Gates Wants More Global Assessments

Photo credit: World Economic Forum (CC-By-SA 2.0)

I saw this piece of news last month but did not have a chance to share it here. Bill Gates, Microsoft Founder and Philanthropist, wants more global education assessments.

AP reports:

This year marks new intertwining priorities for Gates’ domestic and international work as it focuses on global education quality while also broadening its U.S. agenda to look at overarching poverty issues. In June, Gates announced a new initiative that would focus on “global education learning,” committing $68 million over the next four years to help improve primary and secondary education in India and African countries. And in May, the foundation also committed to delving deeper into systemic poverty in the U.S. by looking at both defined and abstract challenges such as racism and housing.

The foundation said the U.S. and global education work are both rooted in their belief that a quality education can best uplift those in poverty, though its two programs will operate separately because the challenges and solutions are different.

Gates said it will support new data systems that will make it possible to compare student outcomes across the globe. Gates said last year that the first step to measuring education quality will be to develop better “cross-national assessments,” particularly for math and reading among younger students. Its new report cites UNESCO’s estimates that over 600 million students are not minimally proficient, lamenting that few countries collect enough data points that would identify where their “learning crisis” lies.

Gates’ education reforms are not working here so of course the thing to do is export them! 

An Open Letter to Bill Gates on Preparing Students for Algebra

Photo credit: World Economic Forum (CC-By-SA 2.0)

Dear Mr. Gates,

You recently said, “Math is one area where we want to generate stronger evidence about what works. What would it take, for example, to get all kids to mastery of Algebra I?”

I believe I can answer your question. There have been two significant math studies done in the last decade, reaching very similar conclusions. The first was the National Mathematics Advisory Panel Report of 2008 commissioned by President George W. Bush. Here are some of their conclusions: students’ difficulty with fractions (including decimals and percents) is pervasive and a major obstacle to further progress in mathematics including algebra. The panel suggested curriculum should allow sufficient time to learn fractions, and teachers must know effective interventions for teaching fractions. Preparation of elementary and middle school teachers in mathematics needs to be strengthened; using elementary teachers who have specialized in elementary mathematics could be an alternative to increasing all elementary teachers’ math content knowledge by focusing the need for expertise on fewer teachers.

Another problem is that many textbooks are too long (700 to 1000 pages) and include non-mathematical content like photographs and motivational stories. Key topics should be built on a focused, coherent progression, and continual revisiting of topics year after year without closure should be avoided.

Lack of automatic recall in addition, subtraction, multiplication and division is a serious deficiency as is a lack of proficiency with whole numbers, fractions and certain aspects of geometry and measurement, which are the foundations for algebra. Of these, knowledge of fractions is the most important foundational skill not developed among American students.

The panel advised that algebra problems involving patterns be greatly reduced in state tests and on the NAEP assessment. Also districts should ensure that all prepared students have access to an authentic algebra course by 8th grade, and more students should be prepared to enroll in such a course by 8th grade.

The second important study, “Early Predictors of High School Mathematics Achievement” was published in June 14, 2012, and an article about it, entitled “Fractions are the key to math success, new study shows,” was posted at the Univ. of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research on June 18, 2012. Robert Siegler, a cognitive psychologist at Carnegie Mellon University, was the lead author of this study which analyzed long-term data on more than 4,000 children from both the United States and the United Kingdom. It found students’ understanding of fractions and division at age 10 predicted algebra and overall math achievement in high school, even after statistically controlling for a wide range of factors including parents’ education and income and children’s age and I.Q.

Univ. of Michigan researcher Pamela Davis-Kean, the co-author of the study, said, “These findings demonstrate an immediate need to improve the teaching and learning of fractions and division.”

Dr. Siegler stated, “We suspected that early knowledge in these areas was absolutely crucial to later learning of more advanced mathematics, but did not have any evidence until now.”

I know how interested you and your wife are in improving education, especially in math, for our students. As a state school board representative, I understand the importance of getting our teachers and students on track immediately. I believe we can succeed, though, if we will follow the advice given in these two studies. I would certainly be glad to discuss this subject with you or your staff.

Sincerely,

Betty Peters
Dothan, AL

Bill Gates Can’t Leave ESSA State Plans Alone Either

Photo credit: World Economic Forum (CC-By-SA 2.0)

The Associated Press reported this morning that Bill Gates has poured millions into trying to influence state plans required under the Every Student Succeeds Act.

AP’s Sally Ho writes:

Billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates saw an opportunity with a new federal education law that has widespread repercussions for American classrooms.

His non-profit, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, has given about $44 million to outside groups over the past two years to help shape new state education plans required under the 2015 law, according to an Associated Press analysis of its grants. The spending paid for research aligned with Gates interests, led to friendly media coverage and even had a hand in writing one state’s new education system framework.

The grants illustrate how strategic and immersive the Microsoft founder can be in pursuit of his education reform agenda, quietly wielding national influence over how schools operate. Gates’ carefully curated and intersecting web of influence is often invisible but allows his foundation to drive the conversation in support of its vision on how to reshape America’s struggling schools systems.

Critics call it meddling by a foundation with vast wealth and resources. The Gates Foundation says it’s simply helping states navigate a “tectonic” shift in responsibility for education — from the federal government to more local control.

Read the rest.

We call it meddling because it is. My gosh, it must be nice to be able to buy education policy. Since the millions and millions of dollars he poured into Common Core was a colossal waste he thought he would try to be more influential at the state level.

I wish educrats would use the critical thinking skills they believe Common Core will impart to students and ask one simple question. Have Gates-funded reforms have actually worked?

Largely no, but they have dollar signs in their eyes. It’s hard to say no to that cash and Gates has plenty of it.

Gates and Zuckerberg Partner on New Ed Project, What Could Go Wrong?

The Associated Press reports that Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg will team up for an education initiative focused on kids who have trouble learning.

What could possibly go wrong?

The AP’s Sally Ho writes:

Tech moguls Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg said Tuesday they will team up to help develop new methods for kids with trouble learning — an effort that will include dabbling into child brain science.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative intend to explore a number of potential pilot projects.

They’ll focus on math, writing and brain functions — key areas of classroom learning that they note are crucial for academic success.

The effort is now seeking information and ideas from across sectors, from education and academia to business, technology and medicine. Future investments based on that information are expected, but no dollar amount has been set.

The idea that disadvantaged children struggle to learn because of poor executive brain function involving memory, thinking flexibility, and behavioral issues related to autism and other attention disorders has long been lamented by social workers and health advocates.

Read the rest.

Yes, exactly what we want to see, tech moguls exploring child brain science and collecting “information” ie. data to determine future investments.

They say technology won’t be the primary focus, but they recognize the role it will play. What role? How much screen time will this require?

So what kind of experimentation will need to happen for them to know if their ideas will work? How much data mining will it require? How will this then be foisted on public schools?

If their ideas trickle down into local schools will parents be made aware or will the kids be subject to experimentation similar to what Pearson recently did with college students?

What independent group will validate the results or will they be Gates-funded as well?

Where will investments be directed beyond research? Advocacy?

Since Common Core is a failure why in the world should we trust anything that comes from Bill Gates? With Zuckerberg’s involvement, why should we trust that privacy will be protected?

More Gates Money Is Coming Down the Pike

Photo credit: World Economic Forum (CC-By-SA 2.0)

Bill Gates during his speech at the Council of the Great City Schools in Cleveland, OH yesterday said that he plans to spend another $1.7 Billion on more education initiatives in public schools.

As we have reflected on our work and spoken with educators over the last few years, we have identified a few key insights that will shape our work and investments going forward.

Teachers need better curricula and professional development aligned with the Common Core. And we see that they benefit the most from professional development when they are working with colleagues to tackle the real problems confronting their students.

Schools that track indicators of student progress — like test scores, attendance, suspensions, and grades and credit accumulation – improved high school graduation and college success rates.

And last, schools are the unit of change in the effort to increase student achievement and they face common challenges – like inadequate curricular systems and insufficient support for students as they move between middle school, high school and college. And they need better strategies to develop students’ social and emotional skills. But solutions to these problems will only endure if they are aligned with the unique needs of each student and the district’s broader strategy for change.

So, what does this mean for our work with you and others?

First, although we will no longer invest directly in new initiatives based on teacher evaluations and ratings, we will continue to gather data on the impact of these systems and encourage the use of these systems to improve instruction at the local level.

Second, we will focus on locally-driven solutions identified by networks of schools, and support their efforts to use data-driven continuous learning and evidence-based interventions to improve student achievement.

Third, we are increasing our commitment to develop curricula and professional development aligned to state standards.

Fourth, we will continue to support the development of high-quality charter schools.

There is some great learning coming from charters, but because there is other philanthropic money going to them, we will focus more of our work with charters on developing new tools and strategies for students with special needs.

Finally, we will expand investments in innovative research to accelerate progress for underserved students.

Overall, we expect to invest close to $1.7 billion in U.S. public education over the next five years.

We anticipate that about 60 percent of this will eventually support the development of new curricula and networks of schools that work together to identify local problems and solutions . . . and use data to drive continuous improvement.

So, they’re doubling down on Common Core to develop curriculum because the lack of aligned curriculum and professional development was the problem with Common Core. *Cough*

Then of course… data collection, data collection, data collection. Look at how he describes the school networks he plans to fund.

Over the next several years, we will support about 30 of these networks, and will start initially with high needs schools and districts in 6 to 8 states. Each network will be backed by a team of education experts skilled in continuous improvement, coaching, and data collection and analysis.

As if schools are not doing enough data collection on students.

So Gates will inflict “We the People” with another round of education spending that will inevitably drive education policy in areas that receive the funds. As we’ve seen with Common Core, his teacher evaluation efforts, and other Gates pet projects, this will be a waste of money as well.

Back to School Common Core Propaganda Time

Summer has flown by and kids are now back in school (or will be soon depending on where you live). I had a parent in the Glendale Unified School District in California send me a photo of a parent handout he received.

A brief response:

  1. There is no evidence that demonstrates Common Core promotes deeper thinking, and even if it did they would think about what exactly since Common Core is also content-lite.
  2. Integrated learning is referring to the literacy standards in math, social studies, and science. So it encourages working on literacy skills in these particular classes. First, these standards boost the number of informational texts students have to read which has made an impact on how much literature is read. Second, I’d rather students focus on math, science, and social studies content. Third, where is the evidence that this approach works? None, it’s just the latest fad and it sounds cool therefore it must work, right? Right?
  3. Oh, they get to show how they know… Know what? Getting rid of skill and drill at a time when students are best able to learn a lot of information short circuits their understanding foundational information in a specific subject. I’d rather kids drill their multiplication tables than work on “thinking algebraically.”

They have this “hey trust us” plea, but even Bill Gates has said we won’t know for at least 10 years after implementation of these reforms will work. So these platitudes presented to parents are just a pipe dream.

Also, at this time parents have received “myths and facts” sheets about Common Core that are pretty much cut-and-paste straight from Gates-funded talking points.

If you receive a parent handout that you would like to share feel free to send it our way at info@truthinamericaneducation.com. If you ever have any question about something you receive don’t hesitate to contact us either.

A Debate over the Meaning and Perfection of Education in America

Bill Gates, the funder-in-chief of all things Common Core.
Photo credit: World Economic Forum (CC-By-SA 2.0)

One of candidate Donald Trump’s biggest applause lines when campaigning was his promise to end the Common Core national K through 12 standards. For the first time in any presidential campaign, an education issue claimed a place of importance with grassroots citizens. What was it about Common Core that so excited the passions of ordinary Americans that they demanded answers in a national campaign? And what are the implications for American education?

Joy Pullmann addresses those questions in her new book, The Education Invasion: How Common Core Fights Parents for Control of American Kids. A managing editor at The Federalist and an education research fellow at the Heartland Institute, Pullmann brings her impressive journalistic skills to analyzing the history, philosophy, and quality of the standards. Her book provides a meticulously documented 360-degree view of the Common Core scheme—why it became “toxic” (in Mike Huckabee’s description) and what can be done about it.

In the early days of Common Core, almost no one outside the federal and state education bureaucracies or the insular world of “education reform” had ever heard of it—even though the standards would ignite the largest education-related grassroots movement in American history. Common Core was adopted by state executive branch officials in response to “incentives” from federal executive branch officials, with (in almost every case) no consent from or even notice to elected state legislators.

The stealth introduction of Common Core was intentional. As Pullmann documents, the standards sprang not from elected officials but from the agendas of largely private, unaccountable players. An obscure education consultant named David Coleman and the president of a D.C. trade association called the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) persuaded the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to bankroll these new standards to “transform” American education into a giant workforce-development system. Fueled by the Gates multimillions, Common Core was on track. Now every public school would teach the same thing in the same way. And the centralized control would rest, as Progressives always think it should, with a small group of “experts.”

One former state education official explained why this scheme would especially appeal to Bill Gates. I paraphrase: “Think of how he made his money. His operating system is used by almost everyone on the planet, and it’s very efficient. Why can’t education be handled that way? Why can’t we have an education operating system, designed by experts, that’s imposed on every child in every school? Wouldn’t that be more efficient?” It’s the computer-geek view of the world, with an eye toward producing not educated citizens but widgets for the workforce.

The bottom line, according to Pullmann: “So it was mostly unelected officials who locked states into an overhaul of education policy, with little to inform the public of what they were doing. But the real work of crafting the policy had been done by private organizations.” And Gates proceeded to supply not only much of the funding for the Common Core initiative but also key personnel for the U.S. Department of Education to implement this transformational plan.

But what did the feds have to do with Common Core? Wasn’t this a “state-led” initiative, as its proponents repeat as a mantra? Pullmann shatters that myth. She outlines how, from the outset, the Department of Education was viewed as a critical player in imposing Common Core nationwide, for without federal bribery in the form of “Race to the Top” grants for states that would adopt the scheme, it would never take flight. And when 46 states eventually signed on, former Gates staffers went to Washington to work for the Education Department as what Pullmann calls a “shadow bureaucracy” to ensure there was no daylight between the Gates agenda and the federal government’s.

Pullmann uses her investigative skills to document the federal cash flow beyond “Race to the Top”: Among other expenditures, millions of dollars poured into the two trade associations (CCSSO and the National Governors Association) that own and copyrighted the standards, and much more was granted to two testing consortia to develop Common Core-aligned assessments.

The assessment component of the Common Core initiative has always been key to achieving maximum centralization in education. Tying states to the same test ties them to the same standards and essentially the same curriculum. And, as Pullmann reports, the assessment angle was yet another channel for federal control. In exchange for $330 million in federal money, the two consortia (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers and the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium) “submitted to . . . to oversight by a specially appointed federal board that had access to and power over every aspect of the tests, down to the specific questions.”

This may not meet most people’s definition of “state-led.”

Pullmann highlights another aspect of the national testing that Common Core proponents downplay: data-collection. She writes:

The national Common Core testing organizations are not just collecting the kind of anonymous, aggregate student information that states have historically submitted to the federal government, but also “student-level data” that goes into national databases. There, the federal government and any person or organization it designates will have “timely and complete access to any and all data collected at the State level,” according to the testing organizations’ contracts with the federal government.

So Common Core encompassed much more than just a set of standards. And even those standards, created by this tiny cadre of supposed experts, turned out wretchedly. The English Language Arts (ELA) standards are essentially content-free. Instead of requiring particular content (say, 19th-century American literature) by a certain grade, they dictate focusing not on content but on “skills” (for example, identifying the “evidence” used for a “claim”). The standards’ lack of content prompted ELA standards expert Dr. Sandra Stotsky to observe, “You can do this with Moby Dick, or with The Three Little Pigs.” Common Core is indifferent to which book is chosen. And in fact, Common Core discourages reading fiction at all, requiring English teachers to replace at least half of the classic literature they formerly taught with non-fiction “informational text.”

The Common Core math standards are dreadful in their own way. They reintroduce the “fuzzy math” that had been tried in the 1960s and 1990s, with disastrous results. Common Core math delays teaching the standard algorithm—the method of solving a problem that works first time, every time—instead teaching “conceptual understanding” to kids who are too young to grasp what they’re being forced to do. The result is rich fodder for stand-up comedians but agony for children and their parents, who struggle to help them make sense of nonsense.

As a journalist, Pullmann excels in using storytelling to present the voluminous information her research uncovered. The ineffectiveness and, well, idiocy of the standards are illustrated by visits to actual classrooms and discussions with actual teachers, some of whom began the Common Core experiment with high hopes until reality crashed in. She relates the stories of actual parents who watched with growing dismay as their children’s lessons deteriorated with Common Core.

When those parents began to network and push back, they generated an earthquake that rocked American public education. The level of opposition also caught the Common Core centralizers flat-footed. They had assumed their plan—secretively developing the standards, avoiding elected legislatures, tying the adoption to federal money—would result in quick and quiet implementation of the standards. Before parents and state or local officials fully understood what was happening, the standards would be installed and academic achievement would be at least improving, if not soaring. Any anti-democratic flaws in the plan would be forgiven in light of obvious success.

As Pullmann outlines, parents (primarily moms) across the nation switched into research mode when they saw the changes occurring in their children’s classrooms. After identifying the infectious agent as something called “Common Core,” they spent midnight hours at their computers, tracking down the information that had been deliberately withheld from them: the identities of the players, the nature of the funding mechanisms, the legal agreements their states had signed to adopt the standards in exchange for the federal bribe.

Armed with this research, the “march of the moms,” as Pullmann puts it, approached state governments to seek relief from this scheme. But relief was hard to come by. Although some legislators stepped up to help, more hesitated to buck the supposedly objective “experts” at the state education departments. Others were cowed by empty but effective threats from Education Secretary Arne Duncan that states might jeopardize federal funding by exercising their education autonomy.

Nevertheless, Pullmann reports, as the backlash against Common Core mounted, even the scheme’s most adamant protectors realized something had to be done to mollify the grassroots. A watershed moment occurred in Indiana, when national Common Core pitchman Tony Bennett lost his bid for re-election as the state’s superintendent of schools.

The best way to get the attention of the politicians is to defeat one at the polls. So the number of Common Core-repeal bills introduced in state legislatures exploded, from 117 in 2012 to 427 in 2014. And the opposition was bipartisan. From Tea Partiers on the Right to Diane Ravitch and many unionized teachers on the Left, the national standards provoked outrage.

But if the opposition was bipartisan, so too was the protectorate. Moms soon discovered that even in red states such as Indiana, Republicans were as likely as Democrats to dismiss their concerns because they weren’t “experts.” When the moms persisted, Gates and his private foundation buddies ramped up the marketing, spending hundreds of millions not only on direct propaganda but on buying other powerful organizations such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to recruit them for the defense.

The education establishment in some states decided to quell the uprising by deception—“rebranding” the Common Core standards to fool the rubes and get them to go home. The grassroots weren’t deceived, of course, but enough legislators and governors (such as Mike Pence, then Governor of Indiana) latched onto the maneuver to enable the standards to be preserved in all but name.

So Common Core drones on. Teachers become more disillusioned with the enforced mediocrity in their classrooms. National Assessment of Educational Progress scores flatline or decline. The federally funded testing consortia slowly collapse as states withdraw to escape escalating costs and operational dysfunction.

But Pullmann ends on a hopeful note, highlighting parent-propelled alternatives that are emerging across the country. Homeschooling is booming. Classical schools are enjoying a renaissance, perhaps because the genuine education they offer is diametrically opposed to the drab utilitarianism of Common Core. School choice is gaining adherents (although parents must resist efforts to impose government regulations on private schools that participate in such programs).

Pullmann sees a renewed determination by parents to do whatever it takes to ensure a real education for their children. If this is the result, Common Core could turn out to have been a boon to American education—just not in the way it was planned.

Cross-posted from Library of Law and Liberty

Beware of Educrats Peddling “Evidence-Based” Solutions

Photo credit: World Economic Forum (CC-By-SA 2.0)

Photo credit: World Economic Forum (CC-By-SA 2.0)

In an unguarded moment in 2009, Michael Petrilli of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute admitted that the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is running U.S. public education: “It’s not unfair to say that the Gates Foundation’s agenda has become the country’s agenda in education.” A new book reveals how right he was.

Policy Patrons: Philanthropy, Education Reform, and the Politics of Influence was written by Megan Tompkins-Stange from the Ford School of Public Policy at the University of Michigan. To examine the influence of private foundations on U.S. education policy, Tompkins-Stange spent several years interviewing officials from four philanthropies that are deeply involved in education issues – Gates, and the Eli and Edythe Broad, Ford, and W.K. Kellogg foundations. She notes that “[a]rguably, no social sector in the United States is more heavily impacted by foundations than K-12 education,” and no foundation is more influential than Gates.

The problem she examines was brought into stark relief early in the Obama administration, with its Gates-financed Common Core national standards and other “reforms”: that powerful, wealthy private groups are using their influence to bypass democratic processes and impose their preferred policies on public schools. Not only are parents and other citizens shut out of education policy, they don’t realize the strings are being pulled by organizations they never heard of.

As former U.S. Department of Education (USED) official – and trenchant Common Core critic – Ze’ev Wurman once asked about how parents could register a complaint, “Will Bill Gates have an 800 number?”

Bill doesn’t have an 800 number, but he probably has every top USED official on his speed dial. One reason, as Tompkins-Stange reports, is that former Education Secretary Arne Duncan awarded top USED staff appointments to officials of either the Gates Foundation (such as Jim Shelton, formerly program director for education at Gates) or grantees of the Gates Foundation (such as Joanne Weiss, formerly of the Gates-funded NewSchools Venture Fund). So when USED was – unconstitutionally — crafting federal education mandates, Gates policy preferences had the inside track from the beginning.

Valerie Strauss at the Washington Post recently published an interview with Tompkins-Stange conducted by Jennifer Berkshire of the EduShyster website. In that interview Tompkins-Stange drew two inferences from an Obama administration staffer’s verbal slip in referring to “the Gates administration.” “The source is acknowledging,” Tompkins-Stange said, “that the close coupling between Gates and [USED] under Arne Duncan was great because it pushed their agenda forward. But on the other hand, they’re acknowledging that it’s somewhat problematic in terms of democratic legitimacy.”

Not that the Gates/USED mandarins were particularly concerned about usurping democracy:

It was my sense [Tompkins-Stange said] that most of the people I talked to hadn’t engaged – at an organizational level – with the larger question of “What’s our role in a liberal democracy?” or “Is this the right thing for us to do as a foundation?” . . . The democracy part of it was not really a part of the equation in  terms of their day-to-day discussions. It was more about, “How do we get the elites who can really move this policy on board?”

But her contacts slid past the philosophical and constitutional problems by emphasizing the supposed benefits of the technical approach advocated by Gates and the other foundations (remember Bill’s famous comparison of education to electrical outlets). The predominant mindset was that evidence-based policy is more important than democratic structures and citizen participation. Trains must run on time, you know.

But Tompkins-Stange pointed out practical problems with this worldview. One is that schemes created and imposed by elites historically don’t work when their development excludes the people expected to live under them. Human beings are not machines, and they stubbornly refuse to operate according to the Gates manual.

Another drawback – as admitted by some of the officials she interviewed – is that the cited “evidence” is often weak or non-existent:

There was a real cognitive dissonance that people reflected on in interviews. In one breath they’d say that what the foundations were doing was evidence-based. But in the next breath they’d note that the evidence isn’t all that great, or acknowledge the fragility of the evidence’s underlying assumptions. Another Gates source said, “I don’t know anyone in philanthropy who can chart a logic model. All these people just put arrows between boxes and think it means something.”

Think of that the next time you hear an educrat or foundation official touting “evidence-based” education solutions.

This is what happens when unaccountable elites evade the Constitution to impose centralized control. Tompkins-Stange’s book confirms the wisdom of the Founders and spotlights a problem that must be fixed if we are to remain a self-governing republic.

The Media Still Doesn’t Grasp Problems with Bill Gates Control of Ed Policy

Photo credit: World Economic Forum (CC-By-SA 2.0)

Photo credit: World Economic Forum (CC-By-SA 2.0)

We’ve written about the Gates Foundation’s admission that its efforts to impose Common Core nationwide were misguided and ineffective. Remarkably, the mainstream media have begun to analyze the relatively unexamined problems with allowing one unelected man – even one who is very very very rich – to control public-education policy. But although they’ve taken a small step in the right direction, they still miss some essential conclusions.

Case in point: a recent column in the Los Angeles Times, promisingly entitled “Gates Foundation Failures Show Philanthropists Shouldn’t Be Setting America’s Public School Agenda.” The Times correctly observed that “the Gates Foundation strongly supported the proposed Common Core curriculum standards, helping to bankroll not just their development, but the political effort to have them quickly adopted and implemented by states.” Agreeing with and elaborating on the foundation’s admission of “stumbling,” the Times concluded that Gates accumulated “an unhealthy amount of power” and was given “too much sway in recent years over how schools are run.”

Too bad no one ever saw this problem before. Oh wait – thousands of parents and other concerned observers have been protesting for years now Gates’s assault on local control over education, and his blunderbuss attempts to remake schools in his own image. But not until his foundation itself admits what has been glaringly obvious for some time does the Times notice the situation.

Perhaps we shouldn’t criticize the Johnny-come-latelies in the press but rather welcome them to the train wreck. But they richly deserve criticism for still clinging to the shreds of Common Core propaganda that Gates and other proponents continue to recycle. From the same Times piece: “Financial support for Common Core isn’t a bad thing. When the standards are implemented well, which isn’t easy, they ought to develop better reading, writing and thinking skills.”

Journalists in the old days usually based conclusions on facts, but one searches this column in vain for any facts supporting the bald assertion that Common Core will “develop better reading, writing and thinking skills.” Says who, exactly? Where is the evidence that any of this has occurred or is likely to occur?

In fact, of course, the evidence overwhelmingly points to the contrary conclusion. As we pointed out in our previous piece, students’ scores on the National Association of Educational Progress (NAEP) have actually been declining since Common Core was fully implemented (see here and here). College-readiness, as measured by NAEP, is sliding downhill as well. College math professors are complaining that incoming freshmen are increasingly less prepared for college-level work.

But never mind, says the Times. Having just chastised Gates for its failure on Common Core, it turns around and accepts, uncritically, his claims that the scheme will work if we just get the logistics right.

Another interesting observation is that the Times lauds Common Core for its potential benefits to “reading, writing and thinking skills.” Notice the omission? Math.

Maybe this was just an oversight. Or maybe the Times editors read the Wall Street Journal article by their neighbor up the road, world-class mathematician Dr. Marina Ratner of UC-Berkeley, in which she warned “that students taught in the way that these standards require would have little chance of being admitted to even an average college and would certainly struggle if they did get in.” Maybe they’ve heard from Dr. James Milgram of Stanford –another world-class mathematician–that the dumbed-down math standards cannot prepare students for STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) studies in college. (Even one of the drafters of the math standards admitted the standards are designed for community college work, nothing more.)

The Times editors owe it to their readers to investigate the standards they’re still pushing. It’s not hard – a simple Google search will pull up a treasure trove of information. “Philanthropists,” says the Times, “are not generally education experts, and even if they hire scholars and experts, public officials shouldn’t be allowing them to set the policy agenda for the nation’s public schools.” Nor should public officials accept at face value, as the Times editors seem to have done, unsupported predictions about the benefits of Common Core.

Now that the media have begun to notice the emperor’s state of undress, maybe they should take the next step and actually report the whole truth.

Jane Robbins is a senior fellow with American Principles Project.

Emmett McGroarty is the Director of Education with American Principles Project.

The Common Core Hoax

Students in Computer Lab --- Image by © Royalty-Free/Corbis

Below is a guest op/ed submitted by Robert R. Logan, PhD. He is a homeschool parent, a retired economics professor from the University of Alaska-Fairbanks, and an economics researcher who resides in Fairbanks, AK.

The Common Core Hoax

By Robert R. Logan, PhD

When I was a professor I used to put a proposed law up on an overhead projector entitled the “Care for Infants Act”.    In the body of the Act, I described grinding up children and turning them into food and fertilizer in deceptive language but clear enough to anyone who was actually thinking.  Then I would have the students discuss whether the government had any business interceding in the sovereignty of the family in cases of abuse or neglect.    

It was rare that a student would raise their hand and object that the debate had nothing to do with the act they were voting on.  I could usually see some confused faces, but it was terribly easy to misdirect peoples’ attention and get them squabbling about something they wanted to argue about anyway.   That is how I got them to pass the Care for Infants Act.   The only thing Bill Gates has done differently is bribe people for their vote.   I could have gotten 100% passing rates had I incorporated bribes.     

If Common Core is all about increasing academic achievement, why is it necessary to convert all tests nationwide into computerized online testing?   Logically, that does not follow.   How is it that taking a test on a computer is any different from taking it with paper and pencil?   If computer-based tests are better than paper and pencil, then why does it have to be online?   If there is a technical failure to an online test then potentially millions of students are affected.   

We homeschool, but enrolled in online tests for a number of reasons.   The tests were timed.   But it took longer to download the questions than it did to answer them.   Whenever we call our provider about this, they lie to us.   For example, we see the clear pattern of slowest speeds, far less than promised, during the internet rush hour.  We have learned to disable our phones when we call technical support because they have been trained to tell customers in an accusatory tone that “I see you have TWO I-phones” and tell us it is our phones updating even when we have the update feature turned off. 

I can see my download speed in real time.   I think the tech people can too, but they never acknowledge so.  I tell them I will go to any site of their choosing and they can watch my download speed.   But they won’t do it.  We understand throttling and our ISP insists they don’t do it.   But that doesn’t mean someone else in the chain isn’t doing it or that a host site is capable of handling the traffic directed to it.   There are innumerable potentials for catastrophic failure with an online test that are nonexistent for other delivery methods and this was obvious to us the first time we tried to take an online test

Alaska’s tests were cancelled after allocating $25 million for computers, bandwidth, and development.    A worker in Kansas severed a fiber optic cable.  Even after attempts to fix the problem students’ answers were being lost.   So the state cancelled the tests.   How could something so easily foreseen have been overlooked by the smartest people in the room telling us how inferior our previous tests were?    Because Common Core is a hoax:  the real purpose behind Bill Gates’ billions spent bribing the Governor’s Association, Unions, and think tanks was to line the pockets of the Tech industry by converting the test delivery method: to online computerized testing, using Bill Gates’ products.

On the propaganda site for Common Core, there isn’t one word explaining why computerized online testing is superior to other test delivery methods.   Instead, there is a lot of puerile talk about being ready for work and college, about the “grass roots” origins of the movement, and completely contradictory assertions about states being free to choose their own standards when the entire purpose was developing a common standard.   How can people be this stupid?   How has it gone virtually unnoticed that the most significant change has been to the test delivery method and not the content of the tests?   

If higher performance is the objective, the easiest thing to do is require higher scores on existing tests.  Changing the tests themselves makes no sense.   It introduces a statistical incompatibility between the years leading up to the change and the years afterwards.   How do you determine whether performance has increased or decreased when the tests are different?   There are ways to approximate, but it is one of the most basic concepts in statistics: using the same measure or instrument from sample to sample.

Complaints were made about some states being more lax than others.   So why does that require states with high standards to change anything at all? Why do they need to change from paper and pencil to computerized, let alone online testing?   Our stress levels went through the roof when we were trying to take online tests.   Interactive tests can be downloaded onto every computer individually and scores can be easily assembled into a national database if this is an objective.   It does not require that they be taken online. 

One of the most telling “reveals” in this hoax is trade groups and even state educational bureaucracies adopting the standards before they were written.   You cannot legitimately do this even conceptually, let alone before field testing.   But it happened.   Bill Gates gave money and Obama used Race to the Top funding along with exemption from the No Child Left Behind debacle in order to hook states into the Common Core.

Since the hoax required misdirecting our attention away from the real change – computerized online testing – it required another radical contradiction:  the claim that curriculum would be unaffected while forcing changes in curriculum.  There was no national debate over the way math should be taught for example.   But you have to do something.  When the math standards came out there was no tying of research in math instruction and problem-solving to the Common Core methodology. 

Bill Gates couldn’t simply come out and announce a program of converting the exact same tests into an online computerized format.   People would have pointed out the obvious problems of catastrophic failure like Alaska just went through.   They would have asked the obvious question:  why waste tens or even hundreds of billions of dollars on more expensive means of delivery?   

So to perpetrate a hoax like this you have to pretend it is about something else and produce changes in test content.  No public debate took place on the process by which content would be changed.   Gates created a committee headed by David Coleman and a process that took place completely outside public scrutiny while Gates was busy bribing various organizations to back something that hadn’t even been written yet.   It worked brilliantly.

Gates couldn’t care less what the committee did with math or English.  He couldn’t care less whether teacher evaluations and student promotion were tied to the tests.   That’s why the Gates Foundation in 2014 announced urgent support for a moratorium on those very things.   The one thing Gates is clear about is that Common Core standards should not be used as standards.   That contradiction only makes sense if the goal is computerized online testing instead of standards.

We are now engaged in an after-the-fact debate over whether this new method of doing math is any better than the New Math debacle of the 1960’s.   It is beyond belief that this debate is taking place after, and not before it was imposed.  This is a consequence of Gates and the Obama administration bribing key organizations and bureaucracies to accept something before it had been researched and debated in public.   It is a consequence of a hoax designed to enrich tech companies and other education industry parasites like text publishers while we argue ignorantly about something else. 

I know how easy this is to do because I have done it myself.   I began doing so after seeing our government attach extremely deceptive titles to Acts it was passing.   You can assume the purpose of an Act is very different, even opposite, from its title and be right most of the time.   That’s what Bill Gates has gotten away with because he could not have gotten a “Computerized Online Testing Act” passed.