David Coleman is considered the Lead Architect of Common Core. In 2007, he set up Student Achievement Partners and by 2009 his organization was hired to write ELA and Math standards. He gave a speech to The Institute of Learning at the University of Pittsburgh in 2011 about the standards. Lauren Resnick (Distinguished University Professor, Psychology and Cognitive Science, Learning Sciences and Education Policy, University of Pittsburgh) introduced Coleman and you can find excerpts of their remarks here. Click on the download video transcript link on the site.
1 Lauren Resnick: – Who does need some introduction, even though he asked
2 me not to do it. So I‟m gonna not fully comply with his request. And I‟m carrying
3 here a brief biography of him, but I will comply by not reading that to you. I think
4 it‟s probably in your folders anyhow. So I want to tell you about the first time that
5 I remember meeting David, although I think it might not have really been the first
7 I‟m trying to get out of the light! [Laughter]
8 Okay. And he was invited to a sort of staff meeting where we were beginning in
9 the Institute to think about what our stance was gonna be on the fact that new
10 standards were maybe going to come our way. It was before the Common Core
11 State Standards effort announced, and another person we were working with,
12 whom I won‟t name tonight, asked if maybe at our next meeting he could bring
13 David Coleman with him. And I said, “Who‟s David Coleman?” and he gave me
14 something like what I have in my hand. Those characteristics didn‟t seem
15 particularly relevant to what we were gonna do, you know, like being a Rhodes
16 Scholar and having both Cambridge and Oxford degrees – all that kind of stuff.
17 That‟s nice, but it‟s really not so relevant. [Laughter]
18 But I sat up and I remember being with Tony, who was there, when he handed
19 out a list of ten – this was within moments of arrival from the airport – handed out
20 a list of ten proposed standards that at that moment – some of you probably have
21 seen a variance of this – at that moment seemed as reasonable as anything else
22 for the new English standards that were gonna be forthcoming. The first one
23 said, “Read like a detective.” That‟s it. That was standard number one – so
24 powerful a one that it‟s driven out of my mind the other nine. But you have to
25 imagine a bunch of Institute for Learning people and School of Education people,
26 leaders in English education – I‟m talking about Tony now – leaders in some kind
27 of trans- relationship between psychology and schooling. And most or some
28 subset of our fellow, ones involved in English/Language Arts. And we look at this
29 and my memory is there was a long moment of silence, right, Tony? Do you
30 remember that, too, David? [Laughter]
31 And what I really want to say is that reading like a detective is now part of our
32 core standards. It‟s not there in words, but it informs – that was a kind of
33 inventive way to put an idea on the table that established a standard, very
34 different from – I don‟t know what I can say – the boring ones that we grew up
35 with and are used to, like what I put together in New Standards. They were
36 standards for English, but if anybody ever wrote that way in my books they‟d get
37 pushed out.
38 But read like a detective would‟ve made it into the books, and you can see if you
39 think about it for a minute what that would mean. I‟m not gonna do it, but I am
40 tempted to ask you to turn to your neighbor and offer a – let‟s do it. What do you
41 think is the definition of read like – what does read like a detective mean to you?
42 Let‟s talk about it for a second. [Pause]
77 If you don‟t mind, I‟d like to talk a minute about how this work builds on some of
78 the work that IFL has done over the years, and it gives me a chance to basically
79 do a very important rhetorical maneuver, which is to blame Lauren. [Laughter]
80 So if there are aspects of what I‟m about to say that you disagree with and if the
81 Common Core is kind of a pain in the ass, built on top of your other duties while
82 funding is being cut, don‟t blame me. Blame Lauren, because there is clearly no
83 way this country would be talking about 46 states adopting a set of common
84 standards had not a somewhat younger, still revolutionary mind thought that this
85 nation needed a new set of standards. And for that I am most grateful to you.
86 I have learned some other things with Lauren along the way. One of them is the
87 kind of humility she talked about, about qualifications. I actually think it‟s really
88 important to try to base what I‟m about to say to you on evidence I share with you
89 rather than on the sands of my qualifications. So if I ask you or talk to you about
90 doing something it should be evident that it makes sense to you to do, „cause I
91 have no other authority. I will talk to you about the standards „cause
92 you‟re looking to me to do that, but I also hope to talk to you about evidence we
93 encountered along the way of developing that we found overwhelming and
94 compelling, enough so that we deemed it essential to act on for the safety and
95 well-being of children.
The following paragraphs consists of lines 96-180
Lauren, though, has challenged me over the years with some more ideas, and some I want to put on the table for you, all in the sake of striking back. One of them is that these standards are worthy of nothing if the assessments built on them are not worthy of teaching to, period. This is quite a demanding charge, I might add to you, because it has within it the kind of statement – you know, “Oh, the standards were just fine, but the real work begins now in defining the assessment,” which if you were involved in the standards is a slightly exhausting statement to make. But let‟s be rather clear: we‟re at the start of something here, and its promise – our top priorities in our organization, and I‟ll tell you a little bit more about our organization, is to do our darnedest to ensure that the assessment is worthy of your time, is worthy of imitation.
It was Lauren who propounded the great rule that I think is a statement of reality, though not a pretty one, which is teachers will teach towards the test. There is no force strong enough on this earth to prevent that. There is no amount of hand-waving, there‟s no amount of saying, “They teach to the standards, not the test; we don‟t do that here.” Whatever. The truth is – and if I misrepresent you, you are welcome to take the mic back. But the truth is teachers do. Tests exert an enormous effect on instructional practice, direct and indirect, and it‟s hence our obligation to make tests that are worthy of that kind of attention.
It is in my judgment the single most important work we have to do over the next two years to ensure that that is so, period. So when you ask me, “What do we have to do over the next years?” we gotta do that. If we do anything else over the next two years and don‟t do that, we are stupid and shall be betrayed again by shallow tests that demean the quality of classroompractice, period. I could talk also about things I‟ve learned from Tony and things I‟ve learned from the team he works with, but they‟re gonna so disagree with what I‟ll say next that I don‟t want to shame them by associating themselves with my work any further. But let me begin.
I want to give you an outline of the core standards, the evidence on which they‟re based, but I want to be very practical if that‟s okay. I think you‟ve heard enough about the standards in general terms, so I want to, if it‟s okay with you, cut to the quick and be like if I was a superintendent like my friend Clayton over here – back in the saddle, congratulations; that‟s wonderful. If I were a superintendent in his team, what exactly would I do year one and year two based on evidence, based on what the standards demand, that will help my children? Even though I get it: the state tests are not gonna change over those two years and you have to perform on existing metrics. You are caught in a bind and I want to be honest about it, right? You‟ve got the Common Core and you‟ve got your existing state standards and work, and if you‟re truly screwed you‟re in Texas. [Laughter] My friends from Texas in the back are like, “Can we leave now and go to a bar?„Cause we didn‟t even adopt these stupid standards yet.” [Laughter]
But I want to try to talk to you tonight about things I think are worth doing anyway. Does that make sense? That is, I want to talk to you about work worth doing, that I think will aid your performance on existing instruments and far more on the instruments to come. Am I being clear? I am only interested in things you can actually do. I‟m not in a dreamy moment conversation type thing. I‟m interested in taking seriously the facts as they are before you; that is, the real people you have now working with you and for you, the real kids now in front of you with their deficits and all their needs, et cetera. So with that in mind, I‟m about to jump in, but I‟m just gonna say one word about my own organization, which is Student Achievement Partners.
Student Achievement Partners, all you need to know about us are a couple things. One is we‟re composed of that collection of unqualified people who were involved in developing the common standards. And our only qualification was our attention to and command of the evidence behind them. That is, it was our insistence in the standards process that it was not enough to say you wanted to or thought that kids should know these things, that you had to have evidence to support it, frankly because it was our conviction that the only way to get an eraser into the standards writing room was with evidence behind it, „cause otherwise the way standards are written you get all the adults into the room about what kids should know, and the only way to end the meeting is to include everything. That‟s how we‟ve gotten to the typical state standards we have today.
The notion of evidence was a way to do two things: was to focus on what mattered most, and to erase much of which surrounded it. I think that core principle will be the most important single one for you to take away tonight. If you see these standards as an addition to your current tasks, as one more burden on an overburdened cart, you will fail. If after my remarks it is not absolutely clear how much you can stop doing and what you can focus on instead doing, we‟re nowhere. We do not have the resources, leisure, or time to invest in a whole new set of initiatives around these Common Core standards. Is that clear? We have to clearly understand what is removed. Teachers need to understand what is removed. What is removed to make way for the work that matters? Does that make sense? Otherwise it is simply an impossible task. So I‟m gonna talk a lot about what goes as well as what stays. Clear enough so far?
In terms of Student Achievement Partners we‟re composed largely of those people who were involved in authoring the standards and developing the evidence, even though as it‟s rightly told, you know, both teachers‟ unions, teachers from throughout the country, parents, 48 states – everybody was involved in writing these standards. So I‟m only talking about writing in a manner of speaking, but we were involved in developing them and had an occasional turn of phrase, like reading like a detective, which Tony Petrosky wrote me the single most beautiful e-mail about that I still keep a printed copy of nearby, as to what that really means.
Lines 11-12: Resnick won’t name the person who informed her that new standards may be on the way and introduces him to Coleman. Why not? Where did the plan originate?
Lines 25-27: Resnick describes the relationship of these thought leaders as in “some kind of trans- relationship between psychology and schooling”. Is this the group of educational experts who crafted the standards?
Lines 34-35: Coleman determines that the standards he grew up with were “boring”. So he decides to “put together” new ones to his liking for the majority of American children?
Lines 80-85: Whose “somewhat younger, still revolutionary mind” thinks this country needed a set of new standards? Why wouldn’t David Coleman name this person? Why would this person think that it was within an individual’s power and control to decide standards for this country? Where is that power granted in the Constitution?
Lines 91-95: Why won’t Coleman and company provide any of this data and research on which they’ve allegedly based these standards? What gives him (and others) the authority to act on “the safety and well-being of children”? Whose idea of safety and well-being is being implemented? It’s not your local school board or state any longer; it’s David Coleman’s vision.
Coleman says: teachers will teach towards the test. There is no force strong enough on this earth to prevent that. There is no amount of hand-waving, there‟s no amount of saying, “They teach to the standards, not the test; we don‟t do that here.” Whatever. The truth is – and if I misrepresent you, you are welcome to take the mic back. But the truth is teachers do.
This is direct contradiction to what Missouri Education Commissioner has stated to parental and legislative concern. The CCSS architect admits that teachers do indeed “teach to the test”. So who should parents and legislators believe? He goes on to say Tests exert an enormous effect on instructional practice, direct and indirect, and it‟s hence our obligation to make tests that are worthy of that kind of attention.
I’m sure Coleman will be able to determine not only standards are appropriate but what might be an appropriate test at his new job at The College Board.
Coleman states: If I were a superintendent in his team, what exactly would I do year one and year two based on evidence, based on what the standards demand, that will help my children? Even though I get it: the state tests are not gonna change over those two years and you have to perform on existing metrics. You are caught in a bind and I want to be honest about it, right? You‟ve got the Common Core and you‟ve got your existing state standards and work, and if you‟re truly screwed you‟re in Texas. [Laughter] My friends from Texas in the back are like, “Can we leave now and go to a bar?„Cause we didn‟t even adopt these stupid standards yet.” [Laughter] Even as Coleman strives for humor, superintendents, teachers and students everywhere are “truly screwed” where CCSS aligned curriculum is being taught with no aligned assessments.
Coleman says: The notion of evidence was a way to do two things: was to focus on what mattered most, and to erase much of which surrounded it. I think that core principle will be the most important single one for you to take away tonight. The architect of CCSS says that the successful implementation requires a change in teaching methodolgy. This is opposition to what Commissioner Nicastro has told taxpayers and legislators.
This is a very revealing transcript. Do you feel comfortable that this man and his unqualified partners were in charge of crafting standards for the majority of American children? Who is behind this? Do you believe this is actually a state led initiative?