Common Core Roots Lie in Ties Between Barack Obama, Bill Ayers

Common Core Roots Lie in Ties Between Barack Obama, Bill Ayers

In an article published on Monday that advocates for Common Core standards, the Associated Press presents what amounts to the typical talking points for supporters when faced with criticism that Common Core is a federal takeover of education.

The standards were created by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers to improve academic achievement and increase accountability. President Barack Obama and his administration embraced them.

Actually, Barack Obama did not simply “embrace” a concept that others developed; instead, the very roots of Common Core are in the early ideas generated by him and his fellow radical community organizer, Bill Ayers.

Just prior to the presidential election of 2008, Dr. Stanley Kurtz, Senior Fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, wrote an op-ed published in the Wall Street Journal in which he observed that then-Democrat presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama’s “most important executive experience” was heading up the Chicago Annenberg Challenge (CAC), an education foundation that was the invention of Bill Ayers, founder of the Weather Underground in the 1960s.

Obama led the CAC from 1995 to 1999 and remained on the board until 2001. The foundation funneled more than $100 million into community organizations and radical education activists.

The CAC’s stated purpose was to improve Chicago’s public schools using funding from an education initiative by Walter Annenberg. As chairman, Obama handled fiscal matters while Ayers co-chaired the CAC’s other key entity, the “Collaborative,” which influenced education policy. Archives from the Richard J. Daley Library at the University of Illinois at Chicago showed that Obama and Ayers worked as a team to advance the CAC agenda.

In his op-ed, Kurtz explained that the Obama campaign at the time said that Ayers had nothing to do with Obama’s “recruitment” to CAC’s board. However, as Kurtz discovered, the Daley archives showed that:

…along with [Deborah] Leff and [Patricia Albjerg] Graham, Mr. Ayers was one of a working group of five who assembled the initial board in 1994. Mr. Ayers founded CAC and was its guiding spirit. No one would have been appointed the CAC chairman without his approval.

Kurtz continued that the CAC’s agenda channeled Ayers’ educational philosophy “which called for infusing students and their parents with a radical political commitment, and which downplayed achievement tests in favor of activism.” Ayers wrote that teachers should act as community organizers whose focus is provoking resistance to American racism and oppression.

“I’m a radical, Leftist, small ‘c’ communist,” Ayers said in an interview in Ron Chepesiuk’s Sixties Radicals.

Implementing Ayers’ radical philosophy in schools required them to associate with “external partners” that received the actual funding, such as ACORN, the South Shore African Village Collaborative, and the Dual Language Exchange. In addition, funding was extended to promote “leadership” among parents who would ultimately adopt Obama’s political agenda.

The Chicago Public Education Fund was created in 1998 by Obama, Ayers, and the rest of the CAC board. Then-Illinois state Sen. Obama was a member of the leadership council, as was Bill Ayers’ father, Thomas Ayers, and brother, John Ayers. Ultimately, the CAC closed down in June of 2001, leaving the Fund to distribute grant money.

According to Kurtz, when CAC, prior to closing, conducted its own study of the effects of its grants on the test scores of Chicago public-school students, they found no evidence of educational improvement.

As Danette Clark at noted regarding the Fund:

The Fund existed and still exists to carry on the work of the Chicago Annenberg Challenge — that work being the expansion of Theodore Sizer’s Coalition of Essential Schools, the reform movement that now (even absent Common Core) indoctrinates students in several states and districts nationwide with a Marxist-Communist political, moral and social ideology.

As Clark wrote, Sizer’s Coalition of Essential Schools (CES) opened a regional office called the National Equity Project/Bay Area CES in 1991. A long-time advisory board member to the National Equity Project is Linda Darling-Hammond, who served as education advisor to Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign and who has since been involved in the development of assessments for the Common Core standards.

One of the major goals of the National Equity Project is to “redesign” school districts, and the project’s website boasts as one of its “major accomplishments” its support of “the comprehensive redesign of two urban school districts (Oakland and Emery Unified) to create systems of equitable resource allocation, accountability, central office support for schools, and community engagement.”

As Clark noted, Darling-Hammond has been an avid advocate for repayment of what she has referred to as “an education debt” owed to African-Americans, a view that had also been supported by the late Derrick Bell, one of Barack Obama’s law professors.

Clark wrote that as CAC was closing down, a pilot program called Grow Network was starting up in New York. Founded by David Coleman–known as the “Architect” of the Common Core standards – and Jason Zimba, the Grow Network negotiated a contract in 2001 with the Chicago Public Education Fund on behalf of Chicago Public Schools (CPS).

In that same year, current U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan began as CEO of CPS; two years after taking on his new role, Coleman’s Grow Network finalized its $2.2 million contract with CPS to provide the school district with student performance data for the 2002-2003 school year.

Grow Network was introduced as a new endeavor in CPS’s 2002 Education Plan, in which the school district announced that the initiative would “produce more accessible reports on student performance” and provide “clear and effective tools for principals, teachers, and parents.”

In the CPS Education Plan, “The Honorable Senator Barak [sic] Obama of Minor, Barnhill, and Galland” was listed as a member of the Planning and Development Advisory Committee, while Janet Knupp and Sonya Choe Miller of The Chicago Public Education Fund, and Ken Rolling of The Chicago Annenberg Challenge were listed as members of the Steering Committee in the Professional Development Audit. In addition, John Ayers and Mike Klonsky of Bill Ayers’ Small Schools Workshop were listed as participants in the Education Plan’s discussion groups.

As Clark observed, in 2004, Coleman and Zimba sold Grow Network to McGraw Hill, which has continued its lucrative relationship with CPS.

Today, Coleman and Zimba head 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.

Though Coleman may or may not be a supporter of the Obama-Ayers brand of radically progressive education, CPS paid more than $2 million to bring Coleman’s unproven program to the district, a fact that suggests he was indeed well-connected to the Chicago education system.

In addition, Coleman is on record as saying he believes there is “a massive social injustice in this country” and that education is “the engine of social justice.”

Such statements would be very much in keeping with Coleman’s upbringing.

As Dean Kalahar observed in American Thinker, Coleman’s mother, Elizabeth Coleman, former president of Bennington College in Vermont, had espoused making “the political-social challenges themselves the organizers of the curriculum.”

Kalahar wrote that Elizabeth Coleman, who founded a social justice initiative called the Center for the Advancement of Public Action, emphasized an “action-oriented curriculum” where “students continuously move outside the classroom to engage the world directly.”

In fact, in her letter to the college community announcing her retirement last year, Coleman wrote, “Bennington’s maturity as an institution was achieved, in short, not by abandoning or softening its most radical principles, but by embracing and revitalizing them.”

From these roots, where are all the players now?

As Clark observed, many of the same individuals who began in Chicago are expanding the Annenberg/Coalition of Essential Schools model, one that is very similar to the Common Core standards in terms of teaching strategies, lesson plans, and curriculum resources.

Bill Ayers continues to speak on behalf of the Annenberg/CES reform effort and provides professional development to teachers and principals from CES schools and districts.

President Obama and Education Secretary Arne Duncan both promote Bill Ayers’ Small Schools Workshop and the Coalition of Essential Schools in the Department of Education’s recent document, Promoting Grit, Tenacity, and Perseverance: Critical Factors for Success in the 21st Century. In addition, Obama and Duncan have sent billions of taxpayer dollars to states that have adopted the Common Core standards.

And David Coleman, who is now the president of the College Board, has been making sure the SAT, ACT, AP, and GED exams are all aligned with the Common Core standards.

In his introduction of Coleman as the new president of the College Board, Paul W. Sechrist, Chair of the Board of Trustees, said, “The College Board has played an active role in the development of the Common Core, and we are confident the Standards will make a profound contribution to equity and excellence and serve to level the playing field for all students to have access to college and career readiness.”


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