Tag Archives: Gates

Sweetwater Schools Embrace “Corporate Education Reform”

22 Nov

By Thomas Ultican 11/22/2016

At November’s monthly Mar Vista High School staff meeting, the CORE Districts accountability protocol was formally presented. In June, the Sweetwater Union High School District’s (SUHSD) board agreed to a $39,200 per year fee for CORE Districts membership. By accepting the CORE agenda, SUHSD receives data services; digital tools; professional development and an opportunity to partner with the Policy Analysis for California Education (PACE) Research Collaborative. This act aligns SUHSD with the “corporate education reform” agenda; including top down control.

CORE Districts is Another Faux Government Agency

The NCLB version of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 demanded that by 2014 one-hundred percent of all students would be judged proficient in mathematics and English based on standardized testing. Then Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan used this non-sense provision of the failed law in legally suspect ways – waivers – to bribe schools into accepting several federal mandates. Included in his list of demands was using standardized test scores to evaluate teachers, a practice that is both expensive and has been thoroughly debunked going back as far as 1999. When California refused Duncan’s evaluation demand, its waiver application was rejected.

CORE Districts first gained attention when six renegade districts financed by corporate dollars made a deal with Arne Duncan for an NCLB sanctions waiver. John Deasy, the soon to be failed superintendent of Los Angeles Unified Schools and five other school district superintendents made a legally questionable side deal bypassing state officials.

The vehicle used to justify the district direct waivers was the deceptively named California Office of Reform Education (CORE), a non-profit with no official governmental status.

In 2015, American Institutes for Research (AIR), wrote a fifty plus page report on CORE that captures the names of the players and the history of CORE. AIR is a large provider of testing materials for k-12 education so it is not surprising that the report is favorable to the pro-assessment CORE. AIR details that CORE predates the 2013 waivers which garnered nationwide attention and recounts:

“By the time CORE officially began in fall 2010, two established venues had helped build relationships among participating district leaders through which they communicated regularly about their work. The first venue was the Urban Education Dialogue (UED), a forum of large urban district superintendents designed to foster dialogue about the challenges and opportunities associated with running K–12 school systems in California. Six of the superintendents who eventually brought their districts into CORE regularly attended the semiannual UED meetings. Through these interactions, those leaders developed an understanding of one another’s situations and general approaches to district leadership. They also built a set of personal relationships with peers who faced similar challenges and had similar priorities.”

The report also shows how deeply involved some of the original CORE district leaders were with forces sympathetic with privatizing public schools and using data to drive instruction from positions of power. Praise from Eli Broad and McKinsey & Company is damning. “To be praised by fools—that is the greatest shame.” (Nichiren in 1272)

“Long Beach USD had already earned a reputation for excellence: The district received the second ever Broad Prize in 2003 as the nation’s best urban school system. In 2010, McKinsey & Company also identified it as one of the world’s 20 most improved school systems.”

A key force behind the CORE development was the Stuart Foundation which provided $700,000 in 2010 and $800,000 in 2011 to continue the collaboration that started over the failed Race to the Top application. That continuation became the CORE. At about the same time one of the minority owners of the San Francisco Giants, Phil Halperin formed California Education Partners which became the administrative and fundraising arm of the CORE.

Darwin Bond-Graham wrote about Halperin in Counterpunch:

“Among the minority owners of the Giants are some Democrats also. Giants owner Philip Halperin runs the Silver Giving Foundation, a philanthropy he created with money he amassed while working as a partner in the Weston Presidio private equity firm. Halperin’s official biography on the Stanford Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies web site (where he sits on the advisory board trustee) says that at Weston he was, ‘focused on information technology, consumer branding, telecommunications and media,’ and that he ‘previously worked at Lehman Brothers and Montgomery Securities.’”

 The funders of California Education Partners, PACE and CORE are a nearly identical group which includes:

 The James Irvine Foundation

The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation

Walter and Elise Haas Fund

D. Bechtel Jr. Foundation

Stuart Foundation

The Evelyn and Walter Haas, Jr. Fund

The Walter S. Johnson Foundation

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation

The Silver Giving Foundation

 David and Lucile Packard Foundation

A little quick not so thorough research shows that since 2010 the Gates foundation has contributed over $7 million; Bechtel $500,000; Irvine $1.1 million; Hewlett $1.6 million; Stuart $1.5 million.

All this spending has two agendas; implementing common core and establishing the infrastructure of Competency Based Education (CBE). CBE in short means education on the cheap by putting children in front of screens and supervising them with minimally trained people. Sweetwater has the technology in place to take this path.

The Basis of The CORE Districts School Improvement Plan

Corporate education reformers disdain input form working educators. Instead, they are constantly on a quest to find a “silver bullet” that can be monetized. The CORE found a guru in Ontario, Canada named Michael Fullen. From John Fensterwald’s writing in Edsource:

“In January [2013] and last fall, two delegations of California educators that included Torlakson, Chief Deputy Superintendent Richard Zeiger, California Commission on Teacher Credentialing Executive Director Mary Sandy, Vogel, Levine and a half-dozen superintendents and CEOs of charter management organizations made sojourns to Toronto, funded by the San Francisco-based Stuart Foundation. There they observed classrooms and met with Fullan, teachers and provincial leaders about Ontario’s strategy of school improvement.”

 Later the same article continues:

“Fullan reviewed CORE’s waiver application, which cites his writing and says that CORE’s “alternative accountability model and day-to-day work” is motivated by the “changed culture and positive and lasting improvements” in Ontario. The waiver expresses confidence that the same philosophy – paying attention to data but using it as a basis to improve, not as a cudgel to declare failure – would work in California.”

It is notable that the waiver Duncan bestowed on the CORE districts was based on Fullen’s ideas with its multiple accountability measures, but did not include teacher evaluations by testing.

Fensterwald added, “McKinsey & Company named Ontario, along with Long Beach Unified and Aspire Public Schools in California, among the 20 most effective school systems in the world.” While on the 2009 international test, Programme for International Student Assessment, or PISA, the Ontario schools did indeed score almost as high as the best readers in the world (Finland), their math scores did not. In addition, as Fensterwald notes, “scores in science on the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) have declined over the past decade.”

This recalls the advice I often heard from the Vice-President of Engineering at Sunward Technologies, “if there is a problem, sell it as a feature.”

Social Emotional Learning (SEL) and Data Mining

 The CORE website states:

“The CORE Districts are the first in the nation to include the measurement of social and emotional factors in a system of school improvement and accountability – our School Quality Improvement Index. We have done so because we believe they offer schools and educators more and better information that furthers understanding of students and what they need to learn and succeed. This information can be used to inform and shape strategies to help students succeed in school and prepare them for success in college, careers and life.”

 The following graphic depicts the CORE index for accountability that weights SEL at 40%.

 core-index-graphic

Social emotional skills training is the hottest new fad in education. It seems so logical; if we can just teach Shaniqua and Jesus to behave properly with grit, they will manifest so much more of their potential. How could anyone object to educators teaching and tracking social behavior?

The Brookings Institute which has been solidly pro-corporate-education-reform, has produced one of the few extant studies of SEL practices. Their study is based on data from CORE Districts produced in 2014. Although, generally positive about the approach, they call for more study:

“In sum, our preliminary analysis of the data from CORE’s field test provides a broadly encouraging view of the potential for self-reports of social-emotional skills as an input into its system for evaluating school performance. That said, the view it provides is also quite limited. It says nothing about how self-report measures of social-emotional skills would perform in a high-stakes setting – or even with the very modest weight that will be attached to them this year within CORE. Nor can we say anything about how CORE’s focus on social-emotional learning will alter teacher practice and, ultimately, student achievement. The results presented above are best thought of as a baseline for future analysis of these issues – and many more.”

Jane Robins recent article in Townhall is called “The Latest Big Education Fad, Social-Emotional Learning, Is As Bad As It Sounds.” She cautions:

“Suppose the government decides a child will be a more acceptable student, citizen, and worker bee if he learns to acquiesce to the “consensus” of the group, regardless of his own moral standards, or if she learns to accept that all commands of the government must be obeyed. The student may fulfill the standard by developing the correct attitudes, but under whose authority does the government presume to instill attitudes that may conflict with parents’ desires?”

Robins describes the dangers of psychological damage for children if this kind of behavior modification is attempted by inadequately trained people. Then she addresses the most worrisome aspect of all; the loss of privacy for children that is almost certain in the age of data-mining:

“Dr. Effrem and Dr. Thompson both warn also about the extraordinary threat to student privacy that implementation of SEL standards would present. With states building longitudinal student databases that track children from cradle to career, it’s inevitable that data collected from observing and analyzing children’s emotional states will be preserved . . . forever. And because USED has gutted federal student-privacy law to allow sharing of personally identifiable information on students with almost anyone the government wants, that data is likely to be widely disclosed – without parental consent.”

 California’s Teacher’s Unions Oppose CORE

A letter to the state school board from the president of the California Teachers Association, Eric C. Heins and the presidents of each of the CORE district’s union locals, laid out several points of contention with CORE. They observed that the new federal law eliminated all waivers as of August 1, 2016 and called upon the state of California not to grant a state waiver to the CORE. The letter states:

“The Presidents whose signatures are added to mine on this letter represent the educators who work in those CORE districts. Their Associations have never endorsed and do not now support the extension of the CORE waivers. Further, these education leaders strongly believe the CORE waiver is a serious impediment to the collective education change efforts in California. As educators, we are committed to improving the conditions of teaching and learning, advancing the cause of quality public education, and ensuring that the dignity and civil rights of all children are protected. At a time when we are working hard in California to implement positive changes that safeguard the quality public education all students deserve, this top-down waiver system which excludes teacher input and collaboration is counterproductive and divisive. The CORE waiver process does not reflect the work of a broad-based diverse group of individuals with a genuine stake in their school. The stakeholders are cut-out of the development and execution of viable education reform implementation strategies.”

Approximately a million students attend what are now the 10 districts affiliated with CORE. However, 5-million students still attend non-CORE schools. These schools along with the state of California are still in the process of developing the new federally mandated state accountability system.

In contrast to the CORE’s top-down approach, California’s State Superintendent of Instruction, Tom Torlakson has established a 30-member Accountability and Continuous Improvement Task Force. Torlakson’s task force comprises a broad range of voices including labor, academia, parent groups and educators that are engaged in the development. History informs us that this democratic approach to governance will produce a more lasting and superior product.

Sweetwater Schools Embrace “Corporate Education Reform”

I believe Sweetwater Union High School District to be a model of what is possible in education. The model has been created by a wonderful culture of teachers and parents working together often despite political corruption and malfeasance. Today, Sweetwater has a clean board and an enthusiastic well trained educator at the helm. However, the district has succumbed to the sirens song of corporate education reform.

We have spent untold amounts of money on technology. We purchased I-pads for 20,000 students and are now replacing the I-pads with laptops. It is as if we believe putting children in front of screens is more important than smaller class sizes.

We have every kind of education software program imaginable including a useless education management package called Canvas. Canvas has a terrible front end which few teachers use by choice, but Canvas was designed to host online classes and facilitating blended learning. It fits perfectly with the corporate push to replace teachers with technicians and low skilled monitors. It is the path to enervated education.

This year every teacher in the district was given a tee-shirt that says “Sweetwater Union High School District – Putting Students First.” Exactly the kind of corporate sloganeering employed by Michelle Rhee and Eva Moskowitz. The pressure to ware these shirts at staff meetings is demeaning for professional educators but classic corporate think.

What makes this district great is that we care about kids and we put fully certificated teachers in all our classrooms. We maintain order and we know our students. We provide a safe healthy environment. Stop the raid on our resources and get out of bed with “corporate reformers” before permanent damage is done. CORE districts, social emotional learning and standards written by the testing industry (CCSS) are antithetical to good pedagogy.

Twitter: @tultican

Education Caste System

12 Jul

In 1999, motivated by idealistic impulses, I quit working on the next greatest hard drive to become a teacher. Like most people, I knew public education was in bad shape with bad teachers and poor administration. I hoped to advance the American promise that anyone’s child could become a captain of industry or even the president of the United States. America is supposed to be a meritocracy with equal opportunity for all.

I heard about “Nation at Risk” and I knew “Johnny” never could read. I was confident that a person with a successful engineering career under his belt could make significant contributions to public education. So it was off to the new masters of education program at University of California San Diego and my crusade to save public education.

These past 15 years have been enlightening. I soon learned what I knew about the state of public education was absolute baloney. The experienced teachers were amazing and once I got past the initial arrogance that blinded me to that fact, I realized that I had a lot to learn about teaching. I was not going to school the existing teachers; they were highly skilled and effective. My first two years in the classroom, I literally did not encounter any bad teachers who were not motivated to do a good job. The schools in San Diego were much better than the ones I attended 30 plus years earlier and the students were far more accomplished than my peers.

Concurrent with my entering the class room the bi-partisan No Child Left Behind (NCLB) was adopted. It soon became clear that education for working and middle class students was becoming more skills oriented with lessened creativity and minimal independent thought. The new education reform was based on standards and accountability for standardized testing results. This new theory of good pedagogy ignored the advice educators like Dewey and Herbart and adopted what Alfie Kohn mockingly dubbed the “longer stronger meaner” theory of education. This kind of pedagogy diminishes thought and creativity. It implies that thinking is for the children of wealthy people in private schools who are the natural leaders of society. The other students have utilitarian purposes but thinking undermines that value. It is all driven by an ancient and evil ideology that posits it is OK to use lesser human beings for the purposes of social elites.

El Puente founder, Frances Lucerna, has a similar observation:

“In the public schools now it’s basically all about standardized testing, and mechanical literacy. This is resulting in dumbing down, watering down, the experience that young people have in school. It is equivalent to telling students that they are not to go deep within themselves and think in complex ways about things, but that they need to go back to memorizing and stuffing their heads with knowledge that has nothing to do with their experience and their world. This is not by accident: there is a reason that this is happening, why it’s happening in public schools and not in private schools and other places. This is an education for followers, not for leaders. And that’s why I think a movement for change has to arise, and the arts are fundamental in this.” (Muses Go to School, Page 58)

In 1973 David Rockefeller’s Trilateral Commission produced “The Crisis of Democracy” a report in which they indicate that too much education for common people is a threat to democracy. On page 115 on the report they conclude, “The vulnerability of democratic government in the United States thus comes not primarily from external threats, though such threats are real, nor from internal subversion from the left or the right, although both possibilities could exist, but rather from the internal dynamics of democracy itself in a highly educated, mobilized, and participant society.” In other words, don’t teach common people to think, to have philosophy, or develop their own ideas – the elites of society will take care of that. It is not in the interest of the upper class to have too much education – too much democracy.

Of course, this elitism or classism is not new. I recently studied a lecture on an event that occurred in 1279. Twenty peasant farmers living in Atsuhara (present-day Fuji City, Japan) were arrested and falsely accused of stealing rice from a local priest. When the second most powerful figure in Japan questioned them, he did not ask about the charges. He offered clemency if they would just renounce their religious beliefs and join the approved Buddhist sect. Surprisingly, all twenty farmers refused the free pass. Three of them were executed and the other seventeen were exiled to remote regions of Japan.

Known as the “Atsuhara persecution” this event is significant in the history common people. Daisaku Ikeda, the founder of the Soka Schools said, “Set in 13th-century feudal Japan, this was truly a pioneering struggle for human rights that will shine forever in history.” In the same lecture Ikeda commented,

“…the devilish nature of authority fears the awakening of the people. To those in power who forget to serve the people and instead exploit them, wielding authority for self-serving ends, the presence of individuals who discern their true insidious nature and are determined to take a stand against them is a hindrance and inconvenience. That’s why the powerful do everything they can to crush them.” (July 2014, Living Buddhism)

Another struggle for rights that shines eternally in history is the American Revolution. Thomas Jefferson penned these famous lines:

“When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness…”

As a boy growing up in rural Idaho, I was thrilled by these words. The precept that all men are created equal and have the right to seek an equal station based on merit excited my idealistic yearnings. For me, America was “that shining city on the hill.” It was some time before I started coming to grips with the contradictions that inhered from the beginning. Jefferson was a slave owner; women were denied human dignity and if you were not a member of the land owning class, the Laws of Nature and Nature’s God did not entitle you to equal station. But the ideas were pregnant with idealism and the potential for human advancement. It still gives me hope.

In our country, over the past more than two centuries there have been many advances in human rights, but the ugly side of human nature that wants to use others for personal purposes has not been conquered. It has merely transformed to forms which use less obvious and possibly more insidious methodology. Doctor Ikeda spoke directly to this point in a speech he delivered at Harvard University in 1993:

“I propose that self-motivation is what will open the way to the era of soft power. While systems depending on hard power have succeeded by using established tools of coercion to move people toward certain goals, the success of soft power is based on volition. It is an internally generated energy of will created through consensus and understanding among people. The processes of soft power unleash the inner energies of the individual. Rooted in the spirituality and religious nature of human beings, this kind of energy has traditionally been considered in philosophical themes. But without the support of a philosophical foundation to strengthen and mobilize the spiritual resources of the individual, the use of soft power would become nothing more that ‘fascism with a smile’, In such a society information and knowledge would be abundant, but subject to manipulation by those in power. A citizenry without wisdom would fall easy prey to authority with self-serving goals. For these reasons, the burden of sustaining and accelerating the trend toward soft power lies with philosophy.” (New Humanism page 189)

In the 1930’s the philosopher historian Arnold Toynbee observed in his masterpiece, A Study of History, “The bread of universal education is no sooner cast upon the waters than a shoal of sharks arises from the depths and devours the children’s bread under the educator’s very eyes.” In his deep study of more than three-thousand years of human history, Toynbee saw this pattern repeat.

Toynbee also saw a pattern that gave him pause about the future of our civilization. He wrote:

“We must ask whether, as we look back over the ground we have traversed, we can discern any master tendency at work, and we do in fact unmistakably decry a tendency towards standardization and uniformity: a tendency which is correlative and opposite of the tendency towards differentiation and diversity which we have found to be the mark of the growth stage of civilizations.” (A study of History page 555)

As I read the words of great men of character and think about my own observations, I am convinced this is a time of opportunity and peril. We must fight against the arrogance of elitism which looks down on common people as mere pawns and considers their own good fortune a matter of birth right or superiority. We must fight against the whole concept of Teach for America (TFA) and its untrained student teachers from elite schools which reeks of this kind of stinking thinking. The fraudulent charter school movement is the shoal of sharks rising from the depths to devour the children’s bread. Standardized education; standardized testing and common core standards seem to exactly match Toynbee’s description of the trends in decaying societies.

A witch’s brew of arrogance, greed and elitism is poisoning public education in America. Eli Broad (a billionaire home builder) did not think experience in education was valuable for administrators who run educational institutions, so he created his own non-certified institution that trains non-educators to lead the schools of common people. Bill Gates does not think class size matters. He sees no problem with classes of 50 students, but he sends his children to a private school in Seattle that has class sizes of 12 to 15. Michael Bloomberg does not think teacher education and experience is important. So he worked to privatize New York City’s schools so he does not need to waste money on experience and training. These attitudes would be indefensible if they were not promoted by extremely wealth elites.

We do not need to accept a society dominate by self-appointed elites who inherited their wealth and position or were able to unscrupulously bend financial law to their advantage. As educators we must educate the public and arm them against charlatans like: Jeb Bush; Arne Duncan; Democrats for Education Reform; Joel Klein; Michelle Rhee; Bill Gates; Andrew Cuomo; Daniel Malloy; Eli Broad; Bill Gates; the Walton family; etc.. We must give them the knowledge and wisdom to see the foolishness of these people. We need to make the nature and identity of the enemies of common people clear to all so no one is deceived by them. It is time to end the caste system in America and achieve the promise of meritocracy and opportunity for all.

Common Corporate State Standards and Other Obscenities

19 Feb

The largest change in the history of American education is rolling out across America in a most unusual and imprudent way. The Common Corporate State Standards (CCSS) written by corporations to facilitate profits are a colossal copyrighted Trojan horse. The official CCSS web site says, “The NGA Center for Best Practices (NGA Center) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) hereby grant a limited, non-exclusive, royalty-free license to copy, publish, distribute, and display the Common Core State Standards for purposes that support the Common Core State Standards Initiative. These uses may involve the Common Core State Standards as a whole or selected excerpts or portions.”(1). It sounds very much like some ‘alphabet soup’ government agency has copyrighted the standards but that is not the case – it would be illegal for a government agency to copyright the standards! No, the corporate sponsors and foundations who finance the private non-profits NGA and CCSSO, who wrote the standards, own the copyright. Bill Gates has more sway over these rights than anyone because he put in the most money. No elected or school official has the legal right to alter any of the standards. They must be used as written. Support for the CCSS has been developed by giving money to generate good media and positive scholarly responses. The standards have not been thoroughly piloted. Curriculum supporting the standards has not been written and educators certainly have not been trained in how best to institute this new approach. In fact, most educators do not know much about the CCSS other than it is supposed to increase testing significantly and anyone who questions CCSS or the rush to implement them is for the status quo and for giving incompetent teachers the right to continue harming children with the aid of their evil teachers union.
It seems there are three groups promoting CCSS. Group 1 is made up of very sincere motivated educators who see CCSS as a path of true reform in education that will promote understanding and reasoning. Group 2 is made up by people of extreme hubris who are using education reform as a way to establish their own legacy as founders of new charter schools or of increasing personal power. Many members of this group have no educational training or experience and have no respect for those with experience teaching or administering schools. Group 3 is a large powerful group that sees CCSS as a key to unlocking a fabulous money making opportunity and only care that people believe what they are selling. From them we get such terrible ideas as giving every 7th grader an I-pad and testing regimes that turns learning into a behaviorist nightmare. If reasonable people do not start listening to professional educators these CCSS are guaranteed to be an even bigger failure and significantly more damaging than No Child Left Behind (NCLB) and its evil cousin Race to the Top (RttT).
In a way, group 1 is the most troublesome. Many of its people have doctorates in education, they are young and they want to make their mark in the world. Most of them believe in some form of the constructivist pedagogy advocated by Piaget and Dewey. They are delighted to see a focus on less standards and activities designed for students to create understanding. Many of them believe that the opportunity for true education reform which was thwarted by NCLB has finally arrived. Recently, I encountered a long time acquaintance of mine who fits this description. When I mentioned that the once pro-standards advocate, Diane Ravitch, has pointed out that these standards have not been tested. I was told the Diane Ravitch and I should both shut up and stop obstructing real progress. Because they believe in the educational theories that the standards are purported to facilitate, these people, who should see the perversity of this national standards movement, are blinded to the lurking evils. The big questions that none of these advocates want to face include: How are the standards going to be tested? How will the testing data be used? Isn’t it likely that the school year’s final summative exam will become the accountability tool used by the national leaders of education, public and private, who have arrogated local control over education to themselves? Won’t that turn these standards into just another behaviorist means that undermines good pedagogy?
Bill Gates has done more to advance the cause of CCSS than any other person. The New York Times reported that his foundation spent $373 million on education in 2009 of which $78 million was devoted to advocacy — quadruple the amount spent on advocacy in 2005. Over the next five or six years, the foundation expects to pour $3.5 billion more into education, up to 15 percent of it on advocacy. “The Alliance for Excellent Education, another nonprofit organization, was paid $551,000 in 2009 “to grow support for the common core standards initiative. The Fordham Institute got $959,000 to “review common core materials and develop supportive materials.” Fordham’s president, Chester E. Finn Jr., was widely quoted praising the standards after their March 2010 release (2). In 2008, Gates teamed with Eli Broad and the Democrats for Education Reform (DFER) to make presidential candidates focus on issues like standards, teacher quality and accountability. Linda Darling-Hammond was Barack Obama’s spokesperson on education, but during the Democratic Party’s national convention while teachers were in the crowd “fired up and ready to go” Gates, Broad and the DFER were busy hijacking education policy. They were able to push out professional educators like Darling-Hammond who were seen as too friendly to unions and replace them with people like the failed Chicago school CEO, Arne Duncan. He has no education experience or training, yet he became secretary of education. He would not qualify to be a substitute teacher in many school districts. His qualifications were that he supported testing accountability, charter schools and disliked unions. Even educators at places like University of California Berkeley have received large grants to help promote the CCSS. CCSS advocates have successfully used their incredible financial resources to make these standards seem like an idea developed by and supported by enlightened educators from across the nation. Independent voices have been muffled but not quite silenced.
Group 2 the people of extreme hubris and power lust are convinced that public education in America needs them to start a new school system or develop a new education management paradigm. Eli Broad does not appear to be financially benefiting from his philanthropy or his academy for school administrators. This arrogant man strongly believes that trained educators are incompetent fools when it comes to management and that only people from outside of the education community can save America’s schools by employing the wise management practices of the business community. Broad has taken the absurd position that experience in education – unlike experience in all other human endeavors – is a liability so education leadership should be given to people with no experience. It never occurs to him that the biggest problem with American schools is the lack of respect powerful men like him have for professional educators. In my own school district, our superintendent wants to develop a K-16 school system. Under his leadership, our district has started a charter school that is now competing with the local elementary schools which send us their students. The elementary system is well staffed with professional educators and is competently led. The community is served well by these schools. Yet, this lifelong educator that leads my district justifies undermining the difficult work of these fine institutions with his vision for a K-16 institution. Charter schools are appearing in many places that have good public schools – not responding to a need only to the ego of their founders.
Group 3 is a cancer on our society. For the most part they are not concerned with how students fare. They only lust for the profit center that education spending in the United States represents. In addition to the private management groups that are starting charter schools nationwide, Jed Bush is leading a nationwide digital education campaign. Lee Fang reported, “The nonprofit behind this digital push, Bush’s Foundation for Excellence in Education, is funded by online learning companies: K12 Inc., Pearson (which recently bought Connections Education), Apex Learning (a for-profit online education company launched by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen), Microsoft and McGraw-Hill Education among others. The advisory board for Bush’s ten digital elements agenda reads like a Who’s Who of education-technology executives, reformers, bureaucrats and lobbyists, including Michael Stanton, senior vice president for corporate affairs at Blackboard; Karen Cator, director of technology for the Education Department; Jaime Casap, a Google executive in charge of business development for the company’s K-12 division; Shafeen Charania, who until recently served as marketing director of Microsoft’s education products department; and Bob Moore, a Dell executive in charge of ‘facilitating growth’ of the computer company’s K-12 education practice.” In another section of the same article Fang tells us about the strategies being put forward by lobbyists like Patricia Levesque, a top adviser to former Governor Jeb Bush. Fang writes, “According to author Steven Brill, ex–DC school chancellor Michelle Rhee’s new group, StudentsFirst, raised $100 million within a few months of Levesque’s remarks. Rhee’s donors include Rupert Murdoch, philanthropist Eli Broad and Home Depot founder Ken Langone. Rhee’s group has pledged to spend more than $1 billion to bring for-profit schools, including virtual education, to the entire country by electing reform-friendly candidates and hiring top-notch state lobbyists (3).” Levesque’s remark that Fang referenced was about how much better it would have been if Mark Zuckerberg had given his $100 million to support the right candidates instead of giving it to the Newark public schools.
The motivation for the CCSS was certainly at least in part a view that education in America was poor and needed to be reformed. However, a good case can be made that a sustained attacks on public education which was kicked off by the Reagan administration in 1983 with its “Nation at Risk” report is more responsible for this view than reality. “Nation at Risk” which was produced by mainly corporate actors and with little input from professional educators drew conclusions that were not sustained by the facts. Nevertheless, the meme that public education in America was failing took root and is a justification for the modern corporate driven education reform movement. I called these CCSS the Common Corporate State Standards, because in my view the standards were written by corporations for corporations and have little to do with a sincere effort to improve education. It is much more reasonable to believe that people like Rupert Murdock expect significant return for their investment in these standards than to believe these corporate sponsors are putting up share holder dollars out of their altruistic impulse to support public education. The list of corporate sponsors for the non-profit Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) that owns the copyright on the CCSS is long and, not surprisingly, dominated by testing, and on-line education companies.

Corporate Partners: AdvancED, American Institutes for Research (AIR), Data Recognition Corporation, ETS, Global Scholar, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, IQity, McGraw-Hill Education, Microsoft, Pearson Education, Evaluation Systems Group of Pearson, Promethean, ACT, Apple, Corwin Press, Evans Newton Incorporated-Partnering with Schools for Student Success, Intel Corporation, K12 Inc., Measured Progress, Measurement Incorporated, MetaMetrics, The Menta Group, Northwest Evaluation Association, School Improvement Network, TaskStream, Wilson Language Training, Cisco, The College Board, Discovery Education, International Business Machines Corporation, Pearson’s School Achievement Services, Questar Assessment, Inc., Renaissance Learning, Inc., SAS, Scholastic, Texas Instruments, Truenorthlogic, Wireless Generation (4)

This corporate intrusion into education literally removes assets from the classroom and puts it into the pockets of testing companies, consultants, publishers, and others. Politicians and scholars have been corrupted by the corrosive influence of corporate money and children have been harmed. How can Chicago’s incredible teen murder rate be seen as anything but dramatic proof of the dangers inherent in turning our schools over to non-professionals? It is beyond irony that the leader of the education reform movement in Chicago, which is a spectacular failure, is now the secretary of education. Politicians like Barack Obama, Antonio Villaraigosa and Rahm Emanuel turn their backs on professional educators and embrace extreme testing, value added measures (VAM) and the end of seniority rights for teachers. There is no validation for VAM or CCSS but these unproven theories are being implemented with great haste. Can anyone call that reasonable or prudent? Yet, Obama uses RttT to bribe states into adopting CCSS, VAM and charter schools immediately. What is the rush? Unfortunately, the politicians listed above look good when compared with their political opposition – people like Scott Walker, Jeb Bush and Bobby Jindal.
The abominations keep multiplying. In many poor communities the only functional institution is the public school and it is well known that children in stable environments do better. Why then do education czar-mayors like Bloomberg and Emanuel choose to close neighborhood schools where students are not good at multiple choice tests? Did they notice that these schools all happen to be in poor neighborhoods? Many of those closed schools were great, but standardized testing does not test for quality of teaching so excellent institutions were sacrificed at the altar of testing accountability. Children living in difficult circumstances have their life further disturbed by the people who should protect them. Suffering neighborhoods are made to suffer more. Some of the students leave the neighborhood to attend new charter schools. Some don’t! In either case the function of community schools to build neighborhoods and develop culture is ended and the propensity for violence is increased.
I recently read “The Inner Philosopher” which is a dialogue between Lou Marinoff, Professor and Chair of the Department of Philosophy at The City College of New York, and Daisaku Ikeda, the founder of the Soka Schools and President of the Buddhist lay organization, SGI. I conclude with a few quotes from their conversation:

“From a society without philosophy emerges education without philosophy, which in turn gives rise to human beings with no philosophy, a dark portent of the future of humanity.” (Ikeda, Page 2)

“The current Western epidemics – observable from Europe to North America – of obesity, bullying, hedonism and consumerism, along with the decay of social fabric, the deconstruction of education, the collapse of community, and the decline in birth rate appear to be symptoms of a grievous and possibly terminal illness of Western civilization itself.” (Marinoff, Page 74)

(In the US) “The education system has been purged of content, while the media pander incessantly to the demand for celebrity scandal and callow sensationalism. Overexposure to visual media coupled with inattention to written tradition have produced a generation of cognitively impaired children, millions of whom are daily drugged with stimulants.” (Marinoff, Page 75)

“Sadly, contemporary American culture is rooted in vice. Indeed vice is glorified, sensationalized, celebrated, and rewarded. The economic collapse of 2008, which plunged the United States into recession and destabilized the global economy, was caused primarily by unrestrained avarice – systemic vice on a colossal scale.

“Even the legendary homespun virtues of the American grass roots, whose praises were so eloquently sung by the likes of Tocqueville, Emerson, and Whitman, are being undermined and overwhelmed by rampant corruption in public and private sectors alike. The inevitable result is moral degeneracy and societal collapse.

“As Toynbee writes, the ‘breakdowns of civilizations are not brought about by the operation of cosmic forces outside human control’ but by ‘loss of mental and moral balance’ in the values and conduct of their leaders and constituents.” (Marinoff, Page 139)

“I aspire not merely to impart knowledge but also to awaken the powers of my students’ minds. This can only be accomplished via person-to-person interaction, personal example and dialogue. Even the greatest libraries of the world, or the vast storehouses of data on the World-Wide-Web, cannot rival the teacher-student relationship.” (Marinoff, Page 157)

“Many leaders, who ought to be working for the good of society and the people, are blighted by an arrogant elitism and motivated by a corrosive drive for personal gain and lust for power. Nichiren decries such people as ‘talented animals.’” (Ikeda, Page 160)

1. http://www.corestandards.org/public-license
2. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/22/education/22gates.html?pagewanted=1&_r=2
3. http://www.thenation.com/article/164651/how-online-learning-companies-bought-americas-schools#
4. http://www.ccsso.org/Who_We_Are/Business_and_Industry_Partnerships/Corporate_Partners.html#level3
5. Ikeda, Daisaku, and Lou Marinoff. The Inner Philosopher: Conversations on Philosophy’s Transformative Power. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Dialogue Path Press. 2012.