Yesterday we published Part 1 of Dr. Bryne’s response to the op ed by Mike Petrilli and Robert Pondiscio about the poor performance of our students on the SBAC test given this past spring. We were suspicious about this having been written for Missouri since it gave inaccurate figures about Missouri such as a gross overstatement of our state remediation rates. Just a little searching turned up the same piece in Connecticut and West Virginia. Today Dr. Byrne provides a side by side comparison of the various pieces and provides Missouri’s present day response.

See Part 1 here.

Part 2

snake oil

In the table below are the virtually identical articles Petrilli and Pondiscio placed in various news publications in Connecticut, West Virginia, and Missouri. The text that is common to all of the ads appears in red font; text that intersects between two of the three ads appears in green (Missouri and Connecticut), pink (Connecticut and West Virginia), or blue (Missouri and West Virginia). Words unique to each article is identified in black font. Do you see all the red? Petrilli and Pondiscio use a “cookie cutter/one-size-fits all” approach to standardize their articles about standardizing student performance on common core aligned tests. Why am I not surprised? Below are some points of interest as you contrast the content of the articles in the table:

  • Note the inconsistency in the language referring to state performance standards. Petrilli and Pondicio describe CT and WV as having set a low bar, but, not MO. That’s because Missouri had the 2nd highest performance standards in the country. ). In fact, Missouri’s original ESEA Flexibility Waiver application stated that MO was adopting the CC standards because our standards were the top three in the country, but, “it was confusing that many of Missouri’s schools were already labeled as failing when schools of similar quality in other states were not due to differences in standards and the rigor of the assessments used from one state to the next.” (p. 18)
  • Note similarity of poor math performance scores – all three states report over 60% students in various grade groups not proficient in math, but nowhere is there a discussion about the lack of standardized testing conditions, instructional practices, or common core implementation across the states. In other words, the test score numbers are meaningless unless it can be proven that all of the conditions were standardized across the comparison states. Further, there is no discussion about the lack of rigor with which the math standards themselves were developed.  Nor is there any discussion about the questionable practices used to determine cut scores on the SBAC tests.   Petrilli and Pondiscio are accusing states of lying to parents, when they themselves are omitting very important information about the integrity and interpretation of the scores they use to argue their case for ignoring critics of the common core standards and the SBAC tests aligned to them.
  • Note the statement about students leaving community colleges without a degree or any kind of credential. What is not discussed are the reasons students leave formal post-secondary education, which includes starting a business. Petrilli should talk to Bill Gates about his college dropout experience the next time he picks up a check from Bill to cover Fordham’s operating costs.
  • Note that Petrilli and Pondiscio implicitly insist on privatization of education in through state’s “voluntary” adoption of copyrighted standards owned by non-governmental organizations rather than roll back NCLB’s 100% proficiency mandate or recommend model state standards in public domain.

Pet Pond Table1 Pet Pond table2 Pet Pond table3 Pet Pond table4


Had Fordham, a Washington DC-based, private non-governmental organization, sought to maintain the accountability of public school education to the public rather than use its position to sell snake oil, it would have recommended high quality standards in public domain as a model for all states, such as those developed by Massachusetts, which for a decade led the country in NAEP test scores. Instead, Fordham generated a report to launch a publicity campaign for its much wished for national standards and tests using money from its sister foundation and Bill Gates. Along with other Washington insiders such as Marc Tucker of the National Center for Education and the Economy and Lou Gerstner of Achieve Inc, Fordham Institute’s leadership has been working since the 1990s to seduce states to adopt a national set of standards designed for development of human capital rather than education of independent, self-governing and self-supporting citizens.

Petrilli and Pondiscio call out states for “juking the stats” which was actually an attempt by many states to meet the unattainable goal in the No Child Left Behind Act for all students score as 100% proficient in math and English in order to get Title I funding. Using student test scores derived from tests, which themselves have not been demonstrated to be worth the effort to complete them, to convince the parents and public that their children are not adequately prepared for college or career is the ultimate “juking” of “the stats.” Worse, it’s fear mongering to “nudge” the public into accepting the privately copyrighted standards to achieve another agenda – the transformation of the purpose of public schools to the development of human capital for the workforce.

Implicit in Petrilli and Pondiscio’s lament that students leave community college without a degree or a credential lies the dirty little secret. The real agenda behind the Common Core State Standards is not to raise the standards of education, but, to standardize data collected on children in school. Labor, that is, individual members of the workforce, will be tagged by government-tracked credentialing after a student is demonstrated to be fit for work via test and behavioral data collected throughout his or her education years. It is despicable that Petrilli and Pondiscio accuse states of lying to parents, when they themselves have been hiding the truth. Their “Don’t shoot the messenger” advertisement for the Common Core State Standards and tests aligned to them is indeed an example of snake oil marketing. Missourians have “dramatically higher expectations” of behavior, and will not shoot the messengers, but, will brusquely usher them to the exit doors. Below is a parody of the Mark Twain letter to Mr. Todd that summarizes our sentiments to Mr. Petrilli and Mr. Pondiscio perfectly:
Sept. __, 2015

Michael Petrilli and Robert Pondiscio
Thomas B. Fordham Institute
Washington, DC

Dear Sirs,

Your letter is an insoluble puzzle to me. The handwriting is good and exhibits considerable character, and there are even traces of intelligence in what you say, yet the letter and the accompanying advertisements profess to be the work of the same hand. The persons who wrote the advertisements is without doubt the most ignorant persons now alive on the planet; also without doubt they are idiots, idiots of the 33rd degree, and scions of an ancestral procession of idiots stretching back to the Missing Link. It puzzles me to make out how the same hand could have constructed your letter and your advertisements. Puzzles fret me, puzzles annoy me, puzzles exasperate me; and always, for a moment, they arouse in me an unkind state of mind toward the persons who have puzzled me. A few moments from now my resentment will have faded and passed and I shall probably even be praying for you; but while there is yet time I hasten to wish that you may take a dose of your own poison by mistake, and enter swiftly into the damnation which you and all other patent medicine assassins have so remorselessly earned and do so richly deserve.

Adieu, adieu, adieu!

Mark Twain

Anne Gassel

Anne has been writing on MEW since 2012 and has been a citizen lobbyist on Common Core since 2013. Some day she would like to see a national Hippocratic oath for educators “I will remember that there is an art to teaching as well as science, and that warmth, sympathy and understanding are sometimes more important than policy or what the data say. My first priority is to do no harm to the children entrusted to my temporary care.”

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