Lyndsey Layton of the Washington Post interviewed Bill Gates in 2014 and told the full story of the origin of the Common Core “State” Standards.

In case the Washington Post is behind a paywall, the full text of the Layton article is here.

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and other friends of the CCSS insisted that the standards were developed by governors, state superintendents, education experts, and teachers. No, they were developed by David Coleman, formerly of McKinsey, now CEO of the College Board, and a committee whose members included no working teachers but a full complement of testing experts from ACT and SAT. Google David Coleman and “architect” and you will see that he is widely credited with shepherding the CCSS to completion.

It would not have happened without the enthusiastic support and funding of Bill Gates.

Layton writes:

On a summer day in 2008, Gene Wilhoit, director of a national group of state school chiefs, and David Coleman, an emerging evangelist for the standards movement, spent hours in Bill Gates’s sleek headquarters near Seattle, trying to persuade him and his wife, Melinda, to turn their idea into reality.

Coleman and Wilhoit told the Gateses that academic standards varied so wildly between states that high school diplomas had lost all meaning, that as many as 40 percent of college freshmen needed remedial classes and that U.S. students were falling behind their foreign competitors.

The pair also argued that a fragmented education system stifled innovation because textbook publishers and software developers were catering to a large number of small markets instead of exploring breakthrough products. That seemed to resonate with the man who led the creation of the world’s dominant computer operating system.

“Can you do this?” Wilhoit recalled being asked. “Is there any proof that states are serious about this, because they haven’t been in the past?”

Wilhoit responded that he and Coleman could make no guarantees but that “we were going to give it the best shot we could.”

After the meeting, weeks passed with no word. Then Wilhoit got a call: Gates was in.

What followed was one of the swiftest and most remarkable shifts in education policy in U.S. history.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation didn’t just bankroll the development of what became known as the Common Core State Standards. With more than $200 million, the foundation also built political support across the country, persuading state governments to make systemic and costly changes.

Bill Gates was de facto organizer, providing the money and structure for states to work together on common standards in a way that avoided the usual collision between states’ rights and national interests that had undercut every previous effort, dating from the Eisenhower administration.

The Gates Foundation spread money across the political spectrum, to entities including the big teachers unions, the American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association, and business organizations such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce — groups that have clashed in the past but became vocal backers of the standards.

Money flowed to policy groups on the right and left, funding research by scholars of varying political persuasions who promoted the idea of common standards. Liberals at the Center for American Progress and conservatives affiliated with the American Legislative Exchange Council who routinely disagree on nearly every issue accepted Gates money and found common ground on the Common Core.

One 2009 study, conducted by the conservative Thomas B. Fordham Institute with a $959,116 Gates grant, described the proposed standards as being “very, very strong” and “clearly superior” to many existing state standards.

Gates money went to state and local groups, as well, to help influence policymakers and civic leaders. And the idea found a major booster in President Obama, whose new administration was populated by former Gates Foundation staffers and associates. The administration designed a special contest using economic stimulus funds to reward states that accepted the standards.

The result was astounding: Within just two years of the 2008 Seattle meeting, 45 states and the District of Columbia had fully adopted the Common Core State Standards.

Even Massachusetts, the state with the highest academic performance in the nation, replaced its excellent standards with CCSS and won a federal grant for doing so.

Some states adopted Common Core before it was publicly released. The state chief in Texas, Robert Scott, refused to adopt the CCSS sight unseen, but he was a rarity.

Without Gates’ money, there would be no Common Core.

Opposition came from Tea Party groups, then from independent teacher groups like the BadAss Teachers Association.

The promise of the Common Core was that it would lift student test scores across the board and at the same time, would close achievement gaps.

The Common Core was rolled out in 2010 and adopted widely in 2011 and 2012.

Districts and states spent billions of dollars on new textbooks, new tests, new software and hardware, new professional development, all aligned to the CCSS.

This was money that the districts and states did not spend to reduce class sizes or to raise teachers’ salaries.

Test scores on NAEP and on international tests have been stagnant since the rollout of the Common Core.

Teacher morale down. New entries into teaching down. Test scores flat. Achievement gaps larger.

Edu-entrepreneurs enriched. Testing industry happy. Tech industry satisfied.

Disruption achieved.

If you want to read more about the origins of the Common Core, read Mercedes Schneider’s Common Core Dilemma: Who Owns Our Schools? and Nicholas Tampio’s https://www.amazon.com/Common-Core-Nicholas-Tampio-ebook/dp/B079S2627M/ref=sr_1_fkmr0_1?keywords=nicholas+campion+common+core&qid=1575909356&s=books&sr=1-1-fkmr0Common Core: National Education Standards and the Threat to Our Democracy.

Bottom line: What the Gates’ billions spent on Common Core proved was that the basic problem in American education is not the lack of common standards and common tests, but the growing numbers of children who live in poverty,  who come to school (or miss school) ill-nourished and lacking regular medical care and a decent standard of living.

He spent more than $4 billion on failed experiments in education over the past 20 years. Wouldn’t it be great if he invested in children, families, and communities and improved their standard of living?