One More Way to Impose Common Core: the National Association of State Boards of Education

Mary Grabar

9/4/2014 12:02:00 PM - Mary Grabar

Editor's note: this column was originally published at SFPPR News & Analysis.

At one time socialists and communists sought to inspire a revolution through the schools. They did this by revising the history of the United States to make it appear that our principles would no longer serve in a changing twentieth century. The Soviet Union provided a better model, they claimed, and said so to their charges in the classroom.

Today we are told by business and government leaders that we are now in the twenty-first century, so we must change education.

The radical fringe educators are no longer looking to a socialist state on another continent, but to progressives within, in government departments and large influential corporations and non-profits to produce the new “twenty-first century education.” It’s known as Common Core, and requires all new tests, books, computers, tablets, training sessions, and conferences.

Common Core will make its citizens compliant to the demands of the corporations that now control the government, which in turn grants them special favors. As the federal government controls the state government, it takes away the freedom of parents to direct their children’s education.

Go to one state school board meeting and you will see and hear how much board members toe the line from the federal Department of Education, as they grasp for federal funds. I found this out by attending a meeting in Georgia in November where I heard a long-winded sales pitch for the Georgia Family Engagement Conference, an activity pursuant to the “Parental Engagement” section of the federal Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, where only pro-Common Core speakers were allowed. In contrast, five citizens were allowed three minutes apiece to make their case against Common Core at the state school board meeting.

As if “parental engagement” weren’t Orwellian enough, the upcoming annual meeting of the National State Boards of Education (NASBE), “a non-profit association that represents state and territorial boards of education,” has as its theme, “Leaders Learning from Leaders.” The agenda is full of Common Core buzzwords, like “career readiness,” “digital learning,” and “teacher evaluation.”

As it turns out, these “leaders” will really be learning from corporate for-profit and non-profit sponsors with strong government ties, such as Aneesh Chopra, former White House Chief Technology Officer and now Co-Founder and Executive Vice President at Hunch Analytics. The home page of Hunch Analytics tells us that “Healthcare and Education dominate 25% of the economy.” A Democratic ideologue in addition to being a techie, Chopra ran unsuccessfully for Lieutenant Governor in Virginia in 2013 and believes in public/private partnerships. He is a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, founded and funded by billionaire George Soros to mobilize resources to advance a Democratic agenda. Chopra’s talk is described on the agenda as “offer[ing] an absorbing look at how open government can establish a new paradigm for the internet era and allow us to tackle our most challenging problems.”

The session, “What’s in Store on Election Day and What Does It Mean for Education?” is devoted to political prognostication by polling and public affairs companies, Public Opinion Strategies and Global Strategy Group. A session on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) is presented by Blair Blackwell of the Chevron Foundation.

The session, “State Boards and Local School Boards Working Together” with Thomas J. Gentzel, Executive Director, National School Boards Association and Kristen Amundson, Executive Director, National Association of State Boards of Education, suggests that “working together” might be more of a top-down arrangement, given what we know about how the federal-state-local relationship is arranged.

The General Session, “The New Accountability for the 21st Century” features Linda Darling-Hammond, Chris Steinhauser, superintendant of Long Beach schools, and Craig Jerald. Jerald, who holds a bachelor’s degree in sociology, is an education policy consultant, who writes frequently on such things as teacher evaluation (a big part of Common Core) for the Center for American Progress. He is now Vice President, Policy, at the College Board, the non-profit in charge of making new SAT Common Core-aligned college entrance exams and writing the new AP history exams and standards. The president of the College Board is Common Core architect David Coleman.

Darling-Hammond, the radical educator who led Obama’s education transition team, is in charge of designing one of the two national tests under Common Core, and is a collaborator and close colleague of terrorist professor Bill Ayers. It’s ironic that Darling-Hammond is featured in two panels, one on “accountability.” The Stanford New School she had founded was denied charter status in 2010 because of its performance as a “persistently worst-performing school.” Her model school, the June Jordan School for Social Equity did not meet Adequate Yearly Progress, according to an article in Educational Leadership. Yet, she is described as one of the three “thought leaders” on the panel, someone who has “developed a model for what she calls the ‘51st state’ accountability system.”

Registration fees for all this range from $775 to $875. According to Renée Rybak Lang, Communications Director for NASBE, about 150 to 200 attendees, consisting of “stakeholders,” education commissioners, policymakers, analysts, and researchers, go to each year’s meeting. About half of the attendees are members of NASBE.

Who pays the exorbitant registration fees and travel expenses?

According to Lang, “individuals” pay the costs.

According to Matthew Cardoza, Director of Communications for the Georgia Board of Education, travel expenses and registration fees are paid for by NASBE dues. This year Georgia, a super-majority Republican state, is paying $36,997 for the NASBE dues of the 14 members of the Georgia Board of Education. Two of these board members may attend the meeting, but have not yet confirmed. Sixty-percent of NASBE’s revenues come from state board of education dues.

What do Georgia taxpayers and students get for almost $37,000 for dues to this one organization? Says Cardoza in an email, “The benefit is that the board members get to share from others/find out what’s going on in other states and learn about issues that may be impacting Georgia as well. The networking from board members I am told is invaluable.”

We know that attendees will get a little junket to Denver this year, while learning how to adhere to government policy and rub shoulders with the corporate players. Questions remain: how does this benefit students and why should taxpayers have to pay for it?