Niagara Gazette

December 10, 2013

CONFER: Who is behind the Common Core standards?

By Bob Confer
Niagara Gazette

Editor’s note: This is the third in an eight-part series about Common Core.

While the National Governors Association was instrumental in promoting and distributing the Common Core standards, it was an organization that calls itself Achieve, Inc. that created the standards themselves.

In 2006, Education Week ranked Achieve as one of the most influential education policy organizations in the nation. Achieve, founded in 1996, touts itself as, “… an independent, nonpartisan, nonprofit education reform organization dedicated to working with states to raise academic standards and graduation requirements, improve assessments, and strengthen accountability.” It hangs its hat on being “…the only education reform organization led by a board of directors of governors and business leaders.”

You will notice that despite identifying itself or being recognized as one of the leaders in American education, Achieve’s board of directors is missing the most important part of the equation – the educators. Instead, the emphasis of power in deciding who should learn what is placed on people who don’t administer education or fail to be directly involved with it — and shouldn’t be.

Yes, governors may budget for state spending on schools, but in the day-to-day operations of a state government their personal involvement in primary and secondary education is minimal. They aren’t trained in education (when is the last time you saw a governor with a teaching degree?) and they leave such matters to their staff – who ultimately assume control through top-down methods proven to broken (i.e. Regents).

While it sounds good that business leaders are involved in the process (they are, after all, consumers of the final product of public education through employment), and it’s something that this columnist has advocated, it is best left at the local level where consortiums of business leaders, teachers, and superintendents can more effectively work together to address the needs of the workforce and students in that specific region. As you get higher up in the food chain and further away from local efforts and local control, corruption – both illegal and in its legalized form of corporatism – run rampant (that is something we will discuss in Part 8 of this series when we look at the private entities benefitting from the institution of Common Core).

Without teachers, let alone administrators like principals or superintendents, involved in the strategic planning and oversight of Achieve, Inc., thus Common Core, you know that it was destined for failure from the start.

Achieve, Inc. alleges that educators were involved in the standard writing process. The National Governors Association website has a list of 135 people who developed the standards and/or provided feedback of them. It can be read at tinyurl.com/AchieveCoreTeam.

A cursory glance at the list finds that only 11 of the contributors work at or recently retired from school districts. The other 124 are employed in universities and state governments or they may be consultants. So, the standards were written by team of which 92 percent do not or have not worked with youth. The rule makers ended up being people who teach adults and/or tell schools how to teach. They are folks totally disconnected from children and teens and the art and science of teaching them.

This was never made more evident than the fact that the teams, though dictating what is expected of early childhood education (K-3), had not one expert or teacher versed or experienced in that matter. A high schooler is nothing like a college student who is nothing like an elementary school student. Yet, it seems Achieve, Inc. would have us believe otherwise.

It’s a classic case of the ivory towers telling everyone else how to live.

Had teachers actually been involved in the process the standards might have been more palatable and useful. But they weren’t and the standards aren’t. That’s a big reason why only 31 percent of New York students met or exceeded the first round of Common Core exams last spring.

Next week we will look at the English and math curricula forged by Common Core. You will see how our kids and our country have been set up for yet more failure.