By Carole Hornsby Haynes

Why are powerful corporate interests pushing Common Core? Could it be the promise of national scale business opportunities for White House loyalists?

Signaling philanthropic capital, Joanne Weiss, the chief of staff to Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and leader of the Obama administration’s Race to the Top program, blogged in the Harvard Business Review:

“The development of common standards and shared assessments radically alters the market for innovation in curriculum development, professional development, and formative assessments. Previously, these markets operated on a state-by-state basis, and often on a district-by-district basis. But the adoption of common standards and shared assessments means that education entrepreneurs will enjoy national markets where the best products can be taken to scale.

In this new market, it will make sense for researchers to mine data to learn which materials and teaching strategies are effective for which students – and then feed that information back to students, teachers, and parents.”

Student information obtained through Common Core testing – data mining – is being shared with private companies that sell educational products and services. These companies will mine the information to create new tailored products.

Republican Rupert Murdoch, chairman and CEO of News Corporation, stated, “When it comes to K through 12 education, we see a $500 billion sector in the U.S. alone that is waiting desperately to be transformed by big breakthroughs that extend the reach of great teaching.”

It didn’t go unnoticed that Bill Gates spent – more accurately, primed the pump – $5 billion buying his own version of education reform. From bribing the National Parents Association, to paying the Council of Chief State School Officers for the development of Common Core, to doling out funds to other major centers of influence, the Gates money has attracted those of all stripes who will benefit from the success of Common Core.

News Corp. purchased Wireless Generation in 2010. News Corporation then created Amplify, of which Wireless Generation is a part, to create digital products and services for K-12. Soon after, Amplify partnered with AT&T.

Joel I. Klein, former chancellor of New York City, joined News Corp. as an executive vice president.

GE Foundation gave $18 million to Student Achievement Partners to assist states in implementing Common Core. Student Achievement Partners was founded by David Coleman, architect of Common Core and now, as president of the College Board is redesigning the SAT.

President of GE Foundation Robert Corcoran said, “Our economy is facing an undeniable challenge – good paying jobs are going unfilled because U.S. workers don’t have the skills to fill the positions. We must cultivate a highly educated workforce and we see the Standards as a key component to answering this challenge.”

One wonders if there is more to this than meets the eye. Yes, the GE website sports a full range of data management and data analytics software solutions.

A Fordham Institute editor gushed that business leaders were rallying around Common Core as he name-dropped the powerful who attended the GE Foundation’s Summer Business and Education Summit in Orland0.

The biggest gusher at the Summit was Jeb Bush, whose Foundation for Excellence in Education is supported by the Gates Foundation. Sounding the crisis alarm, he predicted “that states are heading for a ‘train wreck.’ He noted that when the new standards and assessments come fully online in 2015 that many communities, schools, and families are in for a rude awakening.”

The article noted the general group consensus seemed to be that “running away from the Common Core would be a huge mistake and a serious step back for the country, its children, and its future. … A recurring message throughout the event was that states must move forward with the Common Core, and that business must be a key champion for the effort, especially when the going gets tough.”

At least you can’t say we weren’t warned about the hardball game plan.

For decades, American public education has ricocheted from crisis to crisis, one of which was the infamous Sputnik crisis. Now it’s the “broken education system” that powerful corporate interests are suddenly interested in fixing – ah yes, “for the children.”

Since the mantra of the ruling class is that a “serious crisis should never go to waste,” suspicion runs high.

As Jeb Bush predicted, states are in sticker shock as Common Core test scores come in. I wonder how he knew so many would fail. This, of course, is because Common Core standards are “more rigorous,” (where is the empirical evidence) and give a much more accurate picture of where students are in their preparation for college and the labor market.

As disappointing Common Core test scores roll out, the liberal mainstream media is doing its usual cover job, proclaiming this to be a “welcome wake up call.”

It doesn’t require much imagination to see where this is going.

There will be public alarm over the tanking test scores. The knights in shining armor holding their shields high will ride in to bully the state lawmakers and educational leaders to hold the line against flight from Common Core. After all, Common Core is just exposing how bad American education really is.

Students must be failing because the tests are “more rigorous” than those they have taken previously. Schools don’t want to look bad so they will purchase instructional materials, including educational software and assessments, from vendors who are only too happy to help them.

Whether it’s a conspiracy of Washington or greedy businessmen, corporate balance sheets will be greatly enhanced as companies roll out tests and instructional materials.

Let’s take a look at big players who have cozied up to big government to get their big piece of the pie.

Two national consortia, the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers and Smarter Balanced, received a combined $346 million in federal education grants to create a pair of new standardized tests tied to Common Core.

Pearson, the international multi-billion dollar educational testing and publishing conglomerate, is the exclusive testing contractor for the state of Texas. The company will earn nearly $100 million in 2015 from its Texas contract for a total of $1.2 billion since 2000.

In their market report, Pearson bragged to investors about how well they did in 2012.

Not surprisingly, they have a $254 million contract with Florida to design and publish state tests. Considering the long history of Pearson’s testing problems, including those with Florida, one wonders how much Pearson owes Jeb Bush and his foundations for their success.

Although the Common Core testing business is a multi-billion dollar sector, it’s really small potatoes. The golden goose is the instructional materials used for test preparation, thus covering all aspects of the curriculum.

A clue to just how golden is found in the partnership of the Gates and Pearson Foundations to create online materials, teacher development teacher preparation and assessments for the Common Core standards.

Also on the bandwagon is Dell with its Common Core Technology Readiness Assessment offering solutions to meet online assessment specifications including computers and related components.

Wait a minute. The American public is not on the bandwagon. They see a crisis all right, but this time it’s Common Core. They don’t like what they see:

  • federal takeover of education,
  • massive intrusion into student privacy,
  • federal standardized testing,
  • lack of empirical research,
  • reading lists with pornographic novels such as “Dreaming in Cuban,” and
  • an academic level lower than what many states use today.

Critics are exposing Common Core for what it really is – ObamaEd, a federal takeover of education driven by corporate giants. Angry citizens are on the move, demanding that their states withdraw from Common Core.

With waning support of Common Core and the $500 billion business in jeopardy, it’s no wonder that Jeb Bush was so snippy when he blasted criticism of Common Core as being “purely political.” It’s likely we’ll see more people handcuffed and thrown into jail if they have the audacity to criticize Common Core.

Big government and big business are under estimating the will of the American people, who want local control over how they educate their young. The public is weary of political cronyism and corporate greed seeking to dictate the course of American public policy for the purpose of lining their coffers with billions of the people’s money.

This is just another in the growing list of White House scandals!


Carole Hornsby Haynes, Ph.D. is a curriculum specialist and writer, speaker and commentator for education and cultural policy.

Note: Read our discussion guidelines before commenting.