Archives for category: Coleman, David

Mercedes Schneider writes here about the strange events surrounding Manuel Alfaro, an ex-College Board employee who has been complaining loudly about the defects of the redesigned SAT.

His home was raided by the FBI, very likely searching to find out if he was the one who released 400 test items to the media.

The day after the raid, he wrote a long commentary about the flaws of the new SAT.

This is an astonishing post by Mercedes Schneider. She details the charges of a whistle blower at the College Board, who was hired by David Coleman but couldn’t tolerate the manipulation of test items and use of U reviewed items that were fixed after the actual testing. Manuel Alfaro has left the employ of the College Board, but he couldn’t remain silent about the abuses he witnessed.

Alfaro writes:

David Coleman and the College Board have made transparency a key selling point of the redesigned SAT. Their commitment to transparency is proclaimed proudly in public documents and in public speeches and presentations. However, public documents, such as the Test Specifications for the Redesigned SAT (, contain crucial statements and claims that are fabrications. Similar false claims are also included in proposals the College Board wrote in bids for state assessments—I got the proposals from states that make them public.

To corroborate my statements and allegations, I needed the College Board to administer the tests. If I had gone public before the tests were administered, the College Board could have spun this whole matter as “research” or some other nonsense. Now that the PSAT and SAT have been administered; now that the College Board has committed an insurmountable violation of trust; we the people can decide the future of the SAT.

He goes into great detail about the manipulation of data, the lack of transparency, and violations of trust at the College Board.

This is the open letter that he circulated to the staff at the College Board:

Dear Colleagues:

Over the last year, I’ve explored many different options that would allow me to provide students and their families the critical information they need to make informed decisions about the SAT. At the same time, I was always seeking the option that would have minimal impact on your lives.

I gave David Coleman several opportunities to be a decent human being. Using HR and others, he built a protective barrier around himself that I was unable to penetrate. Being unable to reach him, I was left with my current option as the best choice.

For me, knowing what I know, performing most tasks at the College Board required that I take a few steps onto a slippery slope. Where my superiors stood on that slope was influenced by the culture at the College Board, but ultimately it was their personal choice. They chose to conceal, fabricate, and deceive instead of offering students, parents, and clients honest descriptions of the development processes for item specifications, items, and tests.

I feel bad for all of us and wish that there was a better solution. Like you, I owed allegiance to the College Board, but my first allegiance was, is, and always will be to the students and families that we serve. Please understand that. Millions of students around the world depend on us to protect their best interests. When we forget that, and put the financial interests of the organization first, it is easy to justify taking a shortcut here and a shortcut there in an attempt to meet unrealistic organizational goals.

You are good people. You just need better bosses.

Best wishes,


Here is David Coleman, the arbiter of what America’s children should know and be able to do.


This is quite a lofty perch. First, he oversees the writing of what are supposed to be national standards.


Now, he is in charge of testing whether students are qualified to enter college.


What an amazing career trajectory for a guy who never taught and whose primary experience was with McKinsey and later with his own testing business, which he sold to McGraw-Hill for $14 million.



There were two big controversies over curriculum this past year. One got resolved by listening to critics and revising the original language. The other continues to churn and burn because its advocates refuse to concede any mistakes or to make any changes.

Rick Hess writes that this is the difference between the Advanced Placement U.S. history and the Common Core. The College Board listened to critics and revised offending language. The Common Core leaders, however, have insisted that it is perfect, its critics are extremists, and not one word may be changed.

The curious fact is that the same person, David Coleman, was in charge of both. He was “architect” of the Common Core standards, and now he is president of the College Board, which administers AP exams.

Why did he respond to critics in one situation and ignore them in the other? I’m guessing but it may be that his board at the College Board told him that the controversy had to end, and it would end only by listening and responding to critics.

In the case of the Common Core, the design of the whole project left no one in charge once the final draft was published. Instead if listening and revising, advocates dug in their heels and attacked the critics as misinformed, shrill, extremist, ignorant, etc. Even the Secretary of Education ridiculed critics, and advocates for the standards lined up big business to run an advertising campaign defending the standards.

Nothing could be changed in the standards, period. They were perfect!

And this arrogant attitude guarantees that the controversy swirling around the standards and tests will burn on. Because no one will listen.

Our blog poet, who signs as SomeDam Poet, contributed these words of wisdom:


Hail Arne
Full of Gates
The Core is with thee
Mes-sed art thou among Reformers
And mes-sed is the fruit of thy room, RTTT


Our Coleman
Who aren’t an educator
Hollow be they claim
Thy King-dom come,
Thy will be dumb,
In NY as it is in Washington
Spare us this Core our daily bore,
and forgive us our testpasses,
as we forgive those who testpass in charters ;
and lead us not into DAM nation,
but deliver us from Common Core.



The College Board has ambitious plans to make SAT prep a standard part of the curriculum, utilizing Khan Academy videos. The head of the College Board is David Coleman, architect of the Common Core. The ostensible goal is to help more poor kids get prepared to take the SAT and gain admission to college.

“The company wants schools to track students’ progress from eighth to 12th grade using the “SAT Suite of Assessments,” which will be largely paid for by schools and typically administered during the school day, thus ensuring high participation rates. All of the exams will be aligned with the redesigned SAT, which is slated to make its debut next spring. More school-day testing is bound to take time away from traditional instruction, as is Khan prep if schools make it part of the standard curriculum, which appears to be the College Board’s goal….”

“If you ask Coleman, having students do Khan prep in school doesn’t detract from authentic learning. He believes that doing multiple-choice math and reading questions on screen and watching Khan’s YouTube videos constitute an “organic tool” that will work within the existing curriculum to develop academic skills. Meanwhile, Cynthia Schmeiser, who oversees assessment at the College Board, believes that “the sooner a student starts [using Khan prep], the more comfortable they’ll be on test day.”

“These positions fly in the face of test-prep experts, who argue that the SAT is divorced from traditional school work because it is a high-stakes, time-pressured, multiple-choice exam. Tutors typically recommend intense, compact preparation that detracts as little as possible from other educational pursuits and takes months not years. As Brendan Mernin, a founding tutor at, put it, “The SAT is supposed to show what you got out of your schoolwork. It is not supposed to be the schoolwork.”

What do I think? I think this is a corruption of education. The goal of education is to help young people learn and develop in mind, body, and character. School is a time to explore and develop interests and talents. Taking a test is not the goal of education. It is supposed to be a measure, not a part of the curriculum.

It is well-established that students’ grade point average predicts college readiness better than the SAT. Many colleges recognize this,and more than 800 are now test-optional.

The SAT has been losing ground to the ACT. This may be a clever marketing ploy by the College Board to best the competition.

Let’s hope that more colleges recognize that students’ work over four years means more than the SAT or the ACT. Free the students from this unnecessary burden!

Nicholas Tampio, a professor of political science at Fordham University, dislikes David Coleman’s approach to teaching literature even more than Peter Greene. He believes that Coleman has no appreciation for literature.


Coleman writes about the joys of “wonder,” says Tampio, but the methods he imposes are sure to suffocate and penalize wonder:




Coleman’s pedagogical vision stifles this kind of wonder by imposing tight restrictions on what may be thought — or at least what may be expressed to earn teacher approval, high grades and good test scores. He expects students to answer questions by merely stringing together key words in the text before them. This does not teach philosophy or thinking; it teaches the practice of rote procedures, conformity and obedience.


The first standard is the foundation of his vision. “Read closely to determine what the text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it,” it reads, and “cite specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions drawn from the text.” According to Coleman, the first standard teaches a rigorous, deductive approach to reading that compels students to extract as much information from the text as possible.


Throughout the document, he reiterates that students need to identify key words in a text. He analyzes passages from “Hamlet,” “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,” the Gettysburg Address and an essay by Martha Graham. There is minimal discussion of historical context or outside sources that may make the material come alive. For instance, he suggests that teachers ask students, “What word does Lincoln use most often in the address?” rather than, say, discuss the Civil War. In fact, he disparages this approach. “Great questions make the text the star of the classroom; the most powerful evidence and insight for answering lies within the text or texts being read. Most good questions are text dependent and text specific.”


A recurrent defense of the Common Core is that the standards are good but the implementation has been bad.
As a professor, of course I demand that my students provide evidence to support their arguments. Coleman’s pedagogical vision, however, does not prepare students for college. He discourages students from making connections between ideas, texts or events in the world — in a word, from thinking. Students are not encouraged to construct knowledge and understanding; they must simply be adept at repeating it.


His philosophy of education transfers across disciplines. After analyzing literary passages, he observes, “Similar work could be done for texts … in other areas such as social studies, history, science and technical subjects.” Like a chef’s signature flavor, Coleman’s philosophy of education permeates the myriad programs that the College Board runs.


Computers can grade the responses generated from his philosophy of education. Students read a passage and then answer questions using terms from it, regardless of whether the text is about history, literature, physics or U.S. history. The Postal Service sorts letters using handwriting-recognition technology, and with a little tinkering, this kind of software could seemingly be used to score the SAT or AP exams.


Coleman’s vision will end up harming the U.S. economy and our democratic culture.


The U.S. should be wary of emulating countries that use a standards-based model of education. In “World Class Learners,” the scholar Yong Zhao commends America’s tradition of local control of the schools and an educational culture that encourages sports, the arts, internships and other extracurricular pursuits. In diverse ways, U.S. schools have educated many successful intellectuals, artists and inventors. By contrast, the Chinese model of education emphasizes rigorous standards and high-stakes tests, pre-eminently the gaokao college entrance exam. Chinese policymakers rue, however, how this education culture stifles creativity, curiosity and entrepreneurship. The Common Core will lead us to the same trap. Educators should not discard what has made the U.S. a hotbed of innovation and entrepreneurship.


Democracy depends on citizens’ treating one another with respect. In perhaps his most famous public statement, Coleman told a room of educators not to teach students to write personal narratives, because “as you grow up in this world, you realize that people really don’t give a shit about what you feel or what you think.” This statement expresses, albeit more crassly, the same sentiment as his essay on cultivating wonder. He demands that students do what they are told and not offer their own perspectives on things. Ideally in a democracy, by contrast, citizens have a sincere interest in what other citizens have to say. As John Dewey argued in “Democracy and Education,” the purpose of the schools is to create a democratic culture, not one that replicates the worst features of the market economy.


A recurrent defense of the Common Core is that the standards are good but the implementation has been bad. Even if Coleman’s educational vision is perfectly actualized, it is still profoundly flawed. Under Common Core, from the time they enter kindergarten to the time they graduate from high school, students will have few opportunities to ask their own questions or come up with their own ideas. It’s time for Americans to find alternatives to Coleman’s educational vision.



Nicholas Tampio is associate professor of political science at Fordham University. He is the author of “Kantian Courage: Advancing the Enlightenment in Contemporary Political Theory.” He is currently researching the topic of democracy and national education standards.


Peter Greene, a high school teacher in Pennsylvania and blogger extraordinaire, here reviews David Coleman’s approach to teaching literature and finds it wanting.


This matters because David Coleman is both the architect of the infamous Common Core standards and the CEO of the College Board, which administers the SAT for college admission.


Greene examines how Coleman would teach Hamlet, Huck Finn, the Gettysburg Address, and a few other well-known literary works and shows what Coleman does not understand about teaching.


I hope not to spoil your pleasure in reading Greene’s analysis by sharing his concluding thoughts:


Coleman repeatedly fails to distinguish between his own experience of the text and Universal Truth. This leads him both to believe apparently that if he just figured something out about Bernardo, he must be the first person ever to see it, that his own reaction to a line is the universal one, that his path into the text is the only one, and that things that do not matter to him should not matter to anybody. Of all the reformsters, he is the one least likely to ever acknowledge contributions of any other living human being. For someone who famously said that nobody gives a shot about your thoughts and feelings, Coleman is enormously fascinated by and has great fait on his own thoughts and feelings.


The frequent rap on Coleman’s reading approach is that it is test prep, a technique designed to prepare students to take standardized tests. But the more Coleman I read, the more I suspect it’s the other way around– that Coleman thinks a standardized test is really a great model of life, where there’s always just one correct answer, one correct path, one correct reading, and life is about showing that you have it (or telling other people to have it).


Sadly, it often seems that what David Coleman doesn’t know about literature is what David Coleman doesn’t know about being human in the world. Life is not a bubble test. There is a richness and variety in human experience that Coleman simply does not recognize nor allow for. His view of knowledge, learning, understanding, and experience is cramped and tiny. It’s unfortunate that circumstances have allowed him such unfettered power over the very idea of what an educated person should be. It’s like making a person who sees only black and white the High Minister of National Art.

Steven Singer is a teacher. This post comes from his blog. It was tweeted by the Badass Teachers Association.

He writes that the best evidence against the Common Core can be found in the classroom. The Common Core is based on close reading and the “New Criticism,” which discounts the thoughts, feelings, and life experiences of the reader.

Visit Singer’s classroom in this post and find out how his students interact with what they read. Close reading is meaningless to them. They react from their heart and their gut. They think and they feel, and that is how reading comes alive for them.

Singer leads a Socratic Seminar for troubled teens.

He writes:

“If Coleman and the architects of Common Core could be in my classroom, they might see the error of their ways.

“Allowing students ownership of the text – allowing them to take their proper place as part of a complex relationship between the text, author and the world – is so much more engaging an experience than just being an authorial archeologist.

“When we insist on strict adherence to the author’s message – and only that – we create a false objectivity. Language Arts is a subject that is at most times open to interpretation. But Coleman makes it a guessing game to get the “right answer.”

“Literature is not math. We shouldn’t try to turn it into something it isn’t.

“This is why at the beginning of the year, my students take my innocent questions about the meaning of a text as an affront. They see me as just another adult trying to trick them. They assume I’m trying to get them to guess what I’m thinking – about what the author was thinking. There has to be only one true answer, they suppose, and if they haven’t been good at guessing it in the past, why try now?

“It takes a while, but through lessons like the Socratic Seminar, I try to broaden their horizons, to show them that they have a vital place in this dynamic. Without a reader, a text is nothing but words on paper. Without a larger societal context, those words lack their full meaning……

“Coleman and the Common Core designers would know that if they had ever led a classroom of students. But hardly any of them are educators. They’re bureaucrats, politicians and millionaire philanthropists.

“They’re missing the true picture.

“Because the best evidence against Common Core is denied them.

“Because the best evidence against Common Core is in the classroom.”

David Coleman, as everyone knows, is the architect of the Common Core. He is hot stuff.

Peter Goodman, observer of Néw York politics, saw Coleman strutting and preening. He says he wanted to be a high school teacher, but went to McKinsey instead. Then he became an eduentrepreneur and started the Grow Network, which was a way to track student performance data. The word on the street is that he sold it to McGraw-Hill for $14 million. Then he started Student Achievement Partners, which played the lead role in writing the Common Core.

Goodman attended the famous meeting at which Coleman made his infamous statement. Goodman writes:

“As my mind was wandering I was jolted upright, Coleman told us,

“…the most popular form of writing in American high schools today …it is personal writing. It is either the exposition of a personal opinion, or, it is the presentation of a personal matter. The only problem, forgive me for saying this so bluntly, the only problem … as you grow up in this world you realize that people really don’t give a shit about what you feel or what you think.”

Goodman recently heard Coleman—now CEO of the College Board–describe the new and redesigned SAT.

Goodman said:

“The revolution that rolled over New York State over the results of the Common Core state tests will be dwarfed by the tsunami of parent anger if hordes of students “fail” the redesigned SAT. As the SAT team projected “old” SAT questions and “new” SAT questions eyes rolled. The room was packed with principals and superintendents and scores of people with PhDs after their names. Had we all suddenly undergone a plague of “dumbness” or is it the new SAT?

“How many thousands of dollars in tutoring fees will parents have to spend to prepare their urchins? And, how about the kids who can’t afford $100 an hour tutors? The current yawning achievement gap will become a chasm.

“Regent Tallon is fond of referring to the “folks cross the street,” on the other side of Washington Avenue, where the legislative and the executive branches of state government are housed. As parents railed against the state tests legislators and the governor squirmed, the public’s angst was directed at government officials who have to stand for election every two years.

“As College Board revenue shrinks and colleges and state governments retreat the overseers of the SAT will be looking at the bottom line.

“One of the lessons of history is that reforms imposed from above without buy-in from below are doomed and ignoring history has dire consequences.

“Perhaps David Coleman should consider his original career choice – a high school teacher.”