arne duncan and USDOEd
Should “conservatives” align themselves with Arne Duncan’s educational reforms which include Common Core support?


The Fordham Institute is now framing itself as the organization giving voice to “Conservatives for Common Core“. Michael Brickman of Fordham was interviewed on a Warrenton, MO radio station, KWRE on Thursday.  You can listen to the interview at the end of the article in two parts.  Here is the gist of the interview:

  • He describes Fordham as “right of center”, he is conservative and supports the Common Core
  • Any conservative who doesn’t support them is “misinformed”
  • He contends that Missouri had low standards and Common Core will create more honesty with parents as they will have a true measure of what students are learning
  • He hopes Missouri goes “up” in its standards and not “down” via the process set forth in HB1490
  • He is a big supporter for states’ rights and doesn’t believe this is an issue in which the Federal government is intrusive in state policy
  • The arguments against Common Core are a distraction in education reform rights
  • Data privacy is another issue that doesn’t have anything to do with CCSS.  If CCSS disappears tomorrow, data gathering would still occur (he doesn’t mention the fact that if CCSS disappears, the common data sets will disappear also, making data gathering and comparison meaningless on a national level….he quickly turns the narrative back to “it’s just standards”…..but it’s not.  The Common Core Standards are needed to set “the foundation for the broader system of the broader college and career ready agenda: course requirements, assessments, data and accountability systems.  From Achieve pdf about the standards circa 2010):

(click on graphic to enlarge)

final ccss implementation guide

  • He focuses the discussion back to reading Shakespeare and learning content.  (The radio station host has a daughter who is a teacher and he notes that schools increasingly have to have a level playing field and asks about that….)
  • Brickman responds by saying that in many schools, self esteem is the goal vs student learning.  Have students succeed first.  (What he doesn’t expound on is this: who decides what should be learned and who determines the benchmarks for success?)
  • Important to understand: standards by themselves are a floor, not a ceiling. (So how can the standards be “higher” and “the floor”?)
  • Standards were set far too low in MO before CCSS.  Doesn’t dictate curriculum, methods, homework, etc. (Look at this from Achieve in 2010 about the standards.  It clearly states the curriculum must align with the standards and assessments to be effective):


final ccss implementation guide 2

  • Brickman said there is no such thing as a CCSS math problem.  (Looking at the implementation goals above, that might not a true statement).  What is one of the most most mystifying comments of the whole segment comes next: He believes it is up to parents to speak out about troublesome curriculum.  Is it just me, or does anyone else see the fallacy in this statement?  Why is permissible for parents to speak out about curriculum that must align to the standards while at the same time, those who question/speak out about the standards are misinformed and dismissed by Brickman?

An anti-ccss parent then came on the line and stated the following:

  • This is not just a set of standards
  • Standards drive curriculum which drives assessments
  • CCSS is far bigger than the standards
  • Missouri has wonderful standards:  3rd highest in the nation
  • Local control put in the hands in Feds.  Will just be another debacle.

Brickman wanted the parent’s source on Missouri having high standards.  She couldn’t name her source at that time but she has since furnished:

A 2009 National Center for Education Statistics report ranked Missouri standards 2nd in the nation

She asked him where his source came from that Missouri standards were so low. He cited his own organization’s report from Fordham. He states standards are just the outcome (which has been debunked by the 2010 Achieve report).  At that point, he dropped off the phone line.

The parent asks why Fordham received Gates money why is he in Missouri testifying and being interviewed about Common Core?

Brickman returned to the discussion and explains Gates funding.  (He was very evasive about this funding when he previously testified in Missouri Senate hearings).  Fordham receives special interest funding because organizations believe what they say and what they believe in.  Fordham has been fighting for higher standards for 15 years.

He believes this bill was worse when it started when it called for the total revocation of the CCSS.  The bill has changed and will allow for some revision.  (That’s an interesting observation.  States should have total control of standards and shouldn’t have to enact more legislation to reclaim the right which is in their constitutions.  We are not “allowed” to make changes to standards?)  It’s possible MO will end up w/standards better than CCSS but the CCSS standards create better standards than Missouri had several years ago.  (Read this Open Letter to Mike Petrelli.  It is quite specific with examples of how Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings and Commissioner Nicastro both said Missouri had very high standards and Governor Nixon said Missouri had “outstanding” education.  Either they or Fordham’s Mr. Brickman and Mr. Petrilli are delusional as to describing Missouri standards).

Brickman still insists CCSS is a state led program. (He doesn’t mention the Federal Government holding states hostages with waivers).  The host asks if Missouri would lose federal funding if it creates its own standards.  Brickman replies that  as long as Missouri has high quality standards and they are College and Career ready….no federal dollars will be pulled.  But the follow up question the host doesn’t ask is this: WHO MAKES THE DECISION if a state’s standards are “college and career ready enough”?  Does Mr. Brickman STILL think these are really state led when the Federal Government has the final say?

Mr. Brickman, please leave us alone.  We had good standards, 93% of students were succeeding before the adoption of these standards which are not “just standards”, but are needed for the assessment roll out, the data collection and accountability measures.  We are not misinformed, we have the explanation of why standards are needed from Achieve in 2010.  Stop spreading your misinformation and pretending  you care about Missouri children.  You just care about the success of an initiative that puts public education into the hands of private organizations unaccountable to voters and state legislatures.

(Radio interview below)


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