09/09/2013 10:29 am ET Updated Nov 09, 2013

Gates Money and Common Core -- Part III

My first post on Gates and his Common Core State Standards (CCSS) spending includes information on his paying millions to the four key organizations involved in composing CCSS as well as to key education organizations and think tanks for their endorsement. My second post of this series examines Gates money paid to organizations influencing state departments and local school districts for the purpose of advancing CCSS.

In this third post, I discuss the state departments and local school districts that have accepted Gates money in order to promote CCSS.

CCSS is apparently important enough to Gates for him to force feed to the public via funneling though its departments of education. And since he is wildly rich, he must know what is good and true for American public education. We can blindly trust him, for he has a large wallet.


As to that wallet: Here are the state and local boards (and a single independent school and a business foundation) that have accepted Gates payouts specifically for CCSS as noted on the Gates grants search engine:

Colorado Legacy Foundation (CO Dept. of Ed.): $11,455,547

Delaware Department of Education: $400,000

Georgia Department of Education: $1,980,892

Atlanta Public Schools $500,000

Forsyth County Schools $151,200

Kentucky Department of Education $12,028,366

Pennsylvania Department of Education $526,960

School District of Philadelphia $500,000

Louisiana Department of Education $7,351,708

Baton Rouge Foundation $800,000

Office of Superintendent of Public Instr. (Sovereignty Tribes): $75,000

Region 8 ESC (Ed Service Center) of Northeast Indiana: $249,505

Albuquerque Public Schools (New Mexico): $500,000

Cleveland Metropolitan School District (Ohio): $497,752

Perkins School for the Blind (Massachusetts): $249,113

Thus, according to the his grants website, Gates paid a total of $37.5 million to the state and local school boards (and the single school) to implement CCSS-- much of it focused upon curriculum.

Where is the line between benevolently "helping" states and districts and imposing one's will for CCSS upon districts via curricular prompting?

Reformer lines are seldom drawn with sharpened pencils.

For some of the states and districts represented above, I offer select details in the remainder of this post. (Despite limiting my discussion, it remains several hundred words longer than intended. For comprehensive CCSS grant details for the list above, see this document: Gates Common Core Funding for Departments of Education )

Colorado Legacy Foundation

Colorado accepted over $11 million from Gates for both CCSS implementation and curriculum:

Date: November 2012
Purpose: to examine the use of high-quality curriculum to accelerate common core state standards implementation Amount: $1,748,337

Date: June 2011
Purpose: to provide organizational support to the Colorado Legacy Foundation related to implementation of the Common Core State Standards & teacher development and evaluation systems
Amount: $9,707,210 [Purpose emphasis added.]

Gates is "providing" $10 million in "organizational support" to the Colorado Department of Education (CDE) and another $2 million to "speed it up." According to the CDE website, CCSS is completely integrated into the Colorado Academic Standards (CAS):

The Colorado Department of Education adopted the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) in August 2010. In December 2010, CDE released the Colorado Academic Standards (CAS) for Mathematics and Reading, Writing and Communicating incorporating the entire CCSS while maintaining the unique aspects of the Colorado Academic Standards, which include personal financial literacy, 21st century skills, prepared graduate competencies, and preschool expectations. [Emphasis added.]

Colorado is one of several states that has decided to add to CCSS in order to make it "unique." However, no state is allowed to omit any part of CCSS. That is "in the rules":

The CCSSI (Common Core State Standards Initiative) defines adoption of the Common Core standards to mean that an authorizing body, such as a state board of education, has accepted 100 percent of the standards verbatim. States are "allowed to add an additional 15 percent on top of the core" (CCSSI, March 2010). [Emphasis added.]

No professional judgment allowed in reducing CCSS. No looking back. And as for no pilot testing to see if and how well CCSS works to begin with and modifying accordingly--

Deal with it.

In CDE's case, they're sold. CDE clearly endorses CCSS as it offers the following "Standards Implementation Support" as a "steal":

Achieve the Core is the website for the organization Student Achievement Partners (SAP) founded by David Coleman and Jason Zimba, two of the lead writers of the Common Core State Standards. The website shares free, open-source resources to support Common Core implementation at the classroom, district, and state level. The steal these tools link includes information on the key instructional shifts for math and guidance for focusing math instruction . [Emphasis added.]

I guess the CDE Gates purchase of $11.5 million includes the Coleman-Zimba "lead writers" endorsement above.

Georgia Department of Education

The Georgia Department of Education (GDE) accepted almost $2 million from Gates for "instructional tool development... and statewide implementation of these tools":

Date: November 2010
Purpose: to develop instructional tools in literacy and mathematics aligned to the Common Core standards and facilitate statewide implementation of these tools in Georgia
Amount: $1,980,892 [Purpose emphasis added.]

Nevertheless, it seems that Georgia Governor Nathan Deal is having second thoughts; he is requiring GDE to compare CCSS to Georgia's previous standards. Georgia has already withdrawn from the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC), the CCSS testing consortium, due to its cost.

Two million from Gates might not be enough to secure Georgia's devotion to CCSS.

The Atlanta Schools also accepted Gates money devoted to promoting a company Gates supports for "promoting literacy," the Literacy Design Collaborative:

Date: October 2010
Purpose: to implement the Literacy Design Collaborative tools in reading and writing through the content area of Social Studies, Science and Career and Technical subjects to support the implementation of Common Core Georgia Performance Standards
Amount: $500,000

In a previous post, I discuss the promotion of LDC "tools" at the high school where I teach, including background on the company's founder as well as other Gates groupies:

LDC is a Gates-funded effort whose founder, Chad Vignola, a non-educator, was fired from the New York Board of Education for concealing an ethical breach but kept in the job with then-NYC Chancellor Joel Klein because "no one else could do his job." The LDC website also mentions Vicky Phillips and Carina Wong, two Gates employees who announced CCSS four months before it was officially finished. As for Klein, he now works for Rupert Murdoch's Amplify, the company that won the $12.5 million contract to design CCSS assessments.

LDC stands to profit well via CCSS. Yet CCSS is shaky in Georgia, and even Gates' wallet might not be enough to prevent Governor Deal from declaring No Deal.

Kentucky Department of Education

The Kentucky Department of Education (KDE) accepted the largest amount of Gates CCSS promotional cash at just over $12 million:

Date: November 2012
Purpose: To examine the use of high-quality curriculum to accelerate common core state standards implementation
Amount: $1,903,089

Date: June 2011
Purpose: to provide organizational support to the Kentucky Department of Education related to implementation of the Common Core State Standards & teacher development and evaluation systems
Amount: $9,125,277

Date: November 2010
Purpose: to develop instructional tools in literacy and mathematics aligned to the Common Core standards, and to facilitate statewide implementation of these tools in Kentucky
Amount: $1,000,000

Kentucky administered the first CCSS assessments in the nation in November 2012. However, the ACT-administered End of Course (EOC) exam was not properly scored. Ironically, a major push of CCSS is the "literacy" focus on student writing-- and ACT was unable to score the constructed response items and therefore only completely scored the multiple-choice items. As a result, scoring now falls on the teachers, not the testing company who took the $1.5 million to grade the constructed response items in the first place. Here is how the KDE attempts to spin ACT's bumbling failure into KDE triumph:

EOC testing can now move to 100% computer-based for the state accountability portion. This means all schools can now give the EOC in the last day or so before the class ends because results are instant. This will make a truly end-of-course test and it will make it more useful for a real final exam.

...Finally, this change (requiring teacher to grade constructed response items) from also makes the reporting of state results on a timely basis for the fall of 2013 highly probable.

So, in summary, we believe it is a win-win for teachers and the state. High school teachers get a more useful final exam with instant results. The state gets accountability information and CR questions are still an important part of the model. [Emphasis and parenthetical statement added.]

In short, teachers are deprived of the dignity of creating their own exams and are instead saddled with the responsibility for grading an essay exam created by an incompetent testing corporation.

Still, Kentucky remains in CCSS.

Louisiana Department of Education

For the sake of length, I will conclude this post with an examination of only one more state department of education, that of my home state, Louisiana. The Louisiana Department of Education (LDOE) accepted the third largest sum of Gates CCSS payoff to date, just shy of $8 million:

Date: June 2011
Purpose: to provide organizational support to the Louisiana Department of Education related to implementation of the Common Core State Standards & teacher development and evaluation systems
Amount: $7,351,708

Gates is getting his money's worth of CCSS support in the Bayou State. Why, we even have community meetings to promote CCSS in order to defend it in the 2014 legislative session:

SAVE THE DATE: On Monday, September 9th, from 6pm to 7:30pm, supporters of the Common Core State Standards will host a briefing on the issue for business and civic leaders at the Jefferson Parish Business Council. ...

This is the first of a number of regional meetings for your organization to learn more about the Common Core, why raising the bar is a good thing for Louisiana's students and our economy, why many teachers actually support the changes, and how you can be helpful in your area with your delegation. ...

As noted in prior updates, a number of state education reform advocacy organizations have already begun to make joint plans to promote and defend the Common Core against likely attacks in the Legislature next year. [Emphasis added.]

Translation: We really have no idea whether or not we have "raised the bar." And don't ask us to quantify the "many" in "many teachers 'actually' (interesting word slip) supporting 'the changes,'" for we at LDOE simply do not deal in the details necessary to justify our beliefs. We took the $8 million; now you take our word for it.
No additional information here concerning the "likely attacks in the Legislature next year." I am guessing that the cost of assessment is already a legislative concern; Louisiana is supposed to use the PARCC assessments, and Georgia and Oklahoma have already dropped PARCC due to cost.

Louisiana State Superintendent John White, his LDOE, and his state board of education (BESE) are set to "promote and defend" CCSS, and they are enlisting community support for their desire.

These meetings are not for open, honest, critical examination of CCSS usefulness. These meetings are to promote CCSS without questioning its utility and feasibility.

Here's to hoping the 2014 Louisiana legislature see through this snow job.

Next Stop: Higher Ed

You might recall from Part II that CCSS is designed not only for K-12 but for P-20, meaning that higher education is not allowed to escape CCSS. Accordingly, Gates is spending his CCSS funds on postsecondary CCSS. This I examine in my next Gates-CCSS post. Do stay tuned.