The Gates Foundation has been very busy trying to figure out ways for governors, state boards, and commissioners of education to pretend they are giving up Common Core’s standards or tests, while ensuring these states still have warmed-over versions in place to satisfy Bill Gates’ ambitions.
We now have many examples of states that have gone through the motions to placate the still-growing army of parents, teachers, state legislators, and other citizens demanding a stronger, not weaker, public school system. But, instead of developing stronger alternative standards in place of Common Core’s misbegotten standards, some elected and appointed officials have deliberately played a trick on all of them by keeping Common Core’s tentacles in place while they use less toxic labels to describe the octopus strangling the education system.
Why so many seemingly rational people want to believe that Common Core’s standards and the tests based on them are worth keeping is a subject for an in-depth psychological study. Why have so many, including reporters and others in the media, been so willingly fooled by a few Professor Harold Hills when they all must know they are harming the economic future of all children in our public schools, including the minority children they profess to care about the most?
By now, five years after the release of Common Core’s final version of its mathematics and English language arts standards, it is quite clear to those who can read English that these standards cannot make our students ready for authentic college-level work — and that they were not intended to. It should be clear by now that they were intended to get underperforming students into college (and then out with a diploma) in order to close the education “gaps” between students who are willing to spend some of their time paying attention to academic schoolwork and students who are not.
Instead of letting young adolescents enroll in a course of studies they prefer in secondary school, Bill Gates, with the eager help of all the organizations he has funded to promote his image as an education saint, prefers to make our teachers accountable for young adolescents’ unwillingness to pay attention to what he thinks is good for them. The irony is that even he doesn’t think his own children should be enrolled in a Common Core-based curriculum.
His scheme for doing an end-run around state legislators, parents, and local school boards was bought hook, line, and sinker by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce as well as by most state commissioners and boards of education — and many governors. Didn’t they wonder why the Gates Foundation still refuses to fund discussions of the actual quality of the standards? And the meaning of college readiness?
The “gaps” will be closed under Common Core, not by teaching all students more but by making sure that the most able students learn less at the high school level so that the Gates-funded and self-appointed policy wonks at Achieve, Inc. and the Fordham Institute can boast of equal (but equally low) expectations for all of them.
The latest problem for the Gates Foundation is the current implosion of Common Core even faster than it was hoodwinked into place in 2010 by unwitting state boards and commissioners of education. What should the new party line be: That states really don’t want demanding standards? That their teachers are afraid of more demanding standards? That those “white suburban” parents want only A’s for their brilliant offspring?
The issue for parents, of course, is that they won’t accept a system rigged to assess their progeny in a way that discredits discipline-based knowledge.
It’s tough to come up with a new party line that will keep Common Core in place. But maybe the latest ploy being pushed by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce will do the trick: put out “loss leaders” from an inventory of Common Core-aligned lessons and get teachers to buy 50%-off “bargains” before school starts.
Sandra Stotsky, Ed.D. is Professor Emerita, University of Arkansas.