In 2010, the United States adopted the Common Core State Standards Initiative (CCSSI), purportedly to streamline states’ education curricula using standards-based education reform principles. The controversial decision to implement national educational content standards has been referred to as an “uncommonly bad idea” for American education by many. Recently, educator and education advocate Morna McDermott has illuminated the initiative’s extensive corporate ties, many stemming from the American Legislative Exchange Council.
McDermott, an associate professor in the College of Education at Towson University, has mapped out CCSSI’s corporate connections in a flowchart. Her chart shows that many corporations and organizations that are members of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) have “funded and perpetuated Common Core standards throughout the states,” Truthout reports.
The CCSSI initiative is part of a broader movement for “accountability” in education, which began with educational trends of the 1970s. According to Allan Ornstein’s, “The Evolving Accountability Movement,” the idea is partially rooted in “the ideas of Leon Lessinger and Sidney Marland, who translated business concepts of accountability into the educational arena.”
Essentially, “accountability” in education means that teachers and students must meet a “standard of competency or performance,” which is measured through standardized testing. “Accountability” targets both the processes and products of education, and there continue to be numerous opponents of standardized testing and the “accountability” method of education.
Within the last decade, states were given the incentive of “Race to the Top” federal grants, if they adopted the Common Core standards. President Obama and Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, announced the competitive grants in 2009 as a motivator for states to adopt the Common Core. Standards for math and English were released in 2010.
McDermott has written about the “damaging effects” of standardized testing on education. But policy makers’ views on requiring standardized tests has not changed because they are getting “big money” from corporations who profit off of standardized testing and the standards-based education reform movement.
In her recent research, McDermott exposes a tangled web of corporate backing of the Common Core initiative. Common Core is sponsored by the National Governors Association (NGA), the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), and Achieve. Her explanation of Common Core’s corporate connections is extensive and pulls from peer-reviewed academic research. For example, McDermott explains:
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 … 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.
In July, the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) issued a report, “Cashing in on Kids,” which covers ALEC’s attempts to spread for-profit education nationwide. At least 139 ALEC-designed bills have been introduced across 43 states in the last 6 months alone. Programs designed to divert taxpayer money from public schools to private and religious schools have been spreading across the country for over two decades.