Education Expert Dr. Sandra Stotsky: Common Core 'Rather Shady'

When Dr. Sandra Stotsky was asked to become a member of the Common Core Validation Committee, she assumed her vast experience in developing English Language Arts standards would be useful to the design of the new academic standards. 

What she ultimately discovered, however, was that she and other internationally known scholars would be sworn to secrecy, then “ignored,” and finally left to serve only as little more than “window dressing” to allow what many are now calling one of the greatest deceptions over the American people.

A professor emerita at the University of Arkansas, Stotsky is credited with developing one of the country’s strongest sets of academic standards for K-12 students, as well as the strongest academic standards and licensure tests for prospective teachers, while serving as Senior Associate Commissioner in the Massachusetts Department of Education from 1999-2003.

Stotsky’s experience with Common Core has left her quite busy as she travels the country giving lectures and testifying before state legislative committees about what she has come to refer to as the “propaganda” that is the Common Core standards.

“We are a very naive people,” Stotsky told Breitbart News. “Everyone was willing to believe that the Common Core standards are ‘rigorous,’ ‘competitive,’ ‘internationally benchmarked,’ and ‘research-based.’ They are not.”

Stotsky continued:

Many people were quick to believe that the standards were ‘all those things’ at least in part because of the fact they were privately backed by corporations and, primarily, by the Gates Foundation. In many ways, whoever is ultimately behind the Common Core used private groups to their advantage. Because Common Core is run by private corporations and foundations, there can be no Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) filings or “sunshine laws” to find out who got to choose the people who actually wrote the standards. It’s completely non-transparent and rather shady.

“Everyone bought into it, and now there is lots of damage to undo,” Stotsky said:

Local school districts should be suing their state Boards of Education for not insisting on the ability to review the standards or on an authentic validation before accepting them. There was no legal basis to accept the standards for the states. The rights and responsibilities of local districts were reduced if not taken away by the state board of ed's vote to adopt Common Core with all its strings. They didn't consult with local school boards first (so far as I know – certainly not in Massachusetts) and let them know what they were up to before they voted to adopt Common Core. It may be the case that the grieving party has to be a student, not a school board. But the local level should be complaining loudly and someone should be asking for the state board of ed to resign or be put out of existence.

To parents, Stotsky gave the following advice via Skype during the New York State Assembly Minority Education Committee Forum on Common Core and Race to the Top in late December:

We have a very honorable concept in American history called civil disobedience. I think parents should be able to exercise their right to this concept in opting their students/children out of school on the day either that Common Core testing is being done or pilot testing is being done.

Stotsky called for legislation at both the state and federal levels to ensure parents could “exercise their judgment” to opt their children out of the Common Core testing “without any penalty accruing for their children’s absence from these tests.”

Asked why she believes so many leaders and state board of education members signed onto the standards so quickly, Stotsky said:

Part of it is a misguided philosophy about what you think social justice means. Does that mean you lower the ceiling so that everybody gets lower standards? If that’s what you believe, then the only way to equalize is to reduce everyone to the same low common denominator.

Stotsky said one of the mind-boggling aspects of the Common Core dilemma is the number of industry and business leaders, such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, that have supported the standards, even though they are blatantly inferior:

How could so many supposedly sophisticated industry and business leaders not understand that Common Core Math will not prepare students for jobs in their fields? Surely they have people on their staffs – engineers and technology people – who could offer their opinion!

Stotsky has spoken and written extensively about Common Core math standards’ inability to prepare students for STEM fields. Earlier in the month, she penned an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal in which she quoted Jason Zimba, author of the math standards:

Yet the basic mission of Common Core, as Jason Zimba, its leading mathematics standards writer, explained at a videotaped board meeting in March 2010, is to provide students with enough mathematics to make them ready for a nonselective college – "not for STEM," as he put it. During that meeting, he didn't tell us why Common Core aimed so low in mathematics. But in a September 2013 article published in the Hechinger Report, an education news website affiliated with Columbia University's Teachers College, Mr. Zimba admitted: "If you want to take calculus your freshman year in college, you will need to take more mathematics than is in the Common Core."

Stotsky said that, while Zimba served as Common Core lead math standards writer, David Coleman, the so-called “architect” of the Common Core, became the lead writer of the English Language Arts standards, along with Susan Pimentel.

Neither Coleman nor Pimentel had any experience teaching English, said Stotsky.

“No one in the media showed any interest in the lack of credentials of the people writing the standards,” she added.

Historically, as EAG News reported, Zimba and Coleman were co-owners of a pilot program called Grow Network which was based in New York. In 2001, Grow Network negotiated a contract with the Chicago Public Education Fund, created in 1998 by then-state Sen. Barack Obama and radical activist Bill Ayers on behalf of the Chicago Public Schools (CPS), which was headed at the time by current U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan.

Under CPS CEO Duncan, Coleman, and Zimba’s Grow Network finalized a $2.2 million contract with the school system to provide it with student performance data for the 2002-2003 school year. Members of the CPS Planning and Development Advisory Committee and discussion groups included Obama and John Ayers, brother of Bill Ayers, and Mike Klonsky, Ayers’s associate.

After selling Grow Network to McGraw Hill publishers, Coleman and Zimba then joined to form Student Achievement Partners, an organization that has played a leading role in the development of the Common Core standards and has actively supported their adoption in the states.

In 2012, Coleman was elected president of the College Board and has taken it upon himself to ensure that the SAT, ACT, AP, and GED exams are all aligned with the Common Core standards.

Stotsky said that as Common Core has become quite a tangled situation, state legislatures don’t seem to know how to get out of it. While some lawmakers are saying they cannot repeal Common Core because their states are already heavily invested in it in terms of time and money, state education departments are finding themselves having to defend it.

“They are trying to save face,” Stotsky said. “After all, who wants to admit they didn’t know what they were doing?”


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