporting the expansion of private interests via the CCSS benefit the education of K-12 students?

Stay tuned for answers to the questions.

Seth Sandronsky is a Sacramento journalist and member of the freelancers unit of the Pacific Media Workers Guild. Email sethsandronsky@gmail.com