When Big Money Isn’t Buying Education Policy, It’s Buying Silence

Note: This piece was written in 2012, but unfortunately, the truth it tells haunts us today.

In building the Bellagio in Las Vegas, Steve Wynn (the 49th richest man in the world), said, “It’s the way God would do it if he had the money. The richest man in the world is more discreet. Bill Gates’ money makes him the kingpin of education policy, but he gets recipients of grants from his Foundation to do most of the talking. This means that a pet project such as the Common Core State [sic] Standards, which is on course to bring rigor and New Criticism to kindergartners, is hailed in the press as a grassroots enterprise. Although the Gates Foundation has pumped well over one hundred million dollars into the Common Core, the Gates name rarely appears in the press in connection with these standards. The Foundation is content for the recipients of its largess to do the talking .

Take a look at a few public statements below touting the Common Core State [sic] Standards appearing over just two –August and September 2012–statements from outfits ranging from the American Federation of Teachers to the American Library Association to the Virgin Islands Education Department to the PTA. Which of these four do you think did not receive Gates funding exceeding $1,000,000?

For the answer, read on.

  • The Florida College System Teacher Educator Programs are the first in the nation to voluntarily commit to a system-wide implementation of the Common Core State Standards. The new standards will be embedded in the teacher preparation program curriculum throughout the college system so new teachers who enter the classroom will be ready for the more rigorous standards.–Florida Department of Education, Press Release, Aug. 2, 2012
  • Executive Director Martha Castellon shared with over 150 San Francisco unified School District (SFUSD) administrators the key shifts found in the Common Core State Standards in English Language Arts & Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science, and Technical Subjects.–Press Release, Understanding Language, Stanford University School of Education, Aug. 2, 2012
  • Washington–The National Governors Association (NGA) today announced the selection of three states–Maryland, Missouri and Nevada–to receive assistance in mapping and executing the postsecondary implementation of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). Theh CCSS represent a major step forward in efforts to continue and accelerate education reform, with far-reaching implications for both K-12 and postsecondary education.–Aug. 6, 2012
  • Math Solutions, a provider of K-12 mathematics instruction and professional development for educators, announced five new book titles that will help educators get ready for the Common Core State Standards.–Press Release, Scholastic Inc., Aug. 7, 2012
  • The Common Core ELA standards are revolutionary for another, less talked about, reason. They define rigor in reading and literature classrooms more clearly and explicitly than any of the state ELA standards that they are replacing.–Kathleen Porter-Magee, Bernard Lee Schwartz Policy Fellow and the Senior Director of the High Quality Standards Program at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, Aug. 15, 2012
  • Following the successful CCSS Summer Institutes for educators, the Department has released the CCSS Professional Development Toolkits for English Language Arts for grades K-5. “I am excited that our teachers have great tools at their fingertips to ensure that Florida’s transition to Common Core State Standards continues smoothly,” said Deputy K-12 Chancellor Mary Jane Tappen.–Florida State Department of Education Press Release, Aug. 21, 2012
  • Even though the Obama administration has put in place bold strategies to stimulate more state-level action, we still lack a coherent national policy for boosting student outcomes. Yet there are very promising signs in the United States, among them: The commitment to Common Core national education standards by nearly all of the nation’s governors.–The Competition that Really Matters: Comparing U.S., Chinese, and Indian Investments in the Next-Generation Workforce, Center for American Progress, Aug. 21, 2012
  • Durham, NC, (Marketwire via COMTEX)–MetaMetrics®️, the developer of The Lexile®️ Framework for Reading, has partnered with ReadWorks®️ to provide Lexile®️ measures for hundreds of passages. The passages are Part of ReadWorks’ curriculum, aimed at solving the reading comprehension crisis and eliminating the achievement gap in the US….”The common Core State Standards have brought text complexity measurement to the forefront of the educational community,” said MetaMetrics President and co-founder Malbert Smith III, Ph.D.–Press Release, Aug. 22, 2012
  • “We have much work ahead in communicating with educators and parents the value of the Common Core and that the new standards can be game changers in their higher expectations for students.”–Jim Kohlmoos, Executive Director of the National Association of State Boards of Education (NASBE), Aug. 22, 2012
  • The Teaching Channel features high quality videos of strong teachers at work.. They have opened a channel to collect videos that focus on activities related to Common Core interests. Great teachers–for example, National Writing Project Teacher-Consultant Jennifer Ochoa–demonstrate practices related to the literacy standards.–National Writing Project website, Aug. 26, 2012
  • Continuing its commitment to finding new ways to support school and public librarians and educators, Booklist Publications is increasing content and guidance for implementing the Common Core State Standards (CCSS).–American Library Association, Press Release,, Aug. 30, 2012
  • Update on English Language Learners and the New Content Standards.–Press Release, Understanding Language, Stanford University School of Education, Aug. 30, 2012
  • AFT Innovation Fund invests in extended learning time, Common Core State Standards, teachers and paraprofessionals” said AFT president Randi Weingarten. “These grants are examples of how our locals use solution-driven unionism to improve education.”–American Teacher, Sept. 2, 2012
  • Students, parents and teachers will be using a new curriculum with new textbooks this year. “We have a new curriculum that uses the federal Common Core State Standards,” VI Education Department spokeswoman Ananta Pancham said.–Virgin Islands Daily News, Sept. 3, 2012
  • EducCore, a new Website developed by ASCD, provides access to evidence-based tools and resources to help middle and high schoiol educators implement the Common Core State Standards (CCSS).–ASCD, Sept. 4, 2012
  • Are you looking for a tool to understand what your child should be learning at each grade level? Look no further than National PTA’s Parents’ Guide to Student Success. The Parents’ Guides explain what the Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts and Mathematics will include as they are implemented in schools in many states over the next three years. –PTA Our Children Magazine, Sept. 5, 2012
  • Problems with the Common Core State Standards? I Don’t Think So–Mark Tucker, president of the National Center of Education and the Economy, Education Week blog, Sept. 5, 2012
  • LAL is confident that teachers can successfully adapt LAL’s writing prompt and activities as tools to help students achieve Common Core State Standards for writing.–Letters About Literature/Center for the Book in the Library of Congress, Sept. 5, 2012
  • America Achieves was in Reno to film Washoe educators describing their experience with the Core Task Project and the Close Reading Strategy.–Sept. 6, 2012
  • Explore how the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) approach literacy and mathematics in new and important ways. Through video examples, you’ll learn practical ways to put CCSS to work in classrooms.–ASCD website, Sept. 6, 2012
  • Increase the line item dedicated to Remediation, Math Initiative and the Reading Initiative to assist local school districts in implementing the new Common Core State Standards in mathematics and English language arts and the state’s new accountability system, known as the Five-Star Rating System The budget request reflects recommendations Superintendent Luna received from the representatives of the Idaho School Boards Association, Idaho Association of School Administrators, Idaho Education Association, Idaho Association of School Business Officials, and other stakeholder groups in August.–Spokesman-Review, Sept. 6
  • “We’ve adopted these standards…They’re really critical to our success as a state, they’re internationally benchmarked, they raise expectations for students and everyone else, and so in changing those standards really kind of flow into all other reform efforts.”–Tony Evers, Wisconsin Superintendent of Schools, WQOW, Sept. 7; 2012
  • Many of the PBS TeacherLine courses are now aligned to the Common Core State Standards in reading/ language arts and mathematics. View the 50+courses that are currently open for enrollment–UNC TV-Teacher Line Announcement, Sept. 7, 2012
  • Conference: Advancing Achievement through Quality Teaching: Developing Instructional Strategies to Embed the Common Core State Standards. Register now.–Sept. 7, 2012
  • American Institutes for Research (AIR) Selected for Test Delivery System Contract. AIR, in collaboration with Data Recognition Corporation, will modify its existing test delivery system to meet SBAC specifications for the Pilot Test of the assessment system in early 2013 and for the Field Test in early 2014 (one of two multistate consortia awarding funding from the U.S. Department of Education to develop an assessment system aligned to the Common Core State Standards.)
  • Building upon Introduction to Tagging, the SLC team will explore two tools that help target quality content for the classroom. In the first half, a demonstration of the Tagging Tool will be shown to apply Common Core tags to existing content…Free T-shirts will be distributed to all registered participants..–Shared Learning Collaborative
  • ASCD, the global leader in developing and delivering innovative programs, products, and services that empower educators to support the success of each learner, announces addition two-day and one-day Common Core Institutes.–Press Release, Sept 13, 2012
  • ASCD Educore: Tools to support the implementation of the CCSS. Click on the link for videos, formative assessments, lessons, PPT, and even a journal tool. The site measures 21st century skills for teachers.–Albuquerque Public Schools Instructional Coach Program bulletin, Sept. 13, 2012
  • Common Core Answers from Quest Center and info on courses on Common Core State Standards.–Chicago Teachers Union website (right below “Strike Central”).–Sept. 13, 2012
  • With all 50 states and the District of Columbia having adopted college- and career-ready standards in English and mathematics, Achieve’s seventh annual “Closing the Expectations Gap” report, released today, shows how all states are aligning standards and policies to send clear signals to students about what it means to be academically prepared for college and careers after high school graduation.–Achieve, Inc., Sept. 13, 2012
  • The Spartanburg Writing Projects (SWP) [affiliate of the National Writing Project] at the University of South Carolina Upstate will host its annual Fall Renewal Conference for educators: “Authentic Reading, Writing and Research: Because Literacy is the Common Core”–Press Release, Sept. 15, 2012
  • The College Board has been a consistent advocate and collaborator in the development of the Common Core State Standards, helping to draft the original College and Career Readiness Standards, providing feedback on the K12 standards and serving on the advisory group that guided the initiative. The College Board is committed to helping state and districts understand how to implement these new common standards. The SAT is aligned to the Common Core State Standards….–press release, Sept. 29, 2012
  • Framework for English Language Proficiency Development Standards Corresponding to the Common Core State State Standards and the Next Generation Science Standards Developed by the Council of Chief State School Officers and the English Language Proficiency Development Framework Committee in collaboration with the Council of Great City Schools, the Understanding Language Initiative at Stanford University and World-Class Instructional Design and Assessment, with funding support from the Carnegie Corporation of New York–released late September 2012
  • The Center for Teaching Quality (CTQ) has convened a team of 18 National Board Certified teachers (NBCTs) in Kentucky and North Carolina through our Implementing Common Core Standards (ICCS) project. The ICCS team piloted formative, Common Core-aligned assessment templates for literacy and math instruction across the curriculum. Project participants have created portfolios of lesson plans, unit plans, and assessments documenting their use of the literacy and math tools.–undated

Note: This represents public statements from just two months: August and September 2012.

The New York Times had received no money from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation but here’s an announcement indicating how thoroughly they were mired in the Gates agenda: “Find a fresh Common Core-aligned lesson plan for every weekday. Our lessons resume on Monday, Sept. 10, and this year each lesson will be aligned to the Common Core Anchor Standards.”–New York Times Learning Network, Sept. 4, 2012

An announcement describing an Albuquerque Public Schools professional development day on Aug. 9, 2012, brings the Gates influence together in a neat package: Here’s an excerpt of the teachers’ day:

*Teaching Channel for ELA and Literacy modules video: 14 minutes

*ELA/Literacy Dana Center Instructional Alignment Module: 60-75 minutes

*ELA/Literacy Dana Center Trajectory Module: 90 minutes

*Council of the Great City Schools Parent Guides handout

*Council of the Great City Schools video: 60 minutes

Alarm bells go off only for those who know something about the funding patterns of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. One small example: The Teaching Channel was launched with a grant of $1,500,000 from Gates to New Schools Fund dba NewSchools Venture Fund. Then, the Teaching Channel received another $11,076,761 to make available 467 videos on the Common Core State Standards for ELA and Literacy. The Council of the Great City Schools received $8,496,854 from Gates.

This one day in the life of Albuquerque schoolteachers provided a tiny look at the enormous influence of one man, who himself never attended public school. Listed below are organizations and institutions quoted in the above August-September excerpts receiving substantial amounts from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The purpose of some grants is very direct: to build resources to help teachers develop their practice and teach the Common Core State Standards. Others are more oblique: to launch a taskforce and network of leading edge practitioners to redesign human capital management systems for the teachers, principals, and other leaders in the largest public school districts in the United States. Here’s my favorite: Purpose: to work with members of the Measuring Effective Teachers (MET) team to measure engagement physiologically with Galvanic Skin Response (GSR) bracelets which will determine the feasibility and utility of using such devices regularly in schools with students and teachers.

The intent with all grants but one is clear: to provide money that directly influences the way public schools operate. The exception is the American Library Association. There’s no obvious evidence that their grants had anything directly to do with the Common Core or other school management endeavors. But sixteen-and-a-half million dollars speaks loudly, and so the American Library Association offered no criticism of the Common Core. And remember: The statements above are only from organizations that happened to say something about the Common Core during July and August, 2012. It would be nice if some education journalist would take a look at other time periods.

Bill and Melina Gates Foundation grants

Achieve, Inc: $25,787,051

Albuquerque Public Schools: $500,000

America Achieves: $1,553,624

American Federation of Teachers Educational Foundation: $1,000,000

American Institute for Research:; $25,520,722 [Plus $9,969,222 “To share vital agricultural information….”

American Library Association: $16,494,217

Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD): $3,024,695

Bellwether Education Partners, Incl: $1,757,435

Center for American Progress: $2,998,809

Center for Teaching Quality: $3,062,093

Clemson University: $498,055

College Board: $31,178,497

Columbia University Teachers College: $15,846,867

Common Core Inc: $550,844

Corporation for Public Broadcasting:; $945,040

The Council of Chief State School Officers: $71,302,833

Council of the Great City Schools: $8,496,854

Florida Department of Education: $863,465

Florida State University Research Foundation, Inc.: $594,035

Florida Virtual School: $973,213

Thomas B.. Fordham Institute: $959,115

Harvard University: $40,047,829

Idaho Association of School Administrators: $400,000

Library of Congress: $91,350

Massachusetts Institute of Technology: $2,889,132

MetaMetrics, Inc.: $3,468,005

Miami Dade College: $4,300,000

National Association of State Boards of Education: $450.650

National Center on Education and the Economy: $4,700,000

National Governors Association Center for Best Practices: $30,679,116

National Writing Project: $2,645,593

New Schools Fund dba NewSchools Venture Fund: $1,500,000

Pennsylvania Business Roundtable Educational Foundation: $257,391

Scholastic: $4,463,541

Shared Learning Collaborative, LLC: $87,333,334

Stanford University: $2,321,080

Southern Regional Education Board: $6,415,553

Student Achievement Partners Inc: $4,042,920

Teaching Channel: $11,076,761

University of Arizona: $3,416,901

University of Central Florida Foundation Inc.: $1,500,055

University of Michigan: $1,999,999

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill: $988,820

University of Texas at Austin-Charles A. Dana Center: $9,158,977

University of Wisconsin: $3,502,659

U.S. Education Delivery Institute, Inc: $5,000,000

Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction: $823,637

Not to mention the Hillsborough County Public Schools receiving over $100,000,000 to follow Bill Gates bidding. The Memphis City schools received $90,000,000 and Pittsburgh $40,000,000. These grants were labeled “Intensive Partnerships.”

In 2012, only a few long bloggers seemed to be asking if the course of public education should be determined by the idiosyncrasies of the guy with the biggest bank account. Professional education associations, when not complicit, were silent. The press announced money grants with glee. Back in 1998, when the Feds were suing Gates for violating the Sherman AntiTrust Act, things were different. Maureen Dowd started the year in The New York Times by calling him a “spoiled, rich brat.” At that time, other press epithets included: “socially-inept predator,” “despotic potentate,” “guy with “the emotional make-up of a petulant 10-year-old,” “egomaniacal and dangerous.” But by 2012, although there had been a small flurry of transient press interest with the release of Paul Allen’s memoir describing Gates as a traitor who eats chicken with a spoon, Gates was most often emblazoned with the patina of a golden goose. Press descriptions commonly ran along the line of “richest (or second-richest) man on the planet,”‘ “business magnate,” “billionaire philanthropist,” and “visionary.”

And my goodness, who wouldn’t want a visionary deciding the curriculum of third graders?

I worry that it has never occurred to journalists–or education professional organizations– that Bill Gates’ idiosyncratic philanthropy just might be causing great harm to public schoolchildren. We don’t seem to be able to learn from history. French President Francois Hollande’s remarks on the 70th anniversary of the Veld’Hiv Roundup seem instructive here. On July 16 and 17, 1942, the French police arrested 13,152 Jewish men, woman, and children from Paris and its suburbs. First the Jews were confined in a bicycle stadium in Paris, and later they were deported to German concentration camps. Just 811 survived. Calling this a crime committed in France, by France, President Hollande noted: “The truth is that French police–on the basis of the lists they had themselves drawn up–undertook to arrest the thousands of innocent people trapped on July 16, 1942. And that the French gendarmerie escorted them to the internment camps. The truth is that no German Soldiers–not a single one–were mobilized at any stage of the operation. The truth is that this crime was committed in France, by France.”1

Here, we have a crime committed in US schools by the US, committed in schools by the people who pledged to nurture children. I am not comparing the Common Core State [sic] Standards with the holocaust. I am not even insisting they are fascist, not at this moment, anyway, even though Professor Norman Pollack makes a strong argument that Obama and company offers a sophisticated corporatist form of fascism. I am calling out the failure of journalists to notice what’s happening. I am calling out the failure of educators at all levels to break their silence and exert their professionalism. Looking at Common Core collaborations over just two months in time gives us a glimpse of a crime committed in education–by professional organizations valuing money over any semblance of ethics and by educators valuing obedience over resistance.

We must face the hard fact: All it takes to line up all American schoolchildren in the Common Core is big bucks–the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation acting hand-in-glove with the U.S. Department of Education. Forty-six states have signed on the dotted line because the Feds have made it very difficult to get funds if a state doesn’t comply. Nobody is asking How did this happen?

Besides the $30.8 million Codex Leicester manuscript by Leonardo da Vinci, the Gates home library features a quote from The Great Gatsby F. Scott Fitzgerald engraved on the ceiling: “He had come a long way to this blue lawn, and his dream must have seemed so close that he could hardly fail to grasp it.” A more perceptive billionaire might have realized that mentioning The Great Gatsby would remind us of a much more famous quote: “They were careless people, Tom and Daisy–they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had made….”

In a short story, “The Rich Boy,” Fitzgerald noted, “Let me tell you about the very rich. They are different than you and me.”

How is it that the nation’s media don’t notice that one very different, very rich and very careless person is dictating national policy on how our public schools should treat children?

I accuse.

1 Francois Hollande, “The ‘Crime Committed in France, by France,'” New York Review of Books, Sept. 27, 2012

Whatever Bill Gates wants,

Bill Gates gets.

And America,

Bill Gates wants your kid.

Recline yourself, resign yourself,

you’re through.

He always gets what he pays for.

And kids’ heart’n soul is what he’s paid for.

Whatever Bill Gates wants.

Bill Gates gets,

Give him your kid.

Don’t you know you can’t win?

You’re no exception to the rule.

His dough’s irresistible, you fool.

Give in! Give in! Give in!

The following was published by FAIR [Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting], September 1, 2010. It is alarmingly prescient today.

‘Race to the Top’ and the Bill Gates Connection

by Susan Ohanian

Race to the Top (RTTT), announced by President Barack Obama and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan on July 24, 2009, is a $4.4 billion grant program generating more conversation than its relatively small money amount might suggest. What has people talking is its competitive structure that forces cash-strapped states to make radical changes in education in order to stay in the running—changes a National Research Council report (10/7/09) warned were not backed by research. Instead of dispersing grant money on the basis of greatest need, RTTT chooses a few winners based on the degree to which the states curriculum standards known as the Common Core.

Another key requirement is “using data to improve instruction.” This means basing classroom lessons on data collected from highly criticized standardized tests. So if you’re a third grade teacher and lots of kids in your class missed questions on apostrophes, that’s what you have to teach, whether it’s appropriate to children’s individual needs or not. Teachers with a high immigrant population, for example, might well feel the children need to learn English before they are drilled on apostrophes.

The director of this RTTT competition was Joanne Weiss. Now Duncan’s new chief of staff, Weiss is the former COO of NewSchools Venture Fund–which received millions of dollars from the Eli and Edythe Broad and the Bill and Melinda Gates foundations to assist charter management organizations. The Gates Foundation, which has given $650 million to projects that advance educational priorities like charter schools, testing and “teacher effectiveness” in the last two-and-a-half years (Washington Post, 7/12/10), awarded grants to some states to hire specialists to aid in the application process for RTTT round one, which Weiss estimated would take state personnel 681 hours.

“The Gates program and the Arne Duncan program are pretty much the same program,” Nancy C. Detert, chair of the Education Committee in the Florida Senate, told the New York Times (10/28/09). Mike Petrilli, vice president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, agrees, telling the Puget Sound Business Journal (5/15/09), “It is not unfair to say that the Gates Foundation’s agenda has become the country’s agenda in education.” The Business Journal noted that as of that date, the Fordham Institute itself had received nearly $3 million in Gates Foundation grants.

Delaware and Tennessee came out on top in round one of RTTT: Delaware got $100 million (about $800 per student), and Tennessee $500 million (about $500 per student). Since these states radically changed their education strategies to receive what amounts to 7 percent of their total expenditures on elementary and secondary education, the feds are getting a lot of bang for the buck. And other states are making radical changes in hopes of looking good for Round 2.

Across the country, progressive educators complained that despite all the conversation about RTTT, there was little serious questioning of this radical federal deformation of what should be local school policy; the “other guys” got all the press. I decided to take a look, which meant reading some 700 articles on the subject of RTTT and the Common Core standards published between mid–May 2009 and mid–July 2010. Wanting to see which “independent experts” reporters called upon to explain these programs, I eliminated cites from state ed officials, union officials and politicos. This left me with 152 outside experts in 414 articles. Of the 23 experts quoted five times or more, 15 have connections with institutions receiving Gates funding and 13 with strong charter advocacy institutions.

One oft-cited “expert” is Gene Wilhoit, executive director of the nonprofit Council of Chief State School Officers. Wilhoit’s group and the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices, its partner in spearheading the drive for the Common Core standards, received more than $35 million from the Gates Foundation (Boston.com, 7/30/10). In Bloomberg Businessweek (7/15/10), Daniel Golden revealed the man behind the curtain, pointing out that the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation “bankrolled the development of the common curriculum standards.” In the Lowell Sun (7/18/10), Matt Murphy provided dollar amounts, provoking Sam Smith of the Progressive Review to offer this headline (7/23/10): “Is the Gates Foundation Involved in Bribery?”

Golden writes, “Today, the Gates Foundation and Education Secretary Duncan move in apparent lockstep” on an agenda Golden calls “an intellectual cousin of the Bush administration’s 2002 No Child Left Behind law.” Gates Foundation personnel are rarely quoted in the press. They don’t need to be: Their money talks for them. Both Golden and Murphy pointed to the tidy sum that the Thomas B. Fordham Institute received from Gates to provide analysis of the Common Core standards.

There are other connections left unspoken: In the 55 citations from Chester Finn, Mike Petrilli and Andy Smarick at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, only five mention that the three served in the administrations of Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush.

Of the 152 experts cited in the 414 articles under review, 24 were associated with universities, but you won’t find many professors elucidating pedagogy or teaching strategies here. Instead, we get mostly economists and statisticians. Who knows if it’s deviousness or just sloppiness when the Washington Post (1/2/10) and New York Times Magazine (3/7/10) refer to Eric Hanushek as a “Stanford economist”? Hanushek is a fellow at the Hoover Institution, a conservative think tank on Stanford’s campus. Carlo Rotella at least gets the descriptor right in the New Yorker (2/1/10) when he pegs Hanushek as “one of the most outspoken senior academics in the market-forces camp.”

“Market forces” are the unacknowledged elephant in the room of the Obama/Duncan/Gates school reform policy. But it’s up to the reader to figure out what the agenda might be when the press quotes experts associated with groups like New America Foundation, NewSchools Venture Fund, New Leaders for New Schools, Mass Insight and on and on—without a hint about their pro-market agenda.

Reporters usually don’t even identify the Cato Institute as libertarian, never mind reveal the ties of the charter-advocate NewSchools Venture Fund to both the Broad and Gates Foundations and the administration. How many education reporters, citing Fred M. Hess (14 times in my study), director of education policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute, could even name a scholar who represents a view from the left, never mind phone one and ask for a soundbite?

If there were some sort of balance in press coverage of RTTT, they would ask Wisconsin professor Richard Brosio to explain the relationship of capital, democracy and schooling. Or call Richard Rothstein, research associate and respected author of numerous books, briefs, studies and reports at the Economic Policy Institute, including the EPI Briefing Paper he wrote with William Peterson, “Let’s Do the Numbers: Department of Education’s ‘Race to the Top’ Program Offers Only a Muddled Path to the Finish Line” (4/20/10). For years, Rothstein has been reminding people that no matter how many fourth graders pass the test, it won’t raise the minimum wage. The education press seem incapable of hearing this message—or sharing it with the public.

I keep thinking about who else is missing. Although I put blogs beyond the purview of this article, this bit from David Berliner’s commentary on Valerie Strauss’ Answer Sheet blog (Washington Post.com, 6/29/10) nicely shows the kind of analysis that seems to scare reporters off:

When poor children go to public schools that serve the poor, and wealthy children go to public schools that serve the wealthy, then the huge gaps in achievement that we see bring us closer to establishing an apartheid public school system. We create through our housing, school attendance and school districting policies a system designed to encourage castes—a system promoting a greater likelihood of a privileged class and an underclass. These are, of course, harbingers of demise for our fragile democracy.

Berliner wasn’t cited once in during the time period studied. So the question remains open: Why would the press shut out an expert, the co-author of the acclaimed Manufactured Crisis and Collateral Damage: How High-Stakes Testing Corrupts America’s Schools—while calling up Joe Williams and his cohort Charles Barone of the Democrats for Education Reform, a political action committee (PAC) tied to hedge fund interests, for 40 citations?

Duncan created a firestorm among bloggers when he told Sam Dillon and Tamar Lewin of the New York Times (5/4/10) that his policies encounter no opposition: “Zero….There’s just an outpouring of support for the common-sense changes and the unprecedented investments we’re making.” This outrageous claim was left to stand unquestioned in the newspaper that still claims “All the news fit to print” on its masthead. No comments were accepted online.

Progressive Texas journalist Molly Ivins once warned (in her George W. Bush biography, Shrub), “People who have read only one book can be quite dangerous.” So it is with reporters who listen only to the same few people on an issue as complex as RTTT. As a longtime teacher, I grieve over the press’s unwillingness to touch on why the current destruction traveling in the name of reform is happening to our public schools, and I fear I might have found the answer in the movie Three Days of the Condor, where Joubert, the contract assassin, sums things up: “I don’t interest myself in ‘why.’ I think more often in terms of ‘when,’ sometimes ‘where’; always ‘how much.’… The fact is what I do is not a bad occupation. Someone is always willing to pay.”

More Trips Down Into the Gates Pit

THE EGGPLANT: Gates Foundation announces drone-driven teacher evaluation

Susan Ohanian – January, 2011

[Editor’s note. ‘The Eggplant’ is a third cousin to its more famous public relative, The Onion. Readers who want more information along these lines — and other recent reports from The Eggplant–see that page on this site.

“This time we’ve got it right,” President Obama told a special meeting of his newly created educational task force, to discuss the drone deployment program component of Race To The Top. Following the successful introduction of military drones to murder people in Asia on behalf of the ever-shifting U.S. “mission” articulated, re-articulated, and re-re-articulated by President Barack Obama, government insiders, in cooperation with the Gates Foundation and other school reform supporters, will be announcing a unique public-private partnership to provide drone-driven assessments to identify failing teachers and underperforming classrooms. The program is expected to replace “data driven management,” which replaced “turnaround,” which replaced “small schools,” which replaced “reengineering,” which replaced “reconstitution” during the day when Obama was an Illinois politician based in Chicago and supporting corporate “school reform.”

Seattle — The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation today announced a significant partnership with the American Federation of Teachers and the Thomas B. Fordham Institute to ensure a highly qualified teacher in every classroom. The disbursal of $148 million in grants will help hundreds of thousands of teachers significantly increase their day-to-day outputs so they can ensure that tomorrow’s workers have the necessary skills to compete in the global economy.

According to a press release issued by the Gates Foundation, the AFT and the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, these three have entered a ground-breaking partnership to evaluate teachers utilizing the drone technology that has revolutionized warfare in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. A bird-size device floats up to 400 feet above a classroom and instantly beams live video of teachers in action to agents at desks at Teacher Quality Inspection Stations established by the AFT and the Thomas B. Fordham Institute.

When asked if the drones were authorized to drop bombs on teachers who exhibit inadequacy, Chester E. Finn, Jr., president of the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation, replied, “Don’t be ridiculous. Gates money puts other methods at our disposal.”

Military and civilian engineers funded by a joint grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security are preparing miniaturized Predator Drones for deployment in the classrooms of underperforming U.S. schools, most specifically to seek and deal with underperforming urban teachers. Randi Weingarten, president of the 1.5-million-member American Federation of Teachers, said the powerful union has signed on to the drone project because it is “In keeping with our mission of improving the quality of the services we provide.”

Weingarten noted that the unmanned aircraft currently patrol the border with Mexico, flying into hurricanes to collect weather data and photograph traffic accident scenes. She said that once the invisible eyes become routine, they’ll help teachers improve the delivery of their craft.

A spokesman for the Thomas B. Fordham Institute noted that Gates funds will allow sophisticated robotics to use artificial intelligence to seek out and record teachers’ delivery of Common Core standards-based instruction. “These are a valuable tool in ensuring a global economy-competitive workforce.”

Finn, Jr., emphasized, “As we asked in our [Gates funded] seminal report–Now What? Imperatives & Options for Common Core Implementation & Governance–“Do we entrust “implementation” of the Common Core entirely to individual states, districts, and the marketplace?. . . Do we create a powerful interstate body to ensure that the new standards are implemented in actual classrooms and real lesson plans in schools across the country?”

Prototype miniature data driven drones are now being tested in California and Nevada prior to deployment to schools in Detroit, Chicago, Baltimore, and Los Angeles under the new program from the U.S.Department of Education. U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan told the press in a release issued by the department that the mini-drones had been tested and proven in Turnaround school in Chicago during the fall semester of the 2011 – 2012 school year thanks to unique time dimensional software provided by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Microsoft Corporation.

Vicki Phillips, Gates education director, noted “We at Gates are going to be relentless about acquiring quality data and the need to focus on evidence-based decision making. And we will go where the evidence takes us.”

Melinda French Gates added, “Evidence gives you argument for action. When you have it you know what works and what doesn’t.”

A Gates source not wishing to be identified acknowledged that drone technology will put the needed teeth into the Common Core Standards. “No one can hide from us,” she said.


Note: The following is news reporting. It is NOT an Eggplant.

Big Brother plugging into teachers’ ears, thanks to Gates Foundation… The Gates Foundation Gives an Earful

February 25, 2011, published at Substancenews.net

Susan Ohanian

BZZZZZ. Big Brother calling: Bill and Melinda Gates want to put coaching earbud headphones on teachers across the country. The Gates Foundation gives Memphis schools barrels full of money. And they call what happens next tailoring professional development.

A Feb. 22, 2011 article in the Memphis Commercial Appeal (http://www.commercialappeal.com/news/2011/feb/22/lend-me-your) , “Memphis City Schools teachers get an earbud-ful of class coaching,” describes this Gates Foundation’s latest attempt to standardize teaching in Memphis, Tampa, and New York.

And guess who sees “lots of promise” in coaching teachers through earbuds — while they’re teaching? Teach for America. In their words, “We want to know, does it speed up the timeline in which a teacher develops?”What kind of a timeline are we talking here? After all, most TFA people move on to more lucrative environments after two years.

Get this: The Gates plan is to deliver this coaching model to the world. From the coach’s mouth to teachers’ ears. From Memphis, coaches will deliver instructions to teachers worldwide, helping them understand what it feels like to be successful.

Question: Can a teacher listen to the coach and to the students in her care at the same time?

Item: Lauren Braun Costello and Russell Reich offer important information in Notes on Cooking: Twenty-four cooks assigned to the same mayonnaise recipe — the same bowls, same spoons, same eggs. same mustard, same oil, same whisks, same peppermills, same measuring cups, same room, same time of day, same marching orders — will create twenty-four different mayonnaises.

If a master chef, someone who had written a 200-page book detailing the four domains of mayonnaise-making responsibility and spelled out the 22 components of those domains, including the 76 descriptive elements that further refine our understanding of what mayonnaise making is all about, and then coached those 24 cooks — through earbuds — would they still create 24 different mayonnaises? Or would the chef be able to whip them into producing a standardized product?

Item (written with tears of frustration because NCTE is my professional organization): The NCTE 2011 Education Policy Platform (http://www.ncte.org/positions/statements/2011edpolicyplatform) is so busy supporting the LEARN act, with its allegiance to prescriptive “skills” training that it doesn’t have time to address Gates’ taking over teacher professional development. Maybe if NCTE officials ever get their heads out of the Congressional sandbox (they call it “having a seat at the table”), they’ll address the issue of Gates takeover of education practice and policy. But I’m not holding my breath.


The Crocodile in the Common Core Standards

“[A]s you grow up in this world you realize people really don’t give a shit about what you feel or what you think.” Thus, Common Core Standards architect David Coleman delivered [1] the core pedagogy of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) to educators gathered at the New York State Department of Education in April 2011. Listen to a few more of Coleman’s proclamations and you have to ask yourself if this is a man of deep experience and rectitude or just a cuckoo bird let loose on a hapless bunch of educrats who don’t know how to voice dissent. Coleman was on stage one hour 59 minutes in Chancellor’s Hall decreeing the new reality of teaching in public schools across America. No one in the audience challenged his bizarre declarations.

Maybe they were in a state of shock.

Or maybe the hall was silent because Coleman is billed as “a leading author and architect of the CCSS, and our professional organizations have already caved in on the Common Core — without a shot being fired. Or a voice of dissent being heard. As premier standards entrepreneur, Coleman is a busy man, having already co-written the Common Core State Curriculum Standards and the Publishers’ Criteria for the Common Core State Standards in English Language Arts and Literacy [2]).

Coleman insists that teachers must train students to be workers in the Global Economy. In his words, “It is rare in a working environment that someone says, “Johnson, I need a market analysis by Friday but before that I need a compelling account of your childhood.” Translation to the classroom: No more primary grade essays about lost teeth or middle school essays about prepubescent angst. Instead, students must provide critical analysis of the “Allegory of the Cave” from Plato’s Republic, listed as an “exemplary informational text” in the Common Core State Standards for Language Arts.[3] If that’s judged as over the top for 12-year-olds, there’s always Ronald Reagan’s 1988 “Address to Students at Moscow State University.”

As though literacy is to prepare children only for a working environment. And as though personal opinion isn’t vital in a working environment.

Coleman is on a mission to slash both the amount of personal narrative in writing and the amount of fiction in reading. This is based not on any experience teaching –except at the University of London–but because, he insists, readers gain “world knowledge” through nonfiction, which he calls “informational text.” Listening to Coleman evokes Kafka’s The Castle: “You have been in the village a few days and already think you know everything better than everyone here.” The difference is that Coleman provides no evidence that he’s been in the public school village even a few days.

Standardisto David Coleman doesn’t give a shit about what children have long enjoyed about reading fiction and poetry, since he wants to make schools a Boot Camp for the global economy via the “Common Core Standards” that he is helping the U.S. Department of Education push like crack cocaine across the USA. Ironically, schools like Sidwell Friends in Washington, D.C. (where the children of Barack Obama go to school) and the University of Chicago Lab School (where the children of former White House Chief of Staff and now Chicago’s Mayor Rahm Emanuel go to school) reject straight jackets like the “Common Core” and promote the reading of children, young adult, and real literature. Skeptics who might doubt that replacing Brown Bear, Brown Bear with a Wikipedia entry on Ursus arctos will stave off our nation’s economic woes might wonder: Why, if fiction is no more vital than leftover turnips, is there a Nobel Prize in Literature and not in lawyers’ briefs or material from the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco’s Web site (listed as a Common Core exemplary text). For more on the prescribed informational text, the reader is advised to do what not more than fourscore in the country have done: Read Appendixes A and B of the Common Core State Curriculum Standards. Surely Appendix A will frost your toes (http://www.corestandards.org/assets/Appendix_A.pdf) and then Appendix B will freeze your heart.

David Coleman and his Common Core Standards cohorts decree that once teens get through Ovid’s Metamorphoses, they can move on to an article from Scientific American about the Higgs boson. (English/Language Arts Literacy Examples ELA-1 and ELA–2: Focused Literacy, Extended Constructed Response Type, p. 684 (http://www.corestandards.org/assets/Appendix_B.pdf)

Text That Informs

Here’s how Michael Dirda opens his new book [4] On Conan Doyle: Or, The Whole Art of Storytelling: Graham Greene famously observed that only in childhood do books have any deep influence on our lives.

How many adults first learned about moral complexity from the final chapter of Beverly Cleary’s Henry Higgins, when the dog Ribsy must choose between two equally kind masters?

Who, at any age, can read unmoved the last pages of Tarzan of the Apes when the rightful Lord Greystoke, deliberating sacrificing his own hope for happiness, quietly says, “My mother was an ape. . . I never knew who my father was.”

In her New York Times Magazine blog,[v] Ilene Silverman writes of her three favorite books as a teenager: The Chocolate War, Separate Peace, and My Darling My Hamburger. For the teen Silverman, these novels were filled with informational text, providing important information about the world.

Of course David Coleman insists we’re supposed to convince students that nobody gives a shit about how they feel or their need to find out something about themselves.

Writing in The New Yorker, Louis Menand says[vi], “When I read a poem I relate it to all the other poems I have read. . . past poems condition my response to any new poem. And the really new poem conditions my response to all the poems that precede it. After “Prufrock,” The Inferno is, ever so slightly, a different poem. Thus text informs text backwards and forwards. Sarah Bakewell says the same thing in How To Live: A Life of Montaigne,[vii] insisting that readers approach Montaigne “from their private perspectives, contributing their own experience of life. . . a two-person encounter between writer and reader.”

The Obama daughters attend Sidwell Friends, a private school in Washington D.C. that prides itself on a full curriculum, including children’s literature, art and music. Common Core, promoted by Barack Obama’s Education Department, would deprive most working class children in America’s public schools of the same experience.In his introduction to Poet’s Choice[viii], MacArthur Fellowship winner and award-winning poet Edward Hirsch advises that biographical, literary, and historical info provides readers a context for their reading. The teacher decides which kind of information is most relevant for each work. The reader decides too.

But in presenting his notion of a model lesson for teaching Martin Luther King Jr’s “Letter to a Birmingham Jail,” David Coleman snidely rejects out of hand such approaches as providing any biographical, cultural, or historical context for the letter — just as he rejects reader response theory which focuses on the reader as an active agent in the work’s meaning. Instead, Coleman champions what amounts to New Criticism on steroids, insisting that the reader’s sole focus must be only on the words in the text

Although a multitude of expert readers show that the emperor of the Common Core Standards is naked, as long as such professional organizations as the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) and the International Reading Association (IRA) remain silent, David Coleman seems safe in shouting his absurd declarations from the rooftops. Instead of offering any informed resistance, NCTE and IRA are occupied with figuring out how they can make money from embracing the Common Core — and staving off dissidents in their own ranks. Last year, NCTE resorted to technical excuses for squashing a proposed resolution against the Common Core.

Money Talks, Money Legislates, Money Delivers Classroom Lessons

The Common Core State Standards exist because the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation wanted them. Acting as aide-de-camps, the President and the Secretary of Education pretend these are state, not national, standards, and, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation sent buckets of money to the National Governors Association and Council of Chief State School Officers to act as sponsors. More tons of money to the National PTA to spread the good word and so on. As I revealed in an article in Extra![ix] very few media have pointed to the money source. Of course very few media even bother to mention anything about the Common Core. Or public schools–unless there’s gunfire in one.

I’d like to introduce David Coleman, Bill Gates, Arne Duncan — and all the rest of the Standardistos — to Chris, who found handwriting very difficult but insisted on laboriously copying out Beatrix Potter’s Tale of Squirrel Nutkin in his notebook. Every word. Dougie asked him, “Why are you doing this? Miz O gave us all our own copy of the book.” And Chris answered, “I know. I just like the way the words feel.” This from a boy who entered third grade loudly complaining about how much he hated both reading and writing. This is the boy who ended the year exchanging letters with his favorite poet, Jack Prelutsky. I’d like to introduce this motley school deform crew to Chris’ classmate Leslie, who contacted me 25 years later, to talk about the importance of Amelia Bedelia in her life.

This Common Core den of thieves who are stealing the literary rights of our students should read Arnold Lobel’s lovely little fable, “The Crocodile in the Bedroom.”[x] A crocodile who loved the neat and tidy rows of the flowers on the wallpaper in his bedroom was coaxed outside into the garden by his wife, who invited him to smell the roses and the lilies of the valley. The crocodile couldn’t stand the “terrible tangle” of freely growing flowers, and went to bed, preferring to stare at neat and tidy wallpaper. There, “he turned a very pale and sickly shade of green.”

With David Coleman as their spokesman out on the stump, the National Governors Association, the Council of Chief State School Officers, and the U. S. Department of Education, acting in concert with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, prescribe a very pale, sickly shade of green future for our vibrant and deliciously messy classrooms. Certainly, Lobel’s moral, Without a doubt, there is such a thing as too much order, applies even more to the classroom than it does to wallpaper. And letting our corporate school reformers steamroll our schools into a neat and tidy standardized product puts our children in great peril.

[i] David Coleman, “Bringing the Common Core to Life”, New York State Department of Education, April 28, 2011


[ii] David Coleman and Susan Pimentel, “Publishers’ Criteria for the Common Core State Standards

in English Language Arts and Literacy, Grades K–2” http://www.edweek.org/media/k-2-criteria-blog.pdf

[iii] National Governors Association and Council of Chief State School Officers, “Common Core State Standards,” http://corestandards.org/assets/CCSSI_ELA%20Standards.pdf

[iv] Michael Dirda, On Conan Doyle: Or, The Whole Art of Storytelling, Princeton University Press, 2011

[v] Ilene Silverman, “The 6th Floor, New York Times Magazine blog, Sept. 21, 2011

[vi] Louis Menand, “A Critic at Large,” The New Yorker, Sept. 19, 2011, 81

[vii] Sarah Bakewell, How to Live: A Life of Montaigne, Other Press 2010, 9

[viii] Edward Hirsch, Poet’s Choice, Harcourt Inc. 2006

[ix] Susan Ohanian, “’Race to the Top’ and the Bill Gates Connection,“ Extra! September 2010 http://www.fair.org/index.php?page=4147

[x] Arnold Lobel, “Crocodile in the Bedroom,” Fables, HarperCollins 1980