Saturday, May 24, 2014

The Devil is in the Details
By:  Lucianna Sanson

“There is a battle royal being waged across the nation about a set of national academic standards called the Common Core.”        — Diane Ravitch, historian of education and educational policy analyst.
Lucianna Sanson was one of 20 teachers invited
to the White House last month for Teacher
Appreciation Week.  She is a TN BAT!

According to the Common Core website, the creation of the Common Core State Stan- dards (CCSS) was a “state-led effort … launched in 2009 by state leaders, including governors and state commissioners of educa- tion from 48 states, two territories and the District of Columbia, through their member- ship in the National Governors Association (NGA) Center for Best Practices and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO). Their intention was to  provide a set of national education guidelines for all public schools across America to follow in order to enable our children to be “college and career” ready by the time they leave high school. 

Tennessee jumped at the chance to be awarded a national Race to the Top grant to fund public schools. However, one of the stipulations of receiving the Race to the Top money and the NCLB waiver that went along with  it was that Tennessee must adopt and implement the Common Core State Standards and the online assessment corre- lated with the standards called PARCC— Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for  College and Careers. 

Theoretically, with these guidelines in place, a student moving from one district to another or one state to another would not fall behind in curriculum or instruction if all schools in the country were to be unified and tested under one national set of standards. Sounds pretty good, doesn’t it? So, why the controversy surrounding the standards? 

The following is an excerpt from Diane Ravitch’s blog, appearing in the Huffing- ton Post, explaining the conflict surrounding the CCSS: “On one side, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has warned that the future of the nation de- pends on these standards. Billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates has spent hundreds of millions of dollars to pay for writing them, evaluating them, and promoting them, and has handed out millions more to educational organizations (including the teachers’ unions) to advocate for them. On the other side are grassroots groups of parents, teachers, and principals who say the standards were written in stealth, imposed by the lure of federal billions, and implemented too rapidly. All testing must be done online, so the standards are a bonanza for the testing industry, the hardware industry, and the soft- ware industry.” 

Tennessee districts began phasing CCSS into English language arts and math as early as 2011−12, with the intention of fully implementing the standards and testing in 2014−15. However, as the training, implementation, practice testing, and essay writing began in earnest in Tennessee, many teachers, students, and parents began to realize that the new standards, rather than providing the promised “rigor and relevance” to the curriculum, provided confusion and frustration as test prep increased and anxiety levels began to rise.  

Chris Guess, a member of the Franklin County Board of Education, believes the Common Core standards are get- ting away from what students need to be learning in the first place—the basics of reading, writing and arithmetic. “We’re getting the cart before the horse,” he said, following a recent school board meeting. 

People began to question the wisdom of adopting the CCSS, the sudden push to adopt and implement, and the financial gains being reaped by Pearson/Achieve Inc., publisher of textbooks  and testing materials. People in Tennessee began to “follow the money.”  

Where does the money go? According to Mercedes Schneider, public school teacher, activist, and PhD, the money leads here: “The four principal organizations associated with CCSS–NGA, CCSSO, Achieve, and Student Achievement Partners–have accepted millions from Bill Gates. In fact, prior to CCSS “completion” in June 2009, Gates had paid millions to NGA, CCSSO, and Achieve. And the millions continued to flow following CCSS completion.”

The devil really is in the details. For more information on Education Reform in Tennessee, please follow Tennesseans Reclaiming Educational Excellence on Facebook and Twitter, Momma Bears on Facebook, and the Tennessee BATs teachers group on Facebook. 

Lucianna Sanson is a Tennessee public school teacher, union activist, and member of the Tennessee BATs teachers’ group.

This article can be found on the TN BAT Blog


  1. Thanks for posting this guys. :)

  2. How can any teacher in any location on Earth be robotic and do all the same as any other? The reality of #CommonCore is that it is an impossible, illogical initiative. Conformity is not possible in the education field, as every teacher, school, and student is different. We are being told in our district at school sites to take curricular maps and align them with the goals of Common Core. As we see fit. That means each school, each department, each teacher is making decisions on paper and then in real actions that may or may not meet the federal standards of Common Core. That until testing and test scores begin, shortly, shaping what and how teachers teach and students learn. That includes subjects such as history, p.e., health, and the threat of testing looms in the future. Notice the concept of thinking about the student first and then what and how to teach, what content, what concepts, what skills is not on the table.

  3. Hello Luciana. I work for the local newspaper in Winchester. Would love to talk to you about your experience. If you are interested please contact me.

    Thank you,
    Tina Shang