winning common core war

How much money has been spent by the Gates Foundation and corporate entities to push the PR message that we will love Common Core once we know what’s in it?  Trouble is, the more we know about it, the more people dislike it. 

Michael Brickman of Fordham, however, is still out plugging the standards on radio interviews.  The trouble is for Fordham, is the word is out to radio hosts and they have done their homework on the standards too.  Girard at Large from New Hampshire debated Brickman and laid bare the many fallacies in the Common Core argument.  From Brickman Debates Girard on “Superior” Common Core Standards:

(Hour 1b) Michael Brickman is the National Policy Director at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute where he furthers educational excellence as a commentator on education reform issues.

He believes that Common Core standards are superior to NH’s old standards.

Our humble host couldn’t disagree more and challenged Brickman on several points in this very feisty exchange.

We have transcribed the broadcast below.  Spot the talking points about the standards that are costing millions for PR messaging.  Girard’s remarks are in black, Brickman’s are in red.


Transcript Radio Broadcast

Michael Brickman: National Policy Director for Thomas B. Fordham Institute

He furthers educational Excellence as Commentator on education reform issues and is a regular contributor to the “Fly Paper” blog as well as other publications. He served in communications roles on state and national campaigns before bring taped by Gov. Scott Walker to lead his education reform efforts in Wisconsin. While in the Gov’s office he worked to support collective bargaining reforms increase standards and accountability expand school choice and keep college affordable through innovative reforms. Michael graduated from the University of Delaware with and honors bachelor’s degree in political science he currently lives in Washington, D.C. Good Morning Michael.

Good morning, thanks for having me.

Glad to have you. So you um you folks uh through your publicist I guess uh wanted to come and chat about developments in the Common Core war across the country and we are pleased to turn the airwaves over to you, so Michael, what’s on your mind?

Well, ya, that’s for having us back and certainly it’s an ongoing topic of discussion and I think it’s one that people uh still have uh some confusion about, still have some concern about and more than anything I think that people especially on the right are really across the political spectrum, there’s a lot more to agree on than disagree on especially when it comes to what do your actually do from a public policy perspective?

Well you know it would seem to me that Common Core has suffered any number of major setbacks across the country, not the least of which is the recent announcement by Gov. Mary Fallon in signing legislation that removes her state which is Oklahoma from the Common Core State Standards or NATIONAL STANDARDS, in signing that bill, of course why– that’s a big deal because she is chairman of the National Governor’s Association one organization that everybody points to say “Oh see this is state led is came from the Governor’s Association, in her statement… her signing statement, she said look, this thing has been completely corrupted by the Obama administration it is not what it was intended to be, it has not ended up as it started out and uh, Oklahoma can do better as can just about any other state that wants to develop new standards, what say you? Is Gov Fallon wandered off the reservation wrongly?

Well I think she’s right that this has been politicized by the Obama administration, I think she’s right that states can theoretically at least, do better uh…this is something that most people would agree we would not be having this conversation if it weren’t for the Obama administration trying to step in, trying to take this initiative on and offer the states incentives for the states to take the standards, and in fact the was led by the governors it was led by the state education chiefs, and it was a state led, state run initiative, and it needs to remain that way Washington needs to completely but out of these types of issues. Uh…in terms of can states do better yeah of course they can theoretically do better, the problem is in getting rid of Common Core in Oklahoma, uh the state adopted worse standards, now in a couple of years they’ll go with ago with yet another set of standards, hopefully those will be better than both the standards they have no and the Common Core but the Common Core are quite good they are an improvement of what most states had before and they are definitely an improvement over what New Hampshire had in place before. And..

Well, you know, I’m gunna, I’m gunna, argue that point with you Michael and there are a couple things that we need to bring up if we are going to be honest about this state led thing, since when has anybody ever pointed to the National Governor’s Association which is largely a federal funded entity and a lobbying group or the State Chief School Officers, which is also largely funded by the federal government and a federal lobbying group, since when has anyone ever pointed to those organizations as evidence that states are leading on any particular issue? I mean don’t states lead when they come up with something innovative that attracts people attention from around the country and other states start to experiment as they want too, not some federally funded Washington based lobbying group.

Uh…well I don’t think those groups are federally funded I’m pretty sure they are funded through the states…

Well I’m pretty sure I’ve heard stories about the amount of money they get from the federal government, but that being what it may..

Okay, uh well bottom line these are certainly groups that represent governors, I know that they do receive dues through the states, they’re run by the states regardless, I think we can argue about process, we can argue about know where the standards came from..

What is the value of a state led organization that basically says OK we’re all gunna be on the same standards, we’re all gunna have the same test, we’re all going to in fact create a de-facto national standard and a de-facto national testing scheme, and claim that we as states are leading towards national unity on any particular issue one especially as, uh prone to local issues as education?

Well in education it should be at the very least, as much as other issues, probably more than other issues be locally controlled and should be run by states.

If that’s the case the why is everyone, why is the federal government dropping almost 400 million dollars into these testing consortia, to get everybody to take the same test and therefore have to basically follow the same curriculum because their gunna be taking the same test, where is the local control in this?

Well, I think that’s jumping a couple, uh, of levels assuming a lot of certainly not curriculum uh the federal government has been funding tests for a long time because uh they don’t want to put an unfunded mandate on uh local schools….schools for a long time…well hold on

Well, they’ve been funding a variety of different tests but they have not been funding tests like PARCC and Smarted Balanced.

Let me take some of these issues, so local schools have been able to determine their own curriculum since the beginning of schools and if that showed any signs of changing I would be right there with you saying, the Common Core is a terrible idea.

You mean to tell me that if a school district takes a look at its curriculum and figures out that it will see satisfactory student performance on the test as a result it’s not going to align their curriculum to what will lead to a better test result??

Well it’s not just about the test, I think. I don’t know who is saying…

No, no you need to answer that question.

Yes I…

You need to answer the question about whether or not districts particularly with this testing scheme that will determine…

Try my, HEY, try my best, so

..teacher effectiveness based on student test results, whether or not they are going to align their curriculum to something that will cause that test to be passed?

Right let me answer the question, so if students are not getting results in a given school district, any school district that doesn’t try to change with doing is uh I think uh its malpractice and why would any school district, you do the same thing over and over and over again and expect different results. There are a lot of school districts in New Hampshire and a lot of school districts across the countries that are doing a fantastic job, but the ones that aren’t need to change what they are doing.

But, but you’re putting faith in a test which has never been done in a way that is being proposed, there is absolutely no data to support it’s effectiveness in measuring whether or not students are actually learning in a classroom and you’re saying that the test is the, the final arbiter of whether or not success is being found in a classroom and how that test…

Yeah I don’t remember saying that at all. I didn’t say that at all.

Well, you just said that if students aren’t making the grade on the test it would be malpractice not to correct what’s going on in the classroom. So that tells me that the test is more important, is THE determiner of whether or not what’s happening in the classroom is effective, what else would I take from that statement of yours.

Well, look we’re jumping five steps every time I answer a question you eh that I must believe five other things, I tell you what I believe, I believe very clearly that the standards that were in place in New Hampshire before the Common Core, were not as good as the Common Core.

And I wanna get to that. I’m sorry to keep interrupting you.

Hold on, let me finish a sentence, let me finish at least one sentence.


One of the reasons is you know, you see all these Common Core opponents who are pointing to specific math problems, who are saying that the math is confusing because they’re not learning the standard algorithms, they’re not memorizing basic math facts, when in fact the very examples they are pointing to are from bad textbooks and bad curriculum that are not aligned to the Common Core. If you look at what the Common Core Standards actually say they require students to memorize their basic math facts require them to, uh learn math in the way that you and I probably learned it when we were in school and uh, that’s something I think that we all want, the Common Core requires it New Hampshire’s old standards did not..

Well, Virginia Berry who’s the commissioner of education here in New Hampshire has said on multiple occasions as have other department officials as a way of minimizing opposition to Common Core in this state, that Common Core standards really are no different than what New Hampshire calls it’s grade level expectations and that there aren’t massive sea changes in what we are doing, yet for the complaint that standards in New Hampshire are allegedly bad, the students in this state on SAT tests routinely end up in the top three nationally, uh and are typically in the top three or five of just about any other standard test that’s taken in this nation, so question:

If New Hampshire standards suck but we keep, we keep blowing the lights out of these tests nationwide, why should I believe that I need a fundamental change and more importantly if our standards here aren’t working why did nobody complain about them until the state decided it was gunna try to qualify for Race-to-the-top funds and enter into Common Core as a result through a waver to No-Child-Left-Behind.

Uh well, we’ve been doing evaluations of state standards since at least the year 2000, uh so we have been complaining about them for a very long time, as have groups in New Hampshire as have groups in….

[Laughs] Nobody’s complained about those standards in this state until Common Core came along.

Well. That’s just not true. There have been groups that have been complaining about the lack of rigor in the standards for a long time.

Name one.

And I’m not picking on New Hampshire. Because the state of Wisconsin and my home state and many other states have had even worse standards, but again we are getting back to these process issues, were getting to these issues of, you know how did these come about what do the different politicians say, I-I think what really matters in this debate is are the standards better or worse, I think you did ask a fair question, what about New Hampshire’s, poli-uh New Hampshire’s actual education results, that’s a fair question but think that goes to where some Common Core supporters have uh overblown the standards where some Common Core opponents have overblown the importance of these standards, this is about one piece of the puzzle, we need school choice, we need higher standards, we need stronger accountability, we need to effectively prepare teachers to teach in the classroom, we need innovation in the classroom, we need to do all of the different things at once, but if standards are not preparing students to be ready for college or a career, if we’re not setting the expectation for a 12th grader at the same level that a college freshman’s expected to have basic skills in English and Math, we’re not doing a good enough job.

When these standards were brought top New Hampshire, not one member of the board of education here, the department of education or any of the political hierarchy went to the University of New Hampshire and asked whether or not a freshman achieving these standards, or a senior achieving these standards would be a competent freshmen coming in and my understanding is that didn’t happen anywhere in the country you know..

I think is has and there been higher education, I mean I completely disagree with that statement higher education uh leaders get involved in developing and evaluation these standards

And all you need to know is, all you need to know is that students who go into colleges and universities often need to be retaught, remediated is usually the word that’s used, uh retaught things they should have learned when they were high school seniors and that’s cost students and parents millions of dollars a year, now certainly there are students who leave New Hampshire schools ready for college ready for a career, ready for whatever they want to do because they’re far exceeding the standards that were in place before uh Common Core I am sure many of those students will far exceed even the common core higher standards uh but that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t set a minimum expectation for all students that is going to actually prepare them for something else .

Well and you still, unfortunately have not answered my question about the efficacy of these tests that the common core folks insist and integral part whether it’s smarter balanced here in New Hampshire or PARCC in other states um and how can you tell me with a straight face that a test that’s never been used before in somehow going to determine whether or not kids are improving their academic performance?

Yes I’d be happy to answer that, so first of all it’s being piloted this year, it started to be piloted last year and there’s a mountain of research that goes into looking at whether or not these tests will be effective. Is any single test perfect? No. That’s why you need to look at multiple measures to understand what the students are learning, and that doesn’t mean though that the test isn’t better than what was in place in most of the states before.

Well how do you know that? If it’s just being piloted now??

Well, let’s take one example,

We are over time.

Well, let’s just look at the expectations, if you’re lying to parents as most state tests did before on how students are actually performing, you’re telling parents that many, many students are proficient when in fact only about third of the students are proficient. Uh..that is not being honest with parents and taxpayers about how students are actually performing. It’s a tough transition. I think it’s important to be honest with parents about where students actually are.

Well, shouldn’t you be honest with parents when there is absolutely no data to support this test is any better any other? I mean it’s just being piloted now and I am sure there was mountains of research that went into that test too, and now everyone’s saying that test sucks those standards suck, uh but it’s the same old song mean every time we go through one of these Kabuki dances we end up with something worse than what we had before, less local control, and more national interference and that’s where this is going don’t know how you can say it’s doing anything other than that. Especially if you’re trying to get all 50 states using the same tests, the same standards, and somehow make pretend there’s local control within than, why do you need school choice if everyone’s going to have the same standards and the same tests?

Well it’s 45 states using the standards and about 30 using the tests so it’s not all 50.

Uh..and there are a number of states that have pulled out so I don’t think your 45 is right anymore.

Look, [laughs] I gotta be able to answer your question and I gotta be able to say that these are standards that are not a national mandates like you’re saying, uh, it’s not something that states can’t change, if New Hampshire wants to change the standards, do it, change the standards but just make them better not worse like Oklahoma did.

Michael I would like to continue with you, I’m sorry I would love to continue with you be we are over time, uh maybe next time we can have a longer segment so we can ferret out some of these issues.

Absolutely would love to do it and I really appreciate you having me and asking some fair questions.

Alright, Michael Brickman from the Fordham Institute, thanks for joining us here this morning on Trent Large.


Large time is 17 minutes before the hour and before I bring Ed Nail on.. onto the air, I just have to say this about the prior interview. I meant Mr. Brickman, or Michael Brickman no disrespect, but I have to tell you that I have grown thread-bare on these tired platitudes that frankly insult the intelligence of any thinking person…that can… read and write and understand the clear meaning of the English language, which is not something that will be achieved if your students are put through the Common Core standards. Because the evidence does not exist for any of the claims that they offer. And it’s amazing to me that they can continue to make these representations and when challenged, have nothing to say. I mean, when he says they have mountains of research and they’re being test piloted now, he’s basically saying, yeah some wizards of smart sat in a room and said well, maybe it would work this way. And now they’re just starting to pilot the test? Which means they are starting to test the test. Starting to find out if their research is accurate and right? And the federal government has dumped 385 million dollars into the creation of these tests and supporting the companies that administer them… So that everybody in every state can be forced to take them? Not forced as a literal matter but as a practical one and I understand that are several states that have pulled out of various testing consortia. But there are practical repercussions against those states from the federal government for doing it.

Co-Host: yeah and look what happens to the states that try to pull out, Rich.

So… I just…you know at some point people have to stop playing nice in the sandbox and if that means there has a hard hitting interview that is that is fed up with the continued feeding…the uh, misrepresentations and so be it. I was not attempting to be rude. Hopefully I wasn’t, but you know, don’t tell me my standards suck. when my kids are leading the pack nationally on these standardized test scores. So and Whit, really, really where was the outcry in New Hampshire about the quality of our standards, prior to Virginia Barry coming in Common Core to get a waver to no Child Left Behind? There was…there was no outcry about standards in this state. Why would there be? When you’re number one, number two, or number three, year after year after year on the SAT scores is pretty good case to be made that good things are happening in your classrooms. But anyway,.. [END CLIP]




Link to audio HERE. has the transcript up as well.  From the post:

Here in NC, we’re well versed in the Common Core song and dance routing of Fordham’s Michael Brickman. He thinks NC standards before Common Core ‘sucked‘. New Hampshire is getting to know Brickman as well. Apparently, New Hampshire’s standards ‘sucked’ too.   Radio Host Richard Girard of the Girard at Large radio show on WLMW took Brickman to task recently.

She also makes note of Missouri’s experience with Mr. Brickman’s talking points.  They didn’t go over well in the Missouri Senate hearing:

Big hat tip to Missouri Education Watchdog’s Gretchen Logue, who sent this interview my way. Great find! Missouri has had plenty of run-ins with Mr. Brickman.




Gretchen Logue

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