Bill Gates, whose private foundation has spent upward of $170 million for the development and implementation of the Common Core State Standards, is asking teachers to help parents understand the standards, hoping this effort will defeat critics of the centralized education initiative.
A total of 33 states now have some form of legislation pending against the highly controversial Common Core standards, the associated testing, or the student data collection.
“There are many voices in this debate but none are more important or trusted than yours,” Gates told several thousand educators in Washington, D.C. at the inaugural conference of the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, a nonprofit organization that runs a voluntary system to certify teachers. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation sponsored the conference, having awarded about $5 million to the national board since 2010.
According to the Washington Post, Gates told teachers common standards could transform U.S. education and reduce the number of students who require remedial courses in college.
Education standards experts, however, have observed that the way the Common Core standards are “transforming” U.S. education and reducing the need for remediation is by “dumbing down” standards and curricula for all students in order to achieve a social justice agenda.
Gates also reportedly said that standardization is important for innovation in the classroom:
If you have 50 different plug types, appliances wouldn’t be available and would be very expensive. But once an electric outlet becomes standardized, many companies can design appliances and competition ensues, creating variety and better prices for consumers.
If states use common academic standards, the quality of classroom materials and professional development will improve. Much of that material will be digital tools that are personalized to the student. To get this innovation out, common standards will be helpful.
Gates bemoaned both critics of the Common Core standards, whom he said were making “false claims,” as well as “bumpy” implementation of the standards.
“There is one thing that worries me, though,” he said. “It’s the false claims that some people keep making about the standards. We have to make sure people know that it’s not the federal government setting standards or that it’s a block to innovation. Often people are talking about problems that aren’t really there. It’s important that we stick to these facts.”
The “facts,” however, are that the Common Core standards are a federally promoted education initiative introduced in the Obama administration’s 2009 stimulus bill through a competitive grant program called Race to the Top (RTTT). States were able to apply and compete for federal grant money as long as they adopted the Common Core, a set of nationalized standards and aligned curricula and testing that allows for a greater role of government in education, higher levels of social engineering, student data collection, and teacher evaluations based on student performance on assessments aligned with the standards.
The National Governors Association (NGA), the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), and nonprofit progressive education think tank Achieve Inc. were mainly responsible for the initiative, and both the NGA and the CCSSO are the publishers of the Common Core State Standards.
The 45 state boards of education, most of them unelected, that signed onto the unproven Common Core standards, did so with little, if any, public or media scrutiny, prior to even seeing the standards themselves.
To counter critics, Gates’ Foundation has granted millions to others to promote the Common Core. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, to whom the Gates Foundation awarded $1,383,041 in November of 2013 “to lead the effort to engage and educate state and local chambers to support Common Core State Standards,” is launching an advertising campaign, beginning Sunday, targeted to Republicans who have been skeptical of the standards.
Gates’ decision to urge teachers to help parents understand the Common Core standards, which have never been tested, is in keeping with how he has spent his fortune to promote the initiative.
In 2012 and 2013, Gates’ foundation awarded the National Education Association (NEA) $4,484,177, for activities directly related to the Common Core standards. In addition, the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) received $5,400,000 in 2011 and 2012 for activities directly related to Common Core, and millions more for efforts related to development of teacher evaluation systems.
Teachers’ unions have decided, for their part, that the Common Core standards are worth supporting, but that their “implementation” or “rollout” has been problematic. Many teachers object to the idea that their performance ratings will be tied to their students’ performance on the Common Core-aligned testing.
Following a questionable study of teachers’ views of the Common Core standards, AFT president Randi Weingarten, as well as Gates, announced, “At least 75% of teachers support them, according to several surveys.”
Common Core historian and public school educator Dr. Mercedes Schneider, however, observed:
Randi Weingarten really wants to promote the illusion that teachers have bought into the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). She hired Hart Research Associates to conduct a survey of AFT membership regarding perceptions about CCSS, and Hart did so March 27 – 30, 2013. Weingarten has used this survey as a platform to proclaim that “75% of AFT teachers surveyed support the Common Core.”
Nevertheless, Gates is hoping teachers can round up parent support for the centralized education system.
“We don’t have time to answer every false tweet and post,” Gates said. “The most authoritative voices will be teachers who’ve had this exposure (to the standards)…I hope you can communicate with parents. This is not just another policy thing. It’s pivotal to the effort to improve education.”