"Issues and Action in Education"

Federal Control of Education

Horrific Common Core Standards Move Forward

By Karen R. Effrem, MD

EdWatch Director of Government Relations

EdWatch Index

Posted: 5-10-10


The Common Core Standards have finished the public comment phase and are now undergoing final revisions.  There has been much criticism of them from individuals and groups, both parents and experts, across the country.

The following testimony was prepared for the Minnesota House Education Policy Committee informational meeting on the Common Core Standards Initiative that was held April 7th.  Due to time constraints, not all of Dr. Effrem's testimony was given.  The audio is available here (Follow link for April 7, 2010 hearing starting at 1:29:45).

Much alarm was raised by all of the testifiers that included two outside experts  intimately involved in the development of Minnesota's nation leading math standards, Dr. Larry Gray of the University of Minnesota and Ellen Delaney, a veteran math teacher, about the math standards.  Minnesota Department of Education staff raised some concerns about the English standards, but not enough in our view, especially when compared to the written comments of national experts.  No teachers or others involved with the development of the English standards post Minnesota's disastrous Profile of Learning testified at the hearing.

The Common Core Standards are an absolute requirement for the Race to the Top (RTTT) federal grant program.  Failure to adopt them by August 2, 2010 will lose partial points and failure to show evidence of adoption by December 31, 2010 will result in loss of 20 points in the RTTT application.  Failure of evidence of implementation of them and the aligned national assessments will result in loss of another 10 points, according to the scoring rubric.  The standards must be adopted verbatim and there is no alternative to them, such as certification by a higher education institution.

This hearing comes at a time when many states are both deciding on adoption of the Common Core Standards and whether to apply for the second round of RTTT funds.  The second round applications are due June 1st.  Sadly, despite both the grave implications of nationalizing curriculum and assessments even more than under No Child Left Behind and the very poor quality of these standards, states are seriously considering adopting them.  For instance, despite comments to the contrary, putative conservative presidential candidate Governor Tim Pawlenty introduced a legislative proposal on April 20th to have legislative leaders provisionally adopt these standards.  The state department of education would then adopt them by expedited rulemaking authority without any public input whatsoever.

 This appalling nationalization of education needs to be discussed in legislatures across the country, as well as with state legislative and gubernatorial candidates and those running for Congress.

2004. Cooperation Agreement between The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) [fits all the characteristics of Common Core) and Microsoft Corporation represented by its Chairman and Chief Software Architect, Bill Gates....

Whereas: The United Nations... UNESCO) promotes international co-operation among its Member States in the fields of education, sciences, culture and communication. As a specialized UN agency, it has a mission to mobilize resources, review approaches and build up multilateral action in order to contribute to peace and security by promoting collaboration among nations through education, science, culture and communication;

Whereas: Microsoft Corporation is a company whose mission is to enable people and businesses throughout the world to realize their full potential through he use of innovative information technology. As an international corporate citizen of conscience, it is committed to initiatives throughout the world that seek to create social change and to expand opportunities through greater access to technology;

Whereas: UNESCO is participating in the building of an international strategic partnership to bridge the digital divide and establish open and inclusive knowledge societies. It seeks to use Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) and information to accelerate social and economic development, acting through the collaboration of a range of stakeholders;

Whereas: In this context, UNESCO recognizes the significant contribution that can be made by the private sector to these strategic objectives and is therefore actively promoting and guiding relationships with a variety of private sector stakeholders, including various companies in the ICT industries. UNESCO's intention is to mobilize partners from civil society and, in particular, for the private sector to achieve its strategic goals and programme priorities;

Whereas : Microsoft supports the objectives of UNESCO as stipulated in UNESCO Constitution and intends to contribute to UNESCO's programme priorities;

Whereas: The Parties entered into, on 25 January 2004, a Letter of Intent stating their intention to collaborate on a variety of activities in support of the common objectives of UNESCO's and Microsoft's government, education and community programmers. Their Agreement seeks to build on that Letter of Intent and provide a framework to achieve the objectives expressed by the Parties;

Whereas: UNESCO and Microsoft entered into a regional agreement on 18 May 2004 for Latin America and the Caribbean to provide a framework under which UNESCO may access the Microsoft Partners in Learning Programmed in that region (known as the "OREALC Agreement");

Whereas: UNESCO and Microsoft with to explore possibilities for collaboration in several areas, including education and learning, community access and development and facilitating software appreciation sharing, cultural and linguistic diversity, digital inclusion and capacity building, as well as the exchange of best policies in the area of mainstreaming ICT into socio-economic development programs;

UNESCO and Microsoft hereby agree as follows:
Article 1 - Objectives

UNESCO and Microsoft recognize the importance of harnessing the use of ICT for education and community development programmers as a means of improving sustainable livelihood in developing countries. As part of their common understanding, both Parties recognizes that analyzing possibilities to align global and regional initiatives, as well as programmers, can enhance mutual efforts to build capacities, foster the diversity of ideas and empower people thorough participation in web communities and through their ability to access information and ICT.

Article 2 -- Scope of Agreement

This agreement establishes a strategic framework with which the Parties agree to cooperate to achieve the stated objects....

(This agreement is signed by the two parties.)

Article 3 - Areas of Cooperation

UNESCO and Microsoft have identified the following areas where their cooperation and partnership can provide significant benefits to society and communities everywhere, but especially in developing countries:

Education and learning
Community access and development
Cultural and linguistic diversity and preservation
Digital inclusion and capacity building...
Article 4 0-- Initial projects and initiatives. ....
In the field of education and learning: -
(1) UNESCO believes that ICT has a major contribution to make in supporting teachers and teaching, particularly if the technology can be integrated into instructional design, planning, pedagogy and the other critical components of effective learning and teaching.... Together, UNESCO and Microsoft aspire for there to be a quantum leap in the quality of courses and in accelerating their uptake by educationalist and teacher training institutions through the availability of standard, guidelines or benchmarks ....

Microsoft will be one of the founding  members of UNESCO's multi-stake holder initiative to improve the quality and availability of teacher training on using ICT. Microsoft will collaborate with Unesco on the Syllabus by drawing on Microsoft's experience in designing ICT product and services for use by educationalist....

(UNESCO Knowledge Communities - building web communities of practis....

UNESCO 's work on building knowledge societies recognizes the great importance of "community" and the power of "communicating." ICTs make it possible to connect collaborative people and spaces -- to build "web-based communities of practice " that will foster the exchange of know-how and sharing of experiences....

In particular, UNESCO will bring together international and national experts and stakeholders to develop content, best practices, share tools, mobilize interested parties, and to suggest solutions and strategies to address critical issues.

Itially UNESCO will build and moderate a suite of knowledge communities that will develop capacities around the themes of 'Technology Solutions in Education', 'Multilingualism in Cyberspace' and 'Information for All.' ....