"I know no safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion by education. This is the true corrective of abuses of constitutional power." - Thomas Jefferson 1820

"There is a growing technology of testing that permits us now to do in nanoseconds things that we shouldn't be doing at all." - Dr. Gerald Bracey author of Rotten Apples in Education

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Tuesday, February 1, 2011

We Know What Commmon Core Standards Are..Now We Want to Know: Who Wants Them and Why?

I subscribed to a Word Press blogpost for follow up comments almost a year ago...it is an informative piece on Common Core standards. Damon Hargraves researched the connections of companies and governmental entities funding the Common Core initiatives and his findings were accompanied by a youtube video which you can find here. He entitled his piece "A Deep Look at the Forces Behind Common Core". As we are examining the impact on states, districts, students and tax payers with adoption of common core standards this week, it is important to also understand who is pushing these standards and why.

A follow up comment to Mr. Hargraves' posting popped up in my email this morning I want to share:

Excellent start on revealing the corporate agenda connected to the CCSS Initiative. There is enough for a doctoral dissertation on this. Another aspect that is worth noting is the revolving door. The Partnership for 21st century Skills (P21) has just been added as a “managing partner” to the CCSSO,. P21 will help states gear up for the new high tech assessments tied to adoption of the new standards. P21 is a lobby organized to promote greater use of technology in schools. The new leader of P21 used to work at the CCSSO on technology , was Deputy Director of educational technology with the US Department of Education, and has come back “home” to the CCSSO just in time to steer states as they buy into new high tech systems for tests. Also, I did a count of the standards , including the a,b,c,d of many sentences. There are 1620 standards that students have to meet before they graduate from high school. None of these include content organized for solid instruction in the arts, sciences, and humanities. This initiative is far from world class.

I have reprinted Mr. Hargrave's original posting below; be sure to watch the youtube video as well. As more and more information is revealed on the funding of CCSS and the data shared across Federal agencies, I am becoming increasingly skeptical that "it's for the children". It seems to be for financial reward for educational companies and edubusinesses and a data retrieval service for personal information for federal agencies.



The Common Core State Standards Initiative is a non-governmental movement that aims to unify state standards across the nation for elementary and secondary schools. As of the writing of this report, the process for finalizing the standards and other documentation is still underway. The purpose of this paper is not to provide analysis of the standards themselves, but rather the forces acting behind this initiative. The findings pose a possible conflict of interest, which supports the position that the Common Core Initiative may not be a solely state driven project, but also corporately and financially motivated.

Keywords: Common Core, Standards, CCSSO, NGA Center

A Deep Look at the Common Core State Standards Initiative: Organizers, Supporters, & Financers

The Common Core State Standards Initiative (Common Core) is being led by two entities, the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) and the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices (NGA Center). These two organizations have come together and partnered with Achieve Inc., ACT, and the College Board. (Council of Chief State School Officers [CCSSO], 2009, September 9)

The College Board is an international nonprofit association comprised of approximately 6,000 educational institutions of all types around the world. The College Board serves placement tests and aptitude tests to over 7 million students every year through their Advanced Placement (AP) and SAT testing programs. (College Board, 2010)

The ACT organization is also a nonprofit testing service provider. (ACT, 2010) The 2009 ACT Annual Report shows that ACT maintains an international presence with five major offices in the United States, as well as offices in Spain, Singapore, Indonesia, Australia, Korea, and China. (ACT, 2009 p. 44-45) Since 1990, ACT has experienced exponential growth. Their annual report shows historic data and revenue at under $50,000,000 in the late 1980’s. Revenue grew to slightly over $150,000,000 in 2004. Today, ACT’s revenue has grown to over $250,000,000. (ACT, 2009 p. 33)

The last Common Core partner is Achieve Inc, and they are also a nonprofit. They consider themselves to be a non-partisan education reform organization that “provides technical assistance to states on their standards, assessments, curriculum, and accountability.” They have no presence in Alaska or many other rural states, but hold work in all of the largest states, including Texas and California, with a total of 35 states altogether. They consider it a major goal to develop international benchmarks to better track graduates from different countries. (Achieve, 2009)

Achieve Inc., ACT, and the College Board are three strong partners for the Common Core Initiative to have. The three of them together represent hundreds of millions of dollars of international influence and experience in both testing and standards development.

The first main driving force behind Common Core is the National Governors Association (NGA). Every governor for every state is a member of NGA. This organization provides training and support for governors, as well as lobbying for state issues. NGA also spearheads initiatives like Common Core. (National Governors Association [NGA], 2010a) NGA is a key part of Common Core because the organization provides the needed link to state governments and state support. With NGA’s help almost all states have signed up to participate in the creation of the Common Core standards. Many states were reluctant, but currently the only states that are still not participating are Texas and Alaska. (CCSSO, 2009, June 9)

According to their 2009 financial report, NGA is actually made up of two bodies. There is the association itself, and then there is the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices (NGA Center). NGA Center is the entity involved with Common Core, and actually handles more revenue than the association itself. In 2009 NGA Center had $21,847,764 in assets and had a revenue of $9,942,946, of which $2,412,500 (24 percent) was derived directly from what their financial report refers to as corporate fellows, which is a donor program. (McGladrey & Pullen, 2009, October 15 p. 18) However, this figure differs greatly from what is found on their FAQ sheet, which approximates “10 percent of the Center’s funding comes from NGA’s Corporate Fellows Program.” (NGA, 2010b) Part of the difference in statistics may be due to the accounting confusion from two entities on one balance sheet. However, in the financial report the Corporate Fellows Program money is shown to have only been given to the NGA Center, so the 24 percent number is the more accurate. It should also be noted that Common Core partners, ACT and the College Board, participate in NGA’s Corporate Fellows Program. Educational Testing Service (ETS), Pearson Education, Scholastic, MetaMetrics, and Wireless Generation also participate in the Corporate Fellows Program. (NGA, 2010c)

The second main driving force behind Common Core is the Council of Chief State School Officers. CCSSO is another nonprofit that enrolls leaders in state education as members. (CCSSO, n.d.d) The organization sets standards that are used by many professional organizations, including the National Council of Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE). CCSSO also lobbies for political change, and manages almost one hundred other educational projects and partnerships including the National Teacher of the Year. (CCSSO, n.d.e) To say the least, CCSSO is a very active organization and influences a lot of what is happening in education today worldwide.

In 2009 CCSSO saw revenues of $25,993,387. As specified in their financial statement, $23,240,025 was brought in from contracts, grants, and sponsorships. (Goodman & Company, 2009 p. 3) To break it down even further, $4,357,383 was brought in by grants. (Goodman & Company, 2009 p. 17) This means that $18,882,642 or almost 73 percent of the entire CCSSO revenue for 2009 was brought in by sponsorships and contracts. This is both the largest amount and the largest percentage of revenue when compared to all other Common Core players. Corporate Partners who contributed this money include Educational Testing Service (ETS), McGraw Hill Education, Pearson, Pearson Evaluation Systems, Worldwide Interactive Network (WIN), Data Recognition Corporation, Measured Progress, Northwest Evaluation Association, Renaissance Learning, Evans Newton Inc. (ENI), MetaMetrics, Scantron, and Wireless Generation among others. Common Core partner, the College Board, is also a sponsor to CCSSO. (CCSSO, 2010, March 3)


There is so much money being transferred that it is hard to follow who is doing what and how much money is going where. It can be easily said though that this is big business. Millions of dollars are being spent to promote the Common Core Initiative, and when you look to see what companies are promoting it, you find a common thread. Companies and organizations like ACT, College Board, MetaMetrics, ETS, Pearson, and others pop up again and again to support this project in different ways. The College Board is both a partner of the initiative and a sponsor to the other partners of the initiative. Companies are finding multiple ways to give lots of money to this project.

Another common thread is that almost all of these companies are pushing for worldwide growth as a goal for their companies. ACT alone dominates the globe with major corporate offices spread across the world in seven locations, and they are not alone. These entities are global, and are looking to continue their growth outside of the United States. The standards proposed by Common Core would provide a default curriculum and test base for these companies. Rather than have to make a massive variety to match the needs of every state, they could have very few in the U.S. and possibly the world. One of the goals for this initiative from the start was for the standards to be internationally benchmarked. (CCSSO, n.d.a) This concept is even receiving support from the White House. U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan stated at the National Press Club last May that, “we’re going to be much tighter on the goals – again, clear, college ready, career ready, internationally benchmarked standards.” (Duncan, 2009) An international curriculum is where we are headed. This is good news for the companies mentioned in the paper, as they stand to make hundreds of millions of dollars in a more standardized environment.

As of the writing of this paper, Alaska is still not participating in the Common Core Initiative. We are not alone, but we may have the most to lose. The educational needs in this state are so unique, and right now we have no voice in what standards are being written. Yet, careful attention is being spent to make sure the standards are internationally benchmarked in places like Singapore and Sydney. What about Sitka and Shishmaref? I recommend that further research be done to make sure that financial motivations of large corporations do not hurt the education and culture of Alaskans. Surveys to provide feedback to the Common Core Initiative (http://www.corestandards.org/) are available on their website.


You may access the entire article complete with Mr. Hargraves' references at the link previously provided.

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