THE BLOG
04/09/2014 11:08 am ET Updated Jun 09, 2014

Fordham's Mike Petrilli: Selling Common Core in States With Better Standards

This post is about the for-profit "reform"-promoting think tank, the Fordham Institute.

The Fordham Institute likes to grade.

Mind you, Fordham doesn't bother to grade itself. But it does promote the grading of teacher training programs via an entity it birthed in 2001, the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ), and it also promotes the grading of teachers using student test scores (see the final statement of this Fordham post for the clear endorsement for grading teachers using student test scores).

And, perhaps that for which Fordham is best known: It loves grading state standards and even giving some states higher marks than the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) -- and still promoting CCSS in statehouses across the country.

In promoting CCSS, Fordham is only doing what Bill Gates has paid it to do: "track state progress towards implementation of standards..."

Fordham takes its CCSS "tracking" seriously -- to the point of manipulating states with standards that it graded as "superior" to CCSS into clinging to CCSS.

Recall that 2010 Fordham report in which Fordham graded all state standards as well as CCSS and compared all state standards to CCSS.

CCSS did not receive the highest marks, yet it is continuously pushed by Fordham in statehouses around the country (see here and here and here and here for examples).

Consider Indiana, which has been in the March and April 2014 news for its considering dropping CCSS -- and subsequently "forming" "new" standards that just happen to closely resemble CCSS.

In 2010, Fordham graded Indiana's English Language Arts (ELA) and math standards as superior to CCSS.

In January 2013, Fordham Institute Executive Vice President Mike Petrilli, who bills himself as "one of the nation's most trusted education analysts."

(His self-titling reminds me of "Dr." Steve Perry, who bills himself as "America's most trusted educator." Read here to see why Perry lacks my trust.)

Petrilli might consider himself "trusted"; however, he uses such trust to exploit -- his undeniable goal being to manipulate states into keeping CCSS -- even if his own think tank graded a state's standards as being better than CCSS.

Let's "watch" Petrilli in action:

In January 2013, Petrilli testified in Indiana and offered these points to talk Indiana out of any return to their CCSS-superior standards and into retaining CCSS:

1. First, you have already invested time and money into implementing the new standards. They have momentum. Calling for a do-over would waste the millions of man hours already invested -- and potentially cost the state of Indiana more money than proceeding with the Common Core. [Emphasis added.]

A great suggestion: Keep the deficient CCSS since you have spent money on it already. Never mind that Fordham did not advise Indiana not to sign onto CCSS in the first place since it rated Indiana's standards as superior. There was no Petrilli plane trip to testify on that front.

2. Second, it's not clear that returning to your old standards would put Indiana on a path toward higher student achievement. For while you had some of the best standards in the country for over a decade, you also had one of the worst student achievement records on the National Assessment of Educational Progress. Indiana was a classic case of good standards not actually having an impact in the classroom. You need a different way forward.

What a crock this point is. "A different way forward"?? Is "forward" higher test scores? Petrilli assures Indiana's Senate education committee that "forward" is the direction CCSS will take them -- even though Indiana's "superior" standards did not take Indiana there. It is not clear that putting any state on the CCSS path will improve achievement -- yet here we are, a nation on the unproven CCSS path... and Petrilli doing his best to sound knowledgeable as he talks unresearched, unanchored nonsense.

In its 2010 grading of standards, Fordham ignored comparing state scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) with its state standards ratings. The result was no logical connection whatsoever between NAEP scores and Fordham's ratings of state standards. Indeed, some states with standards that Fordham rated poorly actually had high scores on NAEP.

In Indiana's case, the NAEP scores were not among the highest in the nation (see here for Indiana's 2009 and 2011 NAEP scores)- but Petrilli advises no return to Indiana's previous standards because somehow, the lesser-rated CCSS could manifest in "higher student achievement."

Come again??

This is the same Fordham Institute that believes in grading teachers using student test scores. However, I have yet to read the article on Petrilli's testimony that it is possible for teachers to be "superior" yet their students' test scores to not manifest the reality of "best teachers."

He will defend standards as being "some of the best in the country" despite low test scores, but he has yet to extend such faith-based logic to teachers -- and this despite the well-documented problems associated with using test scores to grade teachers, known as value-added modeling (VAM).

On to Petrilli's third point of scoring the Indiana sale on behalf of CCSS:

3. Third, if you decide to opt out of the Common Core, you will be opting Indiana's teachers and students out of an opportunity to participate in the incredible wave of innovation that these standards are unleashing. It's as if the whole world is moving to smart phones and tablets while you're sticking with a rotary. [Emphasis added.]

What "wave of innovation"?? The "opportunity for "CCSS-infused tests and teacher evaluations" that Fordham's Chester Finn alludes to here in referring to California (with standards also rated as superior to CCSS)?

Implementation is a boring topic but here (as with most bold reforms of complex, sluggish institutions) it's crucial. The past quarter century offers sad examples of states with praiseworthy standards and lousy academic results, with California being the woeful poster child. This breakdown is due to the plain fact that the state never infused its own standards into tests, requirements for promotion and graduation, teacher certification and evaluations, school ratings, college admissions, or much else. [Emphasis added.]

So, the question becomes, what is next in the CCSS push to "ensure CCSS infusion"?

I broach the topic in this post on the push for a centralized agency to control "CCSS-approved" curriculum. It's logical to assume that if CCSS is being billed as The Answer for All States, its Gates-funded proponents would do all that is necessary to make CCSS "succeed" -- including micromanage curriculum in states across the nation.

As for Petrilli's appeal for a CCSS-bound Indiana, his oiled reasoning offers no assurance that CCSS will deliver on what the CCSS website promotes as the CCSS "guarantee":

The Common Core is a set of high-quality academic standards in mathematics and English language arts/literacy (ELA). These learning goals outline what a student should know and be able to do at the end of each grade. The standards were created to ensure that all students graduate from high school with the skills and knowledge necessary to succeed in college, career, and life, regardless of where they live. [Emphasis added.]

CCSS will ensure skills and knowledge -- got it?

However...

...if CCSS doesn't deliver -- according to the CCSS license -- the CCSS owners, the National Governors Association (NGA) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) -- cannot legally be held responsible.

In other words, NGA and CCSSO have effectively blocked themselves from the brunt of any lawsuits should CCSS not deliver according to the glowing promises made on the CCSS website or promoted by the CCSS talking points.

What will Petrilli do then?

I guess we'll have to see what Bill Gates pays Fordham to do next in order to know for sure. Rest assured, however: No matter what Fordham does, it will package it as "excellence."

Originally posted 04-05-14 at deutsch29.wordpress.com