Reader Christine Langhoff writes in response to a post wondering about Exxon Mobil’s fervent advocacy for the Common Core standards:

“Exxon Mobile came into the Boston Public Schools in about 2003, trying to destroy our contract by inserting merit pay through a project called the Massachusetts Math and Science Initiative (MMSI), a branch of the National Math and Science Initiative (NMSI). And surprise! David Coleman is also a member of this board.

“Despite its official-sounding name, this was a private project begun by Tom Luce who served in Bush’s cabinet as an under secretrary of education. Failing to win the governor’s race in Texas in 1990, he was inspired to form “two nonprofit ventures that led public schools across the United States to measure performance based on standardized tests.” One of the first iterations was called “Just for Kids”. An early innovator (read NCLB) – all good ideas come from Texas! Currently, he is now a “reformer”on the board of the Foundation for Excellence in Education (FEE), Jeb!’s spawn.

“The Mass Math and Science Initiative set up shop in my school (89% of our students were minorities). We already had an outstanding track record of well-prepared kids diligently working their way toward scores of 4 and 5 in a host of AP classes. But the goal was not to have kids do well, the goal was simply to get more kids to take AP classes. Why? Follow the money.

“Although teachers had long taught AP courses successfully, no outsider consultants were involved. Suddenly, we were inundated with “verticle alignment” workshops, AP workbooks, CD’s, mandatory extra time for teacher AP training (including Saturdays) and cash payments to students taking the tests, as well as “merit pay” to AP teachers for high scores. In other words, what had been an in-house effort to take our most talented students a step forward toward distinguishing their academic records was co-opted to make bank for test fees, materials and consultants.

“In the same time period, the College Board began to require that AP teachers write up and submit an AP curriculum to them for approval (un-reimbursed, of course), and AP training courses began to be required of teachers so that they would be “qualified” to teach those “endorsed” classes. More “ka-ching” at the cash register.

“Remember that our faculty and students had a long track record of success in this arena. Under pressure from the school department, our numbers of students taking AP classes expanded exponentially, until nearly every student was enrolled in some AP class or another. So we met the goal of more kids, but of course our percentage of high scores fell off precipitously.

“It so happened that my own kids were applying for college during this time period. I noticed that though AP had been on the lips of admissions officers of “elite” schools four years earlier for my older child, now there was little interest. Every admissions person I asked about this at competitive liberal arts colleges had the same answer – that credential has been devalued.