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Flow Chart Exposes Common Core’s Myriad Corporate Connections

Morna McDermott has mapped the Common Core State Standard Initiative’s corporate connections in a chart that illustrates the corporate takeover of public education.

Elementary school students at a school in Los Angeles on February 27, 2013.

U.S. education reform isn’t so much a “Race to the Top,” because no matter which schools climb to the top of the ladder first, corporations always win.

Morna McDermott mapped the Common Core State Standard Initiative’s corporate connections in a new flow chart which reveals how corporations and organizations that are members of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) have funded and perpetuated Common Core standards throughout the states.

ALEC has been funded for decades in large part by billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch. According to the Center for Media and Democracy, about 98 percent of ALEC’s funds come from corporations such as Exxon Mobil and corporate foundations like the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation.

The Common Core State Standard Initiative is part of the larger Race to the Top educational policy announced by President Obama and Education Secretary Arne Duncan in 2009. It seeks to implement new Common Core educational benchmarks to replace varying educational standards from state to state by awarding grants to states that comply with the initiative. The standards have been adopted by 45 states and the District of Columbia.

The chart illuminates a larger corporate agenda that seeks market-based education reforms and increased influence over public education in the United States. With defense and security expenditures slowing, corporations are looking to profit from new cloud-based software used to collect and mine information from student records to create individualized education programs designed by third-party companies.

Click here to view a larger version of the chart.

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McDermott is a teacher-educator with more than 20 years of experience working in and with public schools. She also serves as a section editor for the Journal of Curriculum and Pedagogy and recently published a book titled The Left Handed Curriculum: Creative Experiences for Empowering Teachers with Information Age Publishing. She is an administrator with United Opt Out National, a nonprofit created by parents, educators and students who are dedicated to the elimination of high-stakes testing in public education.

She researched and produced the information on her own, but the work is endorsed and supported by the United Opt Out National network. McDermott told Truthout she used a systems-based approach in her research to show the concepts in relationship to one another, saying that it’s just another example of a different method of teaching and learning.

She fights standards and testing, she says, because they divert funds and attention away from the real issue in education, which is poverty. “The whole thing about better tests and if we had better standards is like a bait-and-switch … so nobody pays attention to the real issues,” she said.

McDermott mentions a number of corporations and organizations prying for influence over the Common Core standards. Among them is Achieve Inc., a company widely funded by ALEC members, including Boeing and State Farm, among others.

She also points to peer-reviewed academic research originally published in the International Journal of Educational Leadership Preparation by Fenwick English titled “The Ten Most Wanted Enemies of American Public Education’s School Leadership.” In his research English looks at many of the players involved in the same network that McDermott maps with clarity, writing of the Eli Broad Foundation that:

Broad money is sloshed behind the scenes to elect or select candidates who “buy” the Broad corporate agenda in education…. Broad’s enemies are teacher unions, school boards, and schools of education. What all three have in common is that they eschew corporate, top-down control required in the Broad business model.

According to McDermott, America’s Choice, another part of Common Core’s corporate web, originally was founded as a program of the National Center on Education and the Economy (NCEE), a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit. But in 2004, the group was reorganized as a for-profit subsidiary of NCEE.

She cites a professor of education reform at the University of Arkansas, Jay Greene, who writes:

NCEE’s scheme was originally financed by a $1,500,000 pilot grant from the Gates Foundation. It will now benefit from a sweetheart deal of $30,000,000 — all taxpayers’ money. Having Gates pay for both NCEE’s start-up and the development of Common Core standards certainly helped America’s Choice to put its key people on Common Core’s [English Language Arts] and mathematics standards development and draft-writing committees to ensure that they came up with the readiness standards Gates had paid for and wanted NCEE to use.

It’s all part and parcel to the larger neoliberal plan to “reform” public education.

“What Race to the Top is doing to exacerbate the issues of poverty, for one thing, in terms of school funding, it’s even elevating the amount of money that is funneled right through schools, like a sieve, and channeling it more directly into the hands of testing companies, computer companies, online companies and other corporate interests,” McDermott said. “So for a state or a district to say, ‘Oh, we need the money,’ my reaction would be: ‘You’re not going to see a dime of it. They’re going to hand you a check that’s basically a coupon to buy Pearson products.'”

Corrections to Video: The Council of Chief State School Officers director is no longer Tom Luna; it is now Chris Minnich, who used to work for Pearson. The former Gates employee, Sharren Bates, works for inBloom, not Wireless, as the chief product officer.

Video Transcript:

Hi. I’m Morna McDermott. It’s July 23, 2013, and this is my overview of corporate involvementin the Common Core. Let’s start with U.S. Department of Education, which funded, through grants and other funding, the Common Core via Race to the Top and handed it over to three major organizations: the National Governors Association, the CCSSO, otherwise known as the Chief Counsel State School Officers, and Achieve… who have partnered to disseminate, organize, manage or otherwise outsource the Common Core and the assessments that go with it.

So let’s start over here. The director of Race to the Top is Joanne Weiss, who worked with the Broad Foundation, which also has as one of its acting members Chester Finn with the Fordham Institute. Broad Foundation is also a member of ALEC, which sponsored the bill called the Parent Trigger Act. I’ll come back to that.

The National Governors Association partners with Achieve for the Common Core. The National Governors Association also partners with the College Board. The CCSSO partners with Pearson for the Common Core (to create) the materials. The CCSSO also partners with ACT, which is funded by State Farm, which is a member of ALEC. Pearson, among other things, there is not enough time to cover everything in Pearson, so this is a broad sketch… acquired Connections Academy, which is a member of ALEC. Connections Academy (via Mickey Revenaugh, senior vice president of state relations for Connections Academy as of 2011) was actually the co-chair of the subcommittee for education in ALEC. Pearson also acquired America’s Choice, which sponsored a program called the NCEE, which also partners with the CCSSO.

The NCEE is funded by Walton.… The Walton Foundation, which is a member of ALEC and is basically associated with Walmart, directly funds the Common Core State Standards. And again, too many too many connections to mention — this is just broad sketch. I’m going to come back up over here to the CCSSO (whose director is Tom Luna) to look at their connections with McKinsey and Co., which is a global consulting firm. Their big thing is called “Big Data.”… They believe that the data is the answer to all things right now, (and) as you can see they’ve got their fingerprints all over everything in the Common Core. For one thing, David Coleman was one of the architects of the Common Core.… He created the Student Achievement Partners, which helped develop standards, (and he) was a former consultant for McKinsey. Lou Gerstner, who is the co-founder of Achieve, was the former director at McKinsey & Co., and Sir Michael Barber was a former consultant McKinsey (and) is now one of the CEOs at Pearson. Pearson partners with the PARCC Consortium for the assessments. And I said they already partner with Achieve and ACT. The PARCC, following the screen line (in red) all the way over here, has their data collection (in) a partnership with inBloom. Now inBloom is a part Wireless Generation and is contracting with several states to collect the data for all their testing. The two key players in inBloom are Joel Klein (and) Rupert Murdoch. And in addition, members of the Board of inBloom include Margaret Spellings, Gene Wilhoit (former executive director) of the CCSSO, and also on the board is Bob Wise. Bob was the chair for the Alliance for Excellent Education, which is the brainchild Jeb Bush. It’s funded by State Farm. It’s also a member of ALEC. The Alliance for Excellent Education partners with, or supports, the Common Core. I’m gonna — follow me down here — to the Council for Foreign Relations, which supports a national curriculum and has been a big promoter at the Common Core Standards and has had direct influence on it. They created a paper in partnership with the U.S. Department of Defense and with America’s Promise Alliance to craft a paper call the “Education Reform and National Security Report” and its authors supported the Common Core State Standards initiative. So, on the Council for Foreign Relations you have Lou Gertsner, who you know is the co-founder of Achieve, as I already mentioned, and who is a former director at McKinsey & Co. Also on the Board of Directors (of America’s Promise Alliance) is Gen. Colin Powell — one of the things that this paper mentioned was the importance of the U.S. Department of Defense in overseeing and managing the Common Core. Other signers of this paper include Condoleeza Rice, and one of the cosponsors of this paper was America’s Promise Alliance, which supports the Common Core.

The chair of America’s Promise Alliance is Alma Powell. The co-chair is Greg Petersmeyer, who is a McKinsey and Co. consultant, and (he) helped develop something called Fuse Corporation, which, among other things, supported Teach for America. So Fuse Corp is one of the partners of America Promise Alliance, which is funded by Pearson Foundation; the Walmart Foundation, which is in ALEC; the Gates Foundation; Lumina, which is in ALEC; Boeing, which is in ALEC; and Lockheed Martin, which is the world’s largest weapons manufacturer and is a member of ALEC; (and) The Ford Foundation. Bill Gates… um this is a broad sketch because there are way too many things to mention about Bill Gates, but among other things… one of the board of directors for Wireless Generation is an employee at the Gates Foundation.

The Gates Foundation directly funded the inBloom network. Gates also funds the College Board, which is now run by David Coleman — remember from Student Achievement Partners that made the standards for Common Core and (who) was a former consultant at McKinsey & Co — um where’d they go.… Gates Foundation also directly funds the Common Core State Standards. The National Governors Association partners with the College Board and also partners with Achieve. The CCSSO also partners with McKinsey & Co. to manage the PARCC after 2014. This initiative is also partnered by Lumina, which is a member ALEC… So after 2014, McKinsey and Co. may be managing our children’s data. Specifically, the state of Florida has potentially considered a contract with McKinsey and Co. to manage the PARCC as of 2015. Again, this is a broad sketch, and there’s always more than meets the eye. But if every line was on here that needed to be on here, it would be even more unreadable than it already is. I forgot to mention U.S. Department of Education.… The key advisers for the 2009 U.S. Department of Education “Blueprint ” included largely members at McKinsey and Co. and the Broad Foundation. So it’s curious how much ALEC contends that it opposes the Common Core yet so many organizations that are members of ALEC have funded its inception and continue to promote its perpetuation from state to state.

Makes you wonder.

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