Paul Horton is a history teacher at the University of Chicago Lab School.

He writes:

The Cure for the Common Core

The Common Core is like that insidious commercial that creeps into the darker recesses of our short-term memories: the jingle that we wake up hearing; the embarrassingly male enhancement ad that we wince at; or the little message that penetrates the space between the paragraphs of every online news story we read. It has become the unintentional trope of market driven education: the separation of learning from creative, non alienated interaction between two subjects: the teacher and the learner. The Common Core Standards seek to reify the learning and assessment processes into code intended to objectify and operate skilled 21st century workers.

Stephen Pinker could not explain its staying power!

Readers of New York Times editorials who read nothing else about “The Core” tend to be down on trash talking critics. The message from the Times editorial board is that informed citizens want higher standards because we are fighting an educational multipolar Cold War with other countries that take an international test. We have to catch up or we are toast. Critics of catching up are ignorant cretins who are either burned out hippies who cling to warm and fuzzy notions of “progressive education,” lazy disgruntled teachers who will have to work harder for less, or “white suburban moms” who hover.

“Get real! say the Tiger moms, we have got to get our kids prepared for the ultimate multicultural meritocracy! The Spartans were wimps, we need real discipline!”

Well, I am hear to tell you that we did not need Common Core last year, and we don’t need it this year, just like we don’t need a lot of other things that we are told that we need.

Here is why:

1) The Common Core will not raise international test scores and there is no correlation between how we perform on international tests and the growth of our economy

2) The Common Core will not create high paying jobs. In fact, the net effect of the long-term implementation of the Common Core will be to drive down the salaries of teachers as their work is standardized to conform to digitalized instruction and standardized testing. The bargaining power of unions will be diminished as more charter schools are licensed and as digital learning forces students all over the world to compete for job qualifications (their test scores as well as transcripts will become what McKinsey calls “liquid information” that will follow them)

3) The Common Core will not lead to a more democratic society: the Common Core is funded by the 1% to make the one 1% more money. The corporations and foundations that have sponsored the Common Core are in it for the money, not kids, parents, or communities who effectively lose control of the educational process with its implementation. Microsoft, Pearson, Amplify and Rupert Murdoch have no loyalty to this country or any another country: they are loyal to stockholders all over the world. Money will be made by penetrating global educational markets with gadgets, software, and virtual learning systems. The leaders of the global movement to standardize education like Microsoft, Apple, and HP, to name three corporations have already set up schools in production and assembly areas that will interface with American and global educational standardization. So the corporate education reform movement might be sold in America as an effort to catch up with other country’s scores. The reality is that global corporations seek global skills alignment to be able to force workers around the world to compete with each other in acquiring a measurable set of skills. Value will thus be added by creating more competition between workers worldwide as test scores will create a scarcity of qualified employees worldwide. Competition for quantified qualifications will drive wages down even for the best jobs. Far from reducing income inequality, Common Core will make it worse locally, nationally, and globally. If you are a great test taker, you will have the opportunity to work for a global corporation, but you will always be competing against great test takers from all over the world.

4) The Common Core will not reduce the achievement gap. No credible study suggests that it does or will. Remember that the big foundations and companies that are pushing Common Core can create “independent studies” that skew results. Remember as well that our media consistently reports foundation “think tank” studies and not academic studies. Remember as well that the Gates Foundation’s resources are virtually limitless. Is there anyone on the Harvard Education faculty who has not received a grant that has origins in the Gates Foundation?

5) The Common Core Standards are top down, not written by experienced educators, and do not consider the individual needs of students of varying abilities who might need to be challenged more or who face steep learning challenges. The National Council of Teachers of English was given the opportunity to review the Common Core literacy standards and their review was scathing. The Common Core Math Standards are confusing, developmentally inappropriate for many students in grades one through three, and do not end up preparing students for college level calculus courses. As more students, parents, and teachers are exposed to the shoddy quality of the scripted lessons, software, and assessments that are being rushed out by for profit testing companies, they begin to understand that they are purchasing a lemon without ever being involved in a decision to buy at any level. The adaption Common Core Standards was required as a part of the Race to the Top competition that states entered to qualify for federal grant money. Our Education Secretary, working with two top aides who were previously employed at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, devised the RttT competition to compel compliance with more charter school creation, state mandated testing aligned with the Common Core Standards, data collection on students and their families, and Value Added Assessments for teachers based on student standardized testing. In many cases applications were prewritten and modified by the Gates Foundation. In most states, only two signatures were required: the governor’s and the state superintendent of education’s. There was very little involvement of experienced educators in this whole process from framing to drafting to mandating. Effectively, local districts gave up control without understanding how or why. Perhaps more importantly, despite Mr. Duncan’s claims, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and leading officials within the DOEd successfully collaborated on creating the requirements for RttT in violation of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. Together, they successfully mandated the framework for the creation of a national curriculum and coordinated efforts between the National Governor’s Association and Achieve to fund the writing of national assessments that constitute a national curriculum that will be used as the foundation for a national testing regime.

New Year’s Resolutions:

1) We need a new non-aligned movement: against RttT, the Common Core, standardized assessments, and VAM evaluations

2) State and local school boards and major teacher unions need to seriously examine all current and proposed standards to determine the standards that they will support and implement

3) We need to end standardized for profit assessments: why are we paying for shoddy products that will be used to punish kids, schools, parents, and the poor?

4) Allow only those charters that will be administered by the public and for the public. They must be transparent and not for profit. They need to serve communities and kids, especially in underserved neighborhoods

5) We need to end the involvement of for profit investors in education. We need legal transparency that identifies Wall Street influence on Education policy at all levels. We need to be able to identify which local politicians and investors have profited from the possession of Microsoft or Pearson stock or stock in charter companies

6) DOEd funds for special education and other support services should not be held hostage to compliance to RttT mandates

7) Teachers should mentor new teachers to reduce reliance on scripted curricula; teachers should create authentic assessments and grade authentic assessments. Boards of teachers at grade levels and subject departments should create authentic assessment rubrics and should control and examine the state wide assessment process

8) Laws should be passed at the Federal level and in every state to insure that policy makers have at least ten years in a classroom before they are allowed to assume an administrative or policy level post. Our educational system is being destroyed from within by policymakers who are more loyal to corporate and foundation interests than they are to students, communities, and parents. Increasingly, these policy makers have no experience in Education. They are hired to turn Education into for profit businesses

9) Citizens United must be repealed. Because both major parties are beholden to Wall Street interests, our education policies are beholden to bundlers who fund political campaigns in exchange for investment opportunities

10) Remember that although many on the corporate reform side are well intentioned, they care nothing for due process or democracy: they have pulled off a power play and we must resist by coming together. They have demonstrated to the American people that they have contempt for the democratic process. They have the money, the big media, the talking points, the PR firms, and the Chamber of Commerce and Exxon making speeches. We have the passion and the fight! Resist Moloch we must!

Happy New Year in Solidarity!

Paul AFT Local 2063