Common Core

The “Almost Outrageous” Opposition to Bill Gates’ Market-Based Ed Reform

Lyndsey Layton inteviewed Bill Gates about his involvement in the Common Core, ending her article with Bill and Melinda’s motivation behind their financial backing of it. Lyndsey reports:

“Gates dismissed any suggestion that he is motivated by self-interest.” ~ Lindsey Layton

Then Bill tells us in his own words what motivates his investments in Common Core and calls any opposition to his motivation “almost outrageous”:

“I believe in the Common Core because of its substance and what it will do to improve education,” he said. “And that’s the only reason I believe in the Common Core.”

This is about giving money away,” he said of his support for the standards. “This is philanthropy. This is trying to make sure students have the kind of opportunity I had . . . and it’s almost outrageous to say otherwise, in my view.” ~ Bill Gates

Okay. Let’s go with Bill and Melinda’s best intentions. Why the opposition then?

As educators and parents of public school children we used critical thinking to consider the impacts of the market-based corporate reforms the Gates promote. Do they really help improve education, social problems, and the real gaping inequity Bill mentions? We considered the following questions about some of the key ingredients of fundamentalist market-based reforms:

  1. High tech devices promoted by Bill Gates as “personalized learning” via Common Core Pearson/Gates’ Surface Tablets competing with Apple iPads
  2. Grit and rigor of Common Core backwards-designed standards – combined with high stakes computerized tests – requiring billions to be spent on tech upgrades to both software and hardware – and proven to fail 70% of all students
  3. Closing schools via the technocrats’ measurement “sticks” – used to punish schools who purportedly fail to educate our nations’ increasingly impoverished students only to turn them over to privatized charter schools known for corruption, re-segregation
  4. Firing many of our nations’ Black teachers in cities where mayoral control has taken over public education
  5. “Blended learning” or strictly “online learning” found to be disreputable and ineffective at best – and disconnected from relationships which drive real success with children
  6. Five week “summer camp” trained Teach for America trainees replacing NBCT’s, M.Eds., and experienced highly qualified teachers for our neediest students

To date, none of these Gates experiments have proven successful, and in fact are doing the opposite:

So — to be clear:

Our opposition isn’t grounded in the idea that Bill and Melinda will become rich off of Common Core.

Our opposition isn’t grounded in the fact that they are partnering with Pearson to load Microsoft software on Microsoft Surface Tablets to compete with Apple.

Our opposition is grounded in the the facts that what was once a public institution is now being transformed in great part by the hands of one couple’s “philanthropy” – turning them into a fundamentalist market-based institution.

Our opposition is grounded in the facts that systemic market-based institutionalization of public schools is increasing inequity, increasing segregation, and increasing the opportunity gap between the 1% and the working class.

Our opposition is grounded in the market-based reformers increase of Zero-Tolerance policies, which in turn feed the School-To-Prison Pipeline.

Our opposition is grounded in the market-based reforms driving the de-funding of public schools through vouchers.

Our opposition is grounded in the fact that new market-based teacher evaluations systems and VAM are based on junk science creating a false sense of blame on public school teachers for the effects of poverty.

Our opposition is grounded in the fact that as these market-based reforms increase, our democratic voice is decreased.

Where does Common Core fit into these reforms?

Lyndsey’s Washington Post investigative interview revealed some of the back story behind Common Core’s dependence on Bill and Melinda Gates’ billions to get the political lift this unprecedented nationalizing-market-based-behemoth needed to take flight. Like Howard Hughes’ “Spruce Goose“; Bill Gates has proven Common Core can fly, but Common Core was never officially certified by the public in a democratic process. Instead, states were asked to sign on the dotted line for untested, un-piloted, unproven, un-researched standards while the Common Core “Spruce Goose” was still being built. The democratic process was completely circumvented where in the past, educators would present changes at the local and state level to communities for approval and a VOTE. That was not the case with Common Core, as Anthony Cody pointed out about the “secret 60” who met behind closed doors.

And according to Dr. Mercedes Schneider — those of us opposing corporate reform need to know: All other market-based reforms hinge on Common Core as she writes in her post … The Importance of Common Core for Nationally Pervasive Ed Reform:

“A great error made by those combating corporate reform is in viewing the reforms as separate and distinct one from another. I have noticed as much in discussions about the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). However, the “standards” were not intended to “stand” without the entire spectrum of reforms.

In fact, the power of a truly national privatization of public education depends upon CCSS.

CCSS is the cornerstone of unprecedented, national-level corporate reform that has been in the making for several years.”

By placing former Gates employees in control of the US Department of Education under President Obama, the cornerstone of CCSS was guaranteed by an unholy alliance between private markets and government. Together, the Gates and their billionaire corporate reformers formed a bipartisan plan. Using the “shock doctrine” of economic desperation they first de-funded schools and communities — next they used bribes to coerce local, state, and national entities to agree to a grave systemic shift — a shift from public transparent democratic local control of public schools to a fundamentalist market-based federalized system of education.

Bill Gates, President Obama, and US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan seem to have taken their market-based reform ideas from the expert playbook of the neoliberal “grand guru of unfettered capitalism”, Milton Friedman. Naomi Klein offers a terrible picture of when this story began to unfold after Katrina in her introduction of Shock Doctrine. Here is an excerpt:

One of those who saw opportunity in the floodwaters of New Orleans was the late Milton Friedman, grand guru of unfettered capitalism and credited with writing the rulebook for the contemporary, hyper-mobile global economy. Ninety-three years old and in failing health, “Uncle Miltie”, as he was known to his followers, found the strength to write an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal three months after the levees broke. “Most New Orleans schools are in ruins,” Friedman observed, “as are the homes of the children who have attended them. The children are now scattered all over the country. This is a tragedy. It is also an opportunity.”

Five years after Katrina, in January, 2010 US Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan made a shocking statement, providing evidence of the DOE’s fundamentalist market-based ideology. It was this statement that told many of us — all public schools are at risk of privatization promoted by our federal government in collusion with the corporate reformers. ABC News’ Mary Bruce Reports:

Education Secretary Arne Duncan said today that Hurricane Katrina was “the best thing that happened to the education system in New Orleans” because it gave the city a chance to rebuild and improve its failing public schools.

In an interview to air this weekend on “Washington Watch with Roland Martin” Duncan said “that education system was a disaster. And it took Hurricane Katrina to wake up the community to say that we have to do better. And the progress that it made in four years since the hurricane,is unbelievable.” ‘

Again, let’s examine Bill and Melinda Gates’ intentions. Per Layton’s interview:

“Gates is disdainful of the rhetoric from opponents. He sees himself as a technocrat trying to foster solutions to a profound social problem — gaping inequalities in U.S. public education — by investing in promising new ideas.”

Are these market fundamentalists’ experiments truly solving a “profound social problem — by investing in promising new ideas”? Are they truly reducing the “gaping inequalities in U.S. public education by investing in promising new ideas” to “make sure students have the kind of opportunity I (Bill Gates) had .”

Let’s take a look at New Orleans schools and communities after “the market” has experimented with them. Today, in fact New Orleans public schools are closing for good due to the hands of the market-based fundamentalism. Is this what you want in your community?

If it is up to Gates and the DOE; never mind what you think… Once again, democracy is left behind.

“This is a depressed community,” said Karran Harper Royal, an activist who has been trying to block the school closings. “People here don’t really feel like they can coalesce and fight this.”

 

journey for justice picture 2

So why are we outraged again? Our outrage is because the public is being silenced. Our outrage is because the public is being excluded.

Our outrage is because the fundamentalist market-based systemic change is creating the exact opposite effect that Bill and Melinda claim is the reason for their investments.

You can see that here where Journey for Justice Alliance came out with a devastating report entitled “Death by a Thousand Cut: Racism, School Closures, and Sabatoge” . Jitu Brown makes a statement in testimony at a US DOE hearing about the fundamentalist market-based corporate reforms that close public schools, replacing them with private charter schools:

“We’re here because someone has to have the clarity and the conviction to confront institutional racism head-on. . . . To deny us the right to improve our schools as community institutions is a violation of our human rights. To destabilize schools in our community is a violation of our human rights. To have communities with no neighborhood schools is a violation of our human rights. . . . We are America’s mirror. Do you have the courage to accept what you see?” – Jitu Brown, US Department of Education hearing, January 29, 2013

Force Feeding Public Schools

Are these top-down market-based experimental corporate reforms being force-fed to public schools really helping close the “gaping inequalities”?

Journey for Justice Alliance added in this report by Tolu Olorunda, Truthout :

“When schools are closed, they said unanimously, neighborhoods fall apart – gangs flourish; students drop out; homes rapidly devalue; and the quality of life worsens. They also railed against the various reform schemes sweeping through the nation, particularly in urban districts, where cyber schools, charter schools and state-created “failing schools” have cropped up within the last decade – against, in most cases, the protests and projected outrage of the affected communities.”

This outrage led to letter, whereby Journey for Justice Alliance filed a complaint with the Office for Civil Rights of the Department of Education (“OCR”) and the Educational Opportunities Section of the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division (“DOJ”). Addressed to Attorney General Eric Holder and Education Secretary Arne Duncan; they issued a demand requesting the investigation of “racially discriminatory school closings” in New Orleans as reported by Valerie Strauss of the Washington Post:

“New Orleans is often held up as a model of school reform that can be adopted by other cities. But the facts on the ground tell a different story about the success of the Recovery School District’s reform program, which called for closing traditional schools and opening charter schools. But the charters have not performed anywhere near as well as reformers often say. And the comparisons that people make between New Orleans schools before and after Hurricane Katrina are like comparing apples and oranges, given that the student population in New Orleans changed considerably after Katrina.”

The plight of the New Orleans schools is but one example of the devastating impacts on the institutions of democracy called our nation’s public schools. Public schools in Chicago, New York, and DC where mayoral control was fostered by Bill Gates have been laid to waste. Public schools in Detroit, Newark, Camden, and Philly are in shambles where market based reforms have been fostered by Bill Gates and the corporate reformers.

Are these reforms really “promising new ideas”? Anthony Cody discusses what Diane Ravitch calls the same-old, same-old here: Anthony disagrees with Randi Weingarten and Linda Darling-Hammond’s ideas about Common Core done “California style”. Anthony fears:

“I believe these tests will follow the same pattern as other Common Core-aligned tests, and yield results that show our English Learners and students living in poverty are in terrible shape. Why do I think that? First, because these tests have a great deal of language in them. Even the math problems require students to explain in words how they are solving problems. So we are likely to see schools with large numbers of ELs get terrible scores. So far every state that has given tests aligned with the Common Core has seen huge drops in proficiency levels.

The schools identified as low performing are likely to be the same ones identified that way under NCLB. They will get “intervention,” meaning teams of expensive experts who will come to tell the teachers at these schools what they must do to raise their test scores. We will remain stuck in a data-driven paradigm, where test scores are treated as an accurate indicator not only of what ails us, but also to guide the steps we must take to improve our health.”

Paul L. Thomas sees these reforms as a recycling of the “same-old, same-old “as well as he writes in his essay about Maxine Greene:

“The bureaucracy of education reform built on recycling the accountability paradigm also fails because we remain committed as well, not to community and democracy, but competition and market forces (charter schools and dismantling teachers unions and tenure, for examples). Education reform is, in fact, not reform at all; education reform insures that public institutions, such as schools, maintain the status quo of society. As a result, students are being indoctrinated, not educated…”

So let’s take Bill and Melinda Gates at their word.

Our outrage in opposition is not about the profit Bill and Melinda Gates will acquire from their investments. If they intend to invest in education that is created in the likeness of that of their own childrens’ education – if they truly want to reduce the gaping inequalities – if they truly want solve a social problem – then why aren’t they listening to organizations like Journey for Justice Alliance? Why do they need to silence and exclude the voices of the public — by holding secret meetings with money changing hands — if these reforms are so great?

Why did it take millions of Gates’ monies to convince local astroturf groups, State School Officers, Governors, politicians on both sides of the aisle, ALEC, and union leaders — Common Core was so great they should go ahead and fly this plane while they were still building it?

Why did Bill Gates have to coach teachers to say the right words to convince legislators?

Why do Bill and Melinda not insist on serving the same “super set” of Common Core sandwiches, segregation, school closures, and high stakes tests to their own children as staples?

Layton credits Bill Gates with starting a revolution by investing so much in Common Core. What remains to be seen is this:

Will the real revolutionary movement for democracy prevail over the neoliberal forces of shock-doctrine’s market-based corporate reforms?

Will Bill and Melinda Gates’ Common Core go the way of the Spruce Goose – costing a fortune, but never to be flown again?

If you would like to see the “Spruce Goose” of fundamentalist market-based reform experiments grounded for good, please sign our letter demanding the Gates Foundation DIVEST from corporate education reform. Join us in Seattle at the #EducatingGatesRally Protest on June 26th where we will deliver our demands.