Common Core: How 'Nonprofits' Reaped Millions

Common Core State Standards (CCSS) proponents frequently use the talking point that the standards initiative was “state-led.” A group of governors (National Governors Association Center) and state school officers are often said to have coordinated the standards.

A closer look, however, reveals that several “nonprofit” education companies drove the Common Core initiative while being flooded with millions of dollars from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Corestandards.org, the official website of this group of governors and state school officers, emphasizes the talking point that the standards were “state-led,” though that claim has been called “fiction” by Common Core experts such as historian and researcher Dr. Mercedes Schneider.

The current-day website of the group states the following in its “Frequently Asked Questions” section:

The Common Core State Standards Initiative is a state-led effort that established a single set of clear educational standards for kindergarten through 12th grade in English language arts and mathematics that states voluntarily adopt…

The nation’s governors and education commissioners, through their representative organizations the National Governors Association (NGA) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) led the development of the Common Core State Standards and continue to lead the initiative. Teachers, parents, school administrators and experts from across the country together with state leaders provided input into the development of the standards.

As Kyle Olson, founder of Education Action Group, observes, use of the Wayback Machine, an internet website archivist, to explore prior versions of the Common Core group’s website shows that the quote captured on March 5, 2010 is, in fact, the standard talking point heard today about Common Core’s beginnings:

The Common Core State Standards Initiative is a state-led effort coordinated by the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices (NGA Center) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO).

The description of how the standards began is somewhat different, however, on the very same website on October 19, 2009, just six months earlier:

The Common Core State Standards Initiative is a joint effort by the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices (NGA Center) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) in partnership with Achieve, ACT and the College Board.

Similarly, a 2009 news release at the website of NGA Center states:

Forty-nine states and territories have joined the Common Core State Standards Initiative. The initiative is being jointly led by the NGA Center and CCSSO in partnership with Achieve, Inc., ACT and the College Board.

Achieve, Inc., which bills itself as a nonprofit “education reform organization,” states up front on its website that it “partnered with NGA and CCSSO on the initiative and a number of Achieve staff and consultants served on the writing and review teams” for the Common Core standards.

ACT refers to the nonprofit responsible for the popular college admissions and placement test taken by many high school graduates. The ACT website states that this nonprofit is an "active partner with the Common Core Standards initiative."

The College Board is currently led by its president, David Coleman, who partnered with Jason Zimba and Susan Pimentel to form Student Achievement Partners, another nonprofit education organization devoted to the success of the Common Core standards.

As Common Core expert Dr. Sandra Stotsky told Breitbart News, all three – Common Core “architect” Coleman, Zimba, and Pimentel - were heavily involved in writing the English Language Arts and Math standards, though none of them had any experience in teaching these subject areas.

As Olson concludes:

So sometime around New Years 2010 the language changed. Of course, this was also about the time states were considering whether or not to accept stimulus money as an incentive to adopt the standards, so proponents likely needed all the positive “state-led” spin they could get.

Schneider, who has created one of the most comprehensive websites for Common Core information and history, comments on the popular talking points that Common Core has been “state-led” and that “teachers, parents, school administrators and experts from across the country” have been involved in providing input into the development of the standards:

…if one reviews this 2009 NGA news release on those principally involved in CCSS development, one views a listing of 29 individuals associated with Student Achievement Partners, ACT, College Board, and Achieve. In truth, only 2 out of 29 members are not affiliated with an education company.

CCSS as “state-led” is fiction. Though NGA reports 29 individuals as involved with CCSS creation, it looks to be even fewer.

Similarly, Joy Pullmann of The Heartland Institute observes:

NGA first directly involved governors in nationalizing education standards in June 2008, when it co-hosted an education forum with the Hunt Institute, a project of former North Carolina Gov. James Hunt Jr. In December 2008, NGA, the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), and Achieve Inc. released a report calling for national standards. The report recommended “a strong state-federal partnership” to accomplish this goal.

Those three nonprofits answered their own call the next few months, deciding to commission Common Core. NGA and Hunt’s press releases during that time, and a paper describing NGA’s Common Core process by former NGA education director Dane Linn, provide no endorsement of such activity from more than a handful of elected officials. NGA spokesmen refused requests for comment.

Interestingly, former Republican presidential candidate and Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty led the NGA, along with former North Carolina Gov. Jim Hunt (D) in June of 2008 when the decision was made that “high, rigorous standards” must be created that are “supported by an aligned and clearly articulated system of curriculum, assessments, teacher preparation and professional development, textbook selection…”

It is also the case that, in 2008, Pawlenty served as vice-chairman of the Achieve board of directors and, in 2009, became the board’s co-chairman. Also in 2009, Achieve received $20.9 million from the Gates Foundation, $2 million from the Carnegie Foundation, and a combined $2.6 million from five member-corporations of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) – GE, Prudential, Nationwide, Lumina, and State Farm.

Schneider notes the millions of dollars funneled by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to the “nonprofit” organizations involved:

The four principal organizations associated with CCSS – NGA, CCSSO, Achieve, and Student Achievement Partners – have accepted millions from Bill Gates. In fact, prior to CCSS “completion” in June 2009, Gates had paid millions to NGA, CCSSO, and Achieve. And the millions continued to flow following CCSS completion.

As Schneider points out, the NGA received $23.6 million from the Gates Foundation prior to June of 2009, and an additional $2.1 million after that date “to work with state policymakers on the implementation of the Common Core State Standards…”

The state school officers (CCSSO) received $47.1 million from Gates prior to June of 2009, with the largest payout to support data “access” and “data driven decisions.”

Schneider points out that, prior to June of 2009, Achieve, Inc. received $23.5 million in funding from the Gates Foundation. Another $13.2 million followed after the Common Core was created, with $9.3 million devoted to “building strategic alliances” for Common Core promotion.

To Coleman’s “nonprofit” Student Achievement Partners, which has always been only devoted to the Common Core standards, Gates bestowed $6.5 million in June of 2012.

“In total, the four organizations primarily responsible for CCSS – NGA, CCSSO, Achieve, and Student Achievement Partners – have taken $147.9 million from Bill Gates,” Schneider concludes. “Common Core Gates Standards.”


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