Throughout his campaign, Donald Trump has argued that our political, policy and economic systems are rigged against ordinary Americans. The process that gave us Common Core is a perfect example of a rigged system in action.
Back in June 2009, two big Washington, D.C.-based organizations — the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers — announced their decision to develop national education standards which would lay out math and English knowledge requirements for students by grade level, and which would replace the standards created and adopted by individual states.
It wasn’t the politicians, however, who actually created the Common Core standards. The NGA and the CCSSO formed committees of education insiders and technocrats to do the work. While there were 60 members on these various committees, only a small handful actually created the standards.
Despite the fact that their work would affect every child in America, deliberations took place behind closed doors. In fact, all the discussions and standards writing were sealed by confidentiality agreements. Parents were barred from attending CCSSO meetings on Common Core.
The education publication School Reform News tried for ten weeks to get permission to attend a CCSSO meeting on Common Core — but was denied.
“The public has a right to know the laws that are going to affect them and their families,” observed Bill Allison of the Sunlight Foundation, a government transparency organization. But with Common Core, “it’s a black box.”
And when the Common Core standards were released, the Obama administration dangled $4 billion in front of state policymakers to push them to adopt the standards pronto.
States often signed onto Common Core without public input. Ze’ev Wurman, former senior education policy advisor in the George W. Bush administration, noted, “There was no discussion, no public debate.”
And who benefits from this secret transformation of American education?
Well, Bill Gates’ foundation bankrolled much of the development of Common Core. Is it any surprise that students are required to take Common Core tests on computers? On those computers, which schools must purchase, will be software, which they will also have to purchase.
The website of Gates’ Microsoft has urged schools to purchase new versions of its Windows software for the Common Core-aligned tests. The Washington Post reported, “Microsoft is hoping to make some money from the implementation of the Core in the classroom.”
Even more than Microsoft, the education mega-corporation Pearson is reaping massive gains from Common Core. Pearson’s own website has bragged about its “close association with key authors and architects of the Common Core.” And those associations have paid off.
Teacher and education researcher Mercedes Schneider, writing in her Columbia University-published book Common Core Dilemma, documents that Pearson, through its non-profit arm, gave early grants to the Council of Chief State School Officers, one of the Common Core sponsoring organizations. She noted that the head of the CCSSO joined the board of PARCC, one of the Common Core-aligned tests.
Pearson then received a contract worth $240 million per year to develop the PARCC test in a process that ensured that there would be no other bidders except for Pearson. And there’s more.
As Schneider said, the logical incentive is for school districts “to purchase Pearson curriculum to accompany Pearson-developed tests.” She said that Pearson’s Common Core strategy is to embed itself, “making its products and services indispensable,” thereby shutting down or subsuming competition.
Given this shocking trail, the Washington Post, which excerpted Schneider’s book, headlined that Common Core is “the gift that Pearson counts on to keep giving.”
Common Core was the brainchild of political, education and business elites — and continues to benefit them. In his acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention, Donald Trump said, “the system is rigged against our citizens.” Common Core shows how right he is.