Who Supports Common Core?

The short answer to the question of who supports Common Core is the people who are paid to support it. Bill Gates has spent billions in the support and implementation of the controversial standards. It is easy to identify those who have received money from Bill Gates, however, I would like to focus on those who haven’t benefited directly from Bill Gates, but support his initiatives anyway.

Below is a videoclip of a meeting held on January 29, 2015. The panelists are all District Superintendents (BOCES Superintendents) and the moderator is James Butterworth, the Executive Director of CASDA (Capital Area School Development Association). The panelists should not be confused with your local school Superintendents.


Local School Superintendents such as Dr. Joe Rella, Dr. Michael Hynes, and William Cala all work for the students and families who live in their districts. Local Superintendents are responsible to a democratically-elected Board of Education and serve at their pleasure.

(****UPDATE: Dr. Michel reached out to me and asked that I clarify that “BOCES Superintendents are appointed by an elected Board of Education.” ***)

There are currently 37 BOCES that serve the 697 school districts in New York State. Each BOCES has a District Superintendent who serve in three capacities:

* Educational change agent

* Regional planner and coordinator

* Field representative for the NY State Education Department, “a consultative capacity designed to improve two-way communication between states and local levels”

As you watch the video, please keep in mind that these gentlemen are all considered to be Deputy Commissioners — they report directly to the Commissioner of Education. Half of their salaries come from SED and the other 50% of their salaries come from a combination of their component districts. They are supposed to be providing feedback from the field to the Commissioner. In full disclosure, I have worked with two of the Superintendents on the panel (James Dexter and Pat Michel) and I found them to be honorable men.

At the 18:00 mark in the video, you will hear Dr. Michel speaking about the outdated “delivery system” of our current education system and compare it to the Model T assembly line of the early 1900's, a “vestige of the Industrial Age.”

At the 30:00 mark, Dr. Michel speaks about how our schools are OVER-STAFFED (emphasis added). In context, he is speaking about transforming our schools from the current system to one that is heavily focused on “project-based learning.”

At the 45:10 mark, the audience is reminded (again) that the Common Core Standards are standards, not a set of curricula.

At 49:00, Dr. Michel states that “90% of the salaries at the State Education Department are paid for by the federal government.” I have found no evidence that this statement is true, but if it is true, it seems highly inappropriate to me. The Tenth Amendment of the US Constitution places the responsibility of educating its citizens to the individual states, not the federal government. To Dr. Michel’s point, if the feds are paying “90% of the salaries at SED,” then who would the State Education Department employees feel beholden to? New Yorkers or Arne Duncan? Dr. Michel goes on further to say that he agrees with Governor Cuomo that the Board of Regents needs to be reformed (“shake it up”). Think what you will of the Board of Regents, at least there is a democratic process to their appointments.

At 1:12, Dr. Michel compares our current poverty rates to the poverty rates in the late 1800s and early 1900s. He states the system we have now was used to fight poverty then, and was done so effectively. My question is if the system we have was used effectively to fight poverty then, why don’t we use the system to fight poverty now? Dr. Michel claims that “poverty is different now.” I might contact him to determine what he means by that statement.

The other two Superintendents had some suggestions on how SED should move forward, but none of the presenters suggested major changes to Common Core. Moreover, they all seemed to be proponents of the Common Core Standards. However, the closer one gets to the classrooms where Common Core is actually being implemented, the opposition only grows — the students don’t like it, the teachers don’t like it, and the parents don’t like it.

Our former Commissioner John King was essentially removed from his post due to his fervent support for the Common Core. With his 37 Deputy Commissioners providing him feedback from the field who only showed support of the standards, it’s no wonder why he was so unpopular.

If Commissioner Elia would like to avoid the same blowback that King received, I recommend she not listen to her Deputy Commissioners, because it appears that they will simply tell her what she wants to hear.

I recommend she listen to the local Superintendents, Principals, Teachers, parents, and students before she recommends any more reforms to the reforms. She should listen to ALL of the Regents (not just those in the majority). If she cherry-picks those to whom she will listen, she is doomed to repeat history. If, however, she chooses to listen to those she might not agree with, she is sure to get honest feedback.

At a recent PBS airing of a show called CONNECT: NY (http://www.wcny.org/connect-ny/) with moderator Susan Arbetter and Commissioner Elia, I was asked what it would take to get me to “opt back in” to the testing. I responded that it would take the following:

* Fix the standards so they are age and grade appropriate

* Fix the tests so they are age and grade appropriate (and significantly shorter in length)

* Decouple the student test results from teacher effectiveness ratings

* Stop the unfettered collection of data on our children

I will continue to opt out my children until these conditions have been met. If the Commissioner would like to see the Opt Out Movement go away, then meet our demands. These are our children and our schools.

If our demands are not met, I predict the Opt Out numbers will hit 500,000 this spring. It’ll be quite a storm. We are prepared.

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