Common Core Creators Use the US Chamber of Commerce to Fight “Misinformation”

Carissa Miller, the Deputy Executive Director of the Council of Chief State School Officers, is worried about the documentary, Building the Machine (which we wrote about here). In a letter obtained before its release date, she notifies the Common Core Chief State School Officers that the video is coming. Her attached “messaging and response tips” as well as a list of Tweets will help them counter the movie’s supposed “misinformation.”

The producers of those “tips”? None other than the US Chamber of Commerce. And the Chamber is also in the midst of creating its own documentary. If these seem like unlikely projects for the Chamber of Commerce, the document below, courtesy of Anne Gassel, should make things a teensy bit clearer. 

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And, here’s the leaked letter, bolding added for emphasis.

From: Carissa Moffat Miller
Subject: Anti Common Core Movie, embargoed materials
Chiefs, Deputies, Federal Liaisons and Communication Directors:

Many of you are likely aware of an anti-common core movie slated to be released in a few days. The Home School Legal Defense Association, a Virginia-based organization opposed to the Common Core, has produced a film called “Building the Machine.” The film’s anticipated online release date (which has changed several times), is currently set for March 31, 2014. The film implies that the Common Core was created through politics, misinformation and corruption. Using stark graphics and ominous music, the film features interviews with Common Core opponents arguing against the standards’ development and implementation—interspersed with misleading snippets of interviews from Common Core supporters.  You can watch a trailer for the film here.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and Fordham have put together the attached two documents that can be used to clarify the vast amount of misinformation that will be circulated as a result of the movie. Please note – these are EMBARGOED until Monday, March 31st. Please do not distribute.

In addition to these two documents, the U.S. Chamber is in the final stages of producing their own Common Core mini-documentary. This will provide the pro-Common Core side and will also be ready early next week. In collaboration with organizations from all over the country, the video will feature education reformers, teachers, chamber leaders, and business representatives, showing the unified support for Common Core across generations, political lines, and states.”

Please don’t hesitate to reach out to me if you have any specific questions or needs. Below we’ve include some tips for messaging and responding to the critical questions this film may generate in your state. We will send out the Chamber video when it is released.


Thanks to  Christel Lane Swasey, Renee Braddy and Alisa Ellis for calling this to our attention. Read more details on their blog, here–>

Thanks also to Anne Gassel for the information about the US Chamber of Commerce. You can read more on her blog, here->

Zombie Ideas in Education: High-Stakes Testing and Graduation Policies

In her journal article, Zombie Ideas in Education: High Stakes Testing and Graduation Policies, University of Rhode Island Professor Diane Kern examines the key issues that have emerged about high-stakes testing and its use as a high school graduation requirement. Kern presents a research-based “specific plan for getting accountability right.”

Read Kern’s full report here

Kern, Diane. “Zombie Ideas in Education: High-Stakes Testing and Graduation Policies.” New England Reading Association Journal 49.1(2013): 96.

Public Schools for Sale?

On March 28, 2014, Public Television personality Bill Moyers hosted Research Professor of Education, Diane Ravitch on his weekly show, Moyers & CompanyTheir topic, Public Schools for Sale?, spilled into a Web Extra, several blog posts by Ravitch, and a lengthy excerpt from Ravitch’s most recent book,  Reign of Error: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America’s Public Schools.

What’s the big deal?

Public education is becoming big business as bankers, hedge fund managers and private equity investors are entering what they consider to be an “emerging market.”As Rupert Murdoch put it after purchasing an education technology company, “When it comes to K through 12 education, we see a $500 billion sector in the US alone.”

Education historian Diane Ravitch says the privatization of public education has to stop….

On this week’s Moyers & Company, she tells Bill Moyers, ”I think what’s at stake is the future of American public education. I believe it is one of the foundation stones of our democracy: So an attack on public education is an attack on democracy.”

Watch the video of the Moyers-Ravitch conversation, or read the transcript here

Read the excerpt from Reign of Error: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America’s Public Schools

Watch the Moyers-Ravitch Web Extra here


Saturday Night at the Movies: What Do We Want?
image: Wahlander via photopin cc

As we say “NO!” to Common Core and the corporatization of public schools, what do we we want to say “YES” to? Ken Robinson’s entertaining TED talk, below, illustrates the ideas that shaped “school” as we know it today, and poses some ideas about what we might think of instead.

In the second video, senior in high school, Ethan Young, speaks to the Knox County Tennessee Board of Education about the history of the Common Core, new teacher ‘evaluations’ and teaching, big data, and a different vision of education.


Valerie Strauss: “The new school reform model: ‘dumping the losers’”

school bus
Photo Credit: Scallop Holden via Compfight cc

On April 11, Washington Post columnist, Valerie Strauss, picked up the story first reported by Co-Opt-Ed about Philadelphia school “reformer” Mark Gleason’s public comments that portfolio-based school reform is about “dumping the losers.”

Writes Strauss,

Since 2011, the state-run Philadelphia public school district has adopted what is called the “portfolio model” of school reform as its “theory of change.”… Supporters think it gives parents more choice; opponents think that the choice most parents get is phony and that the portfolio model is a step toward the privatization of public education.

Read Stauss’ article here–>

Building the Machine: The Common Core Documentary

This is must-watch documentary.


“Building the Machine” introduces the public to the Common Core States Standards Initiative (CCSSI) and its effects on our children’s education. The documentary compiles interviews from leading educational experts, including members of the Common Core Validation Committee. Parents, officials, and the American public should be involved in this national decision regardless of their political persuasion.

See more here->

Is the movie having an effect? Check this–>

Share this film widely! Here’s a link:

NYC Tests the Tests…and Student Promotion

Yesterday, NYC schools chancellor Carmen Farina issued a policy document that begins to restore professional judgement to local school communities.  The New York Times report reads:

Education officials acknowledged that the proportion of students in grades three through eight held back each year would probably remain about the same — 2.5 percent, or about 8,000 students. The change is expected to be approved by an educational oversight panel in May.

Mayor Bill de Blasio, in laying out his education agenda, has spoken often about his desire to reduce the importance of standardized exams. Ahead of state exams in English last week, education officials encouraged principals to work to reduce unease in class. And Mr. de Blasio has said he wants to broaden the admissions criteria for selective schools beyond test scores.

Read the entire article here –> 

Time to Act and Support Future Teachers

The implementation of new “reforms” in New York State have been reckless and unethical.  Through its attempts to share student and family data with a third-party company, force young children to sit for arbitrary exams, and strong-arm teachers to submit to imbalanced evaluation schemas, New York has proven that the will of special interest groups and profiteers trumps the soundness of pedagogy and child development.

This flawed approach also applies to our future teachers.  Teacher education in New York State is being ravaged by ideologies of standardization and privatization.  State leaders claim that Stanford University’s well-respected SCALE group developed the new teacher performance assessments–called edTPA–, but colleagues close to SCALE have betrayed that the group is biting their tongues about New York’s implementation of their performance assessment.  What’s more, they are also biting their tongues about the extent to which Pearson, which purportedly only provides the technological infrastructure for the edTPA (as well as additional sit-down exams required for students to become certified) is actually running the implementation and setting policies that play into their pockets.

If you know someone who is trying to become a teacher in New York State, ask, “How is the edTPA going?”  Then listen.  Then prepare to be shocked at the stories of contradiction, ambiguity, and state- and federally-funded ineptness.  And consider whether this sounds like what teacher preparation should be, and whether it makes sense to subject children in today’s classrooms to the surveillance and stresses of edTPA.

Fortunately, a brief window of reason exists.  State legislators have proposed a bill to halt the current edTPA implementation.  (Click here to see it.) While far from perfect, it is an attempt to apply the brakes on another runaway testing train.  Here is what the bill proposes, which those currently seeking certification will understand:

  • Halt the edTPA portfolio portion until July 2015
  • Reinstate previous teacher certification assessments, including the ATS-W and require candidates to pass the ATS-W, EAS, ALST, and CST to be certified
  • For students who have successfully completed the edTPA already, this will count as the equivalent of passing the ATS-W

What do you do? Here are three things you can do right now:

  1. Share this post with educators and parents
  2. Email or call your local state representatives (here’s their contact info) and voice your support for the bill (the NYSUT provides you with guidance here and the UUP here)
  3. Contact the leadership of SCALE and ask why they are being silent when it comes to the flawed implementation of edTPA in New York

Despite misleading press releases and suspiciously well attended protests, our children, our families, and our teachers are suffering.  Join us in our efforts to realize a public education system that prepares our children to be curious, innovative, imaginative, and emboldened to take action in the world.