My view

Common Core: Musical chairs and millionaires

March 24, 2014 

The people behind Common Core seem to have created a new version of musical chairs, because they are continually swapping jobs between various Common Core-related organizations and giving different versions of who did what.

For example, in the controversy about who is responsible for the latest major education reform in America, the federal government says it had no hand in developing the math and English Language Arts standards (because that would be illegal). They say it was a grassroots, state-led, voluntary initiative spearheaded by The National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers. The NGA and CCSSO said they wrote the standards, but eventually a nonprofit Washington, D.C., organization called Achieve Inc. said they managed the writing of the standards for these two organizations. These actions have led to much criticism and many states rethinking their decisions about Common Core, as well as the government-funded Common Core testing companies.

Should you care who wrote Common Core?

You should know more about the leadership at Achieve Inc. since its stated goal is to “alter state education policies.” That phrase alone is troubling, and the “musical chair-type” resume of Michael Cohen. In 2003, after a career at the Department of Education, Cohen became president of Achieve Inc. Achieve also formed the Partnership for the Assessment of College and Career Readiness – one of two national standards testing companies for Common Core. As PARCC’s project manager, Cohen oversees the writing of the tests for the standards his company, Achieve, wrote. You could say Cohen is an expert and a good choice to write the tests, but not when PARCC will be federally directed, overseen and funded with Race To The Top federal taxpayer dollars through the DOE where Cohen once worked.

Bill Gates, the founder of Microsoft, has pumped millions into Common Core-related organizations. Some of the more notable Gates’ grants include the three groups mentioned above: NGA: $25.7 million, CCSSO: $79 million, and Achieve Inc: $46 million. As more information like this comes out, it’s not just the states having buyer’s remorse. Potential presidential candidate Mike Huckabee has changed his stance on the subject. He went from being a supporter as an NGA member to announcing opposition to it in December. In February, it was revealed that Huckabee blames Common Core’s problems on its name and has encouraged a renaming strategy as the solution: In Iowa and Florida, Common Core is masquerading as The Iowa Core and Next Generation Sunshine State Standards, respectively; and Gov. Jan Brewer’s executive order doesn’t allow the name’s use in Arizona. Following that strategy, the new science standards are being called Next Generation Science Standards, but it’s Common Core.

Bill Gates is one of many documented examples of how individuals are expecting to influence Common Core. While some might argue Bill Gates’ donations have been philanthropic, his profit motivation is easy to conclude because schools are going to need massive, ongoing amounts of computer hardware and software that Microsoft, (Apple and Google, etc.) can provide. Consider what Fox News’ owner Rupert Murdoch said about the financial potential for businesses: “When it comes to K-12 education, we see $500 billion in the U.S. alone.”

Although it is not a Common Core mandate, Gates and others are in line to provide computer technology for data-mining for the states. The federal government cannot legally create a national data system, but its $53.6 billion federal stimulus appropriation to states is doing just that by giving incentives to collect personal student information. The estimate is $2 to $5 per student times at least 50 million students in America. Do the math the old way – it’s faster than the Common Core cubes, sticks and dots method.

Remember the Gates/UNESCO agreement and Common Core’s goals. Having access to every student’s private information fits the goal of guiding, tracking and providing “workers” for an international economy while lining the pockets of people who don’t seem to be considering the best interests of our children.

Kay Bivens of Lake Wylie is a former science teacher with more than 12 years teaching experience. After retiring, she began leading a series of U.S. Army Family Support Group in the Carolinas, which led to her planning, developing curriculum and teaching classes at several FSG Leadership Training Academies in Florida, Texas and South Carolina.

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