Kentucky’s CC Adventure
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the largest private foundation in the world and the chief private funder of Common Core standards, released a letter in May of 2016 in which the foundation’s CEO, Dr. Susan Desmond-Hellmann, addresses the philanthropy’s experiment with Common Core. She held up Kentucky as a poster child for Common Core. The only evidence of any success she cites is a small increase in ACT scores. Since the Gates Foundation brought up Kentucky, a closer look at the state is warranted.
Kentucky was so anxious to adopt Common Core that the state did so before the final drafts of the standards were even complete. Since 2010, Kentucky students and teachers have done everything Common Core demands. Early efforts were mounted to bring parents and citizens on board through public relations campaigns that were funded by the Gates Foundation. Common Core in Kentucky is called Kentucky Core Academic Standards, but it’s Common Core.
In November of 2011, the Gates Foundation gave the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce Foundation a grant of almost half-a-million dollars for K-12 Common Core promotion. The Chamber used some of the money to produce and disseminate a Common Core promotional video in which 75 business executives endorsed the standards.
In February of 2013, the Gates Foundation gave the University of Kentucky $1 million “to support the launch of a new Center for Innovation in Education to advance implementation of the Common Core and more personalized learning for students and teachers that will enable young people to graduate career and college ready.” Personalized learning is code for computer-directed learning, which in many cases demotes teachers to the position of room monitor.
In May of 2013, the Gates Foundation gave the National Parents and Teachers Association (PTA) $660,422 “to educate parents and communities on the Common Core State Standards and provide support for district leaders.” How much of this grant was funneled into Kentucky is unknown, but slick Kentucky-specific Common Core-promoting Microsoft Power Point presentations are available at the Kentucky PTA website.
In 2013, the Gates Foundation gave the National Education Association teachers union foundation a grant in the amount of $501,580, specifically “to support Common Core implementation in Kentucky.”
Any opposition to Common Core that there might have been in Kentucky was outgunned and outspent. Note that the Kentucky-specific NEA grant was in addition to the July of 2013 grant of $3.8 million that the Gates Foundation gave to the NEA Foundation, the purpose of which is listed as “to support a cohort of National Education Association Master Teachers in the development of Common Core-aligned lessons in K-5 mathematics and K-12 English Language Arts.” And that money is in addition to another July of 2013 grant of $3.2 million that the Gates Foundation gave to the NEA Foundation, purportedly “to support the capacity of state NEA affiliates to advance teaching and learning issues and student success in collaboration with local affiliates.” That’s a whole lot of 2013 cash given to the NEA teachers union by the Gates Foundation!
Despite the glut of cash from Gates given to various Common Core cheerleading squads, something has happened in Kentucky since 2010 — Common Core failed.
Gates Foundation CEO Desmond-Hellmann chose to tout Kentucky’s small increase in ACT scores in her annual letter. But despite slick promotions and diligent efforts on the part of Kentucky teachers to learn what Common Core is and how to comply, more than five years after implementation, the states’ students have registered no improvement on NAEP tests, the Nation’s Report Card. There was no correlative increase on the other college admission test, the SAT. This is especially convicting because non-educator David Coleman, the “architect of Common Core,” changed jobs in order to align SAT tests with Common Core.
At the beginning of 2016, Kentucky Republican legislators called repeal of Common Core their first priority. Republican Governor Matt Bevin ran a winning campaign focusing on opposition to Common Core. In fact, all four candidates in the Republican primary for governor opposed Common Core.
When the Common Core-aligned tests were first administered in Kentucky in 2012, scores plummeted compared to previous state test results. Parents were assured that this was temporary because of new “higher, better” standards. But no improvement has occurred in the following years, either on state tests or on NAEP.
Results have been the worst for African-American students. According to the Kentucky Department of Education, testing in the spring of 2015 found that 33% of black students in elementary school were proficient in reading, versus 58% of white students. In math, the breakdown was 31% to 52%.
Dissatisfaction with Common Core is evident in Kentucky. The number of families choosing to homeschool continues to grow. One county lost so many students that they made plans to randomly audit homeschoolers in an attempt to find families’ efforts lacking, and then force students back into district schools. Once the Homeschool Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) found out about this, they informed Clinton County that such audits would be illegal under state law. What Clinton County is after is the money they don’t get when a family homeschools. (The district also doesn’t have the expense of educating that child.)
Homeschooling in Clinton County, Kentucky has grown at a rate of 10-15% over the past few years. This is a major increase considering the commitment and sacrifices a family makes in order to homeschool. Leaving free neighborhood public schools isn’t a decision parents make on a whim.
The Gates Foundation has admitted that the Common Core standards push isn’t working. But Gates and his ilk aren’t giving up. Instead, they’re putting the blame on teachers, on textbooks, and on bad implementation. What they’re not admitting is that standards created at the behest of billionaires and developed by mostly non-educators and imposed on teachers and students, without ever being approved by voters or parents, is a bad idea. (GatesFoundation.org) (DailyCaller.com, 1-8-16) (HechingerReport.org, 5-22-16) (HSLDA.org, 5-23-16)