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Look at Who’s Partnering with Verizon to Deliver Common Core Offal

Parents and teachers are faced with a volcanic eruption of curriculum claiming to deliver the Common Core State [sic] Standards. Here’s a look at one coterie (check out the third meaning: a group of prairie dogs occupying a communal burrow) gathered under the Verizon Foundation umbrella. Verizon invites Partners to join them at Thinkfinity to bring “thousands” of Common Core standards-based lesson plans from “leading educational organizations” to teachers.

Click on Thinkfinity and faster than you can say “Bill Gates” (who did, after all pay for the development and promotion of the Common Core) you will have a lesson for middle graders on exciting verbs in “Hamlet” and a lesson plan on “Phonic Generalizations in Chrysanthemum” for the K-2 set.

The thing writing about education entrepreneurs is that you never have to make anything up to get a laugh.

But who’s laughing now? Chrysanthemum happens to be one of my favorite books-ever. More about this later. First, let’s look at what’s going on here.

First off, these lesson plans come with a Seal of Approval:

Seal of approval

All Verizon Thinkfinity content is endorsed by our content partners [emphasis added], the nation’s leading education organizations, who either develop or review each resource. Each of these organizations is a recognized leader in the specific discipline for which they create Thinkfinity content.

Wowser! Here’s this endorsement claim in greater specificity: 55,000 standards-based K-12 lesson plans, student materials, interactive tools and reference materials are reviewed by the nation’s leading education organizations to ensure that content is accurate, up-to-date, unbiased and appropriate for students.

Who are these partners who have developed or reviewed lessons such as verbs in “Hamlet” and phonics in Chrysanthemum and judged them “accurate, up-to-date, unbiased and appropriate for students?” You should take a careful look, as you are likely paying membership dues and sending off donations that aid and abet this operation.

Here’s how these partners are described at Thinkfinity, so we can assume it is a self-definition. Go to each Partner site, and will see a link to Thinkfinity. . . so website browsers will be driven to the Common Core lessons.

Verizon Thinkfinity Content Partners produce the program’s nine discipline-specific, standards-based Web sites. Each site includes lessons for teachers, activities to use in and out of the classroom, games for young children and teens, adult literacy resources and reference materials for anyone in the education field, as well as for parents and afterschool practitioners.

  • ArtsEdge
    Created by the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, ARTSEDGE provides resources and examples for teachers to teach in, through and about the arts. The site includes lesson plans, advocacy and professional development resources, and up-to-date information on arts programs from around the world.Extra Information: ArtsEdge is an education program of the Kennedy Center “with the support the U. S. Department of Education and Verizon Foundation.”
  • EconEdLink
    Developed by the Council for Economic Education, EconEdLink provides teachers and students with lessons and classroom learning activities based on economics topics in the news and real-time economics data. EconEdLink content is designed to help integrate economic concepts across the curriculum as outlined in the Voluntary National Content Standards in Economics.Extra Information: Harold (Terry) McGraw, III, Chairman Emeritus, Chairman, President & CEO The McGraw-Hill Companies is a lifetime Board Member.
  • EDSITEment
    Presented by the National Endowment for the Humanities, EDSITEment features lesson plans and additional classroom resources about art and culture, literature and language arts, foreign language, history and social studies. It also serves as a gateway to the best humanities sites on the Web and features a monthly theme-based teaching resource calendar.Extra Information: “Due to a very large number of submissions from authors wishing to work with EDSITEment as writers or reviewers,” EDSITEment has suspended their call for lesson plan writers/reviewers for 2012.
  • Illuminations
    Designed by The National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM), Illuminations is the comprehensive source for instruction and learning materials based on NCTM’s Principles and Standards for School Mathematics. The site makes math engaging, interesting and challenging through interactive applets, standards-based lesson plans and other teacher resources.
  • NG Education
    Developed by the National Geographic Society, the NG Education site brings geography,social studies, and science to life for educators, learners, and their families—in and out of the classroom. The free education resources at harness National Geographic’s iconic media, research, and exploration to support high quality, standards-based instruction and student-centered learning. The site features multimedia activities,photo and video galleries, a growing reference library, and interactive mapping and collaboration tools. This next-generation site replaces Xpeditions, which is now an archive.Extra Information: Education Foundation Board members include the founder of The McKenzie Group.
  • ReadWriteThink
    Developed by the International Reading Association (IRA) and the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE), ReadWriteThink provides educators and students with access to the highest quality practices and resources in reading and English language arts instruction. The site features standards-based lesson plans, interactive student materials and a dynamic literacy calendar.Extra Information: Here are the Advisors and the Content Review Board.
  • AAASS Netlinks
    Developed by the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Science NetLinks provides resources for K-12 teachers and students. The site includes lesson plans, interactives, hands-on activities and reviewed resources, all of which provide opportunities to bring science and technology discovery into the classroom. Science NetLinks resources are matched to Project 2061′s Benchmarks for Science Literacy.
  • History ExplorerDesigned and developed by the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, the Smithsonian’s History Explorer is a gateway to innovative, standards-based online resources for teaching and learning American history. The site brings history to life through artifacts, primary sources and online tools for the classroom, afterschool activities and home.Extra Information: To deliver the standard of “understands national symbols through which American values and principles are expressed” students can make a pop-up American eagle Extra Information: Since 2009 the Smithsonian Institution has received $50,000,000 from the Bill and Melina Gates Foundation
  • Wonderopolis
    Developed by the National Center for Family Literacy (NCFL), Wonderopolis helps families discover the wonders of learning in everyday life. The daily Wonder of the Day feature offers bite-size bits of learning for families to explore together. With its question-and-answer format, the Wonder of the Day provides a nugget of information about the title question, suggests a family-friendly activity to extend the learning, and lists vocabulary words and additional resources to take the learning even further./li>

There’s a discussion board at Thinkfinity, and when a school administrator asked how to “add complexity” to reading instruction, someone at Edsitement! (National Endowment for the Humanities) offered a link to Vengeful Verbs in Hamlet, advertised as a lesson for middle graders.

Learning Objectives

  • Students will be able to identify and define the verbs Shakespeare uses to convey the meaning of the scene
  • Students will exchange the verbs from the scene and replace with more vivid and more generic ones to see how that changes intention of the scene
  • Student will be assess their ability to define vivid and generic verbs used by Shakespeare by solving a crossword puzzle

When I taught 7th and 8th graders, the Language Arts coordinator who was as sensitive as a turnip about the needs of children of any age, was in love with behavioral objectives. I refused to write my lesson plans in her required format, telling her to hell with all this Students will malarkey; the best a teacher can ever say is a student might. The Language Arts coorindator decided to turn over lesson plan checkoff duties to the principal.

The writer of this lesson says that the popularity of ghosts in the Harry Potter series offers inspiration for the teacher to present “Hamlet” as a ghost story.

The first time Hamlet sees his father’s ghost (Hamlet, act 1, scene 5, lines 13–31) is one of the most dramatic moments in theatre and a prime opportunity to teach the often dry and boring subject of verbs.

Through the ghost of Hamlet’s father, students receive an introduction to the language of Shakespeare in a context they can understand. In this lesson, they will learn to distinguish generic verbs from vivid verbs by working with selected lines in Hamlet’s Ghost scene. Students will then test their knowledge of verbs through a crossword interactive puzzle. In Hamlet’s own words: “the readiness is all.”

Learning Objectives

• Students will be able to identify and define the verbs Shakespeare uses to convey the meaning of the scene

• Students will exchange the verbs from the scene and replace with more vivid and more generic ones to see how that changes intention of the scene. . . .

Then students can move on to the crossword puzzle

There’s lots more. . . for those with a strong stomach.

Moving on to Phonic Generalizations in Chrysanthemum. As a reviewer noted, “If you were to single out the one picture book author that most successfully puts their finger on the pulse of children’s hopes and fears, the award for Greatest Long-Distance Therapist would go to none other than Kevin Henke.” I am not one to proclaim absolutely about literature but I state here absolutely and unequivocally, Kevin Henke did not write this beautiful book to teach young children about vowel pairs.

And I would suggest that anyone who is tempted to venture into this territory after readying Chrysanthemum should first read Dante’s Inferno, where he describes the seven degrees of hell. I recommend this one with bold illustrations by Barry Moser.


Students will

  • Learn how to look for the vowel pairs ow, ew, and aw in unknown words
  • Recognize the common and alternative sounds for ow, ew, and aw
  • Use context to determine which sound works in a word
  • Spell and read words containing these vowel pairs

Introductory session

1. Read aloud Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes.

2. After reading the book, remind students that Chrysanthemum was named after a flower and that every time Victoria said something bad about Chrysanthemum’s name, Mrs. Chud said, “Thank you for sharing that with us, Victoria. Now put your head down.”

3. Ask students what common sound they hear in the words flower, now, and down.

4. Using the overhead projector and overhead letter tiles, demonstrate the word now, explaining that the vowel combination ow often stands for the sound in now.

5. Distribute letter tiles or squares to individuals or pairs of students, and ask them to follow along with you through a few sample exercises. . . .

And on and on and on.

Just two lessons out of 55,000 available. Those with the heart for it can explore Thinkfinity for the other 54,998.

Remember, All Verizon Thinkfinity content is endorsed by our content partners [emphasis added], the nation’s leading education organizations, who either develop or review each resource. Each of these organizations is a recognized leader in the specific discipline for which they create Thinkfinity content.

Those of you paying dues to the National Council of Teachers of English and the International Reading Association may want to ask them to explain their endorsement.

Free advice to NCTE, IRA, and all of the rest of these education entrepreneurs: You need to issue disclaimer statements warning people to proceed at their own risk, not offer endorsements assuring people that you have examined and approved these lessons as appropriate.

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About The Author

Susan Ohanian is a longtime teacher whose articles on education have appeared in publications ranging from Parents to The Nation. Her book One Size Fits Few: The Folly of Educational Standards introduced the term "Standardisto." She has maintained a website of resistance since NCLB was signed into law in 2002:

Number of Entries : 14
  • Turtleflower

    Susan - this is overwhelming! I cannot imagine the amount of money that is being offered to these organizations such as NCTE, NCTM, IRA, etc. that would cause them to sell out teachers and teaching so completely.  To say nothing of the pain and suffering they are inflicting on the students. I understood that the Common Core framers dislike fiction, but in these examples they are executing it.  We need a national uprising and boycott of the Common Core State (sic) Standards and anything associated this this travesty.

    • Susan Ohanian

       I know it sounds sappy, but I cried when I saw the “Chrysanthemum” directives. First I cried, then I got angry. I’m still steaming. And to think there are 54,998 more unexamined lessons to worry about. . . . Just on that one website. And who can keep up with the number of websites springing up to offer similar garbage. Meanwhile, teachers keep their silence. VERY FEW people are even murmuring any hint of discontent.

      • Live4literacy

        That is the most developmentally inappropriate and BORING lesson to use with such an amazing book that I have truly ever seen. The fact that these were developed by the supposed most knowledgeable people in the field is disheartening to say the least. But hey, Lucy Calkins, Regie Routman, and a host of others have sold out as well. As I have said, this country and its love of the almighty dollar is disgusting. It’s bad enough to sell teachers out, but to completely destroy children’s right to an engaging education is downright evil.

  • Weilunion

    Great article, Susan and as you know this is all going online which will divorce teachers further from conception of their work and the implementation.  The Hollywood industry, communications industry and the ‘text book’ cartels are all moving towards creating the material conditions and means of production for online education.  All part of the smash and grab policies that have left the 600 billion dollar education sector, once the providence of the public, now moving faster and faster into the filthy hands of Wall Street and the monopolists.

    This will mean of course corporate literacy which is erasure of memory, for the new age of forgetting.  But every epoch has a Spartacus and the 21st century will be no different as less and less ‘schooling’ is accepted by those surplus, disposable youth populations world wide that under capitalism will never see work.

  • Leslie Sipos

    Thinkfinity seems like Think Control or Patrol.

  • Pingback: Why Are Things As They Are? » Blog Archive » Rouge Forum Dispatch: Teacher Union Bosses-Undertakers of Educational Thought

  • Weilunion

    Students will be able to (SWAT) over throw the capitalist system and thereby dialectically put into practice critical thinking. 

    Teachers should be prepared to devote at least 20 minutes to this lesson either online or didactically.

    There will be no assessments, only tests and successful passage of the ‘tests’ will be judged by the number of for-profit institutions put on the injection gurney.

    Yes, behavioral outcomes that I was exposed to as well with kindergarten children in rural California. 

    And now the harbingers of obedience training will be Wall St. and their public-private partners who will put the impramtur on the standardized curriculum being designed for ‘junk education’ in the declining Empire.

    Google will be next as will Hollywood in developing videos that try to make the ‘common core standards’ common sense.

    This of course will all be done online within the next 24 months, as it is now and will extend from pre-K through college with robo-graders and automated learning.

    The problem will be that there will be less and less need for human labor creating an overwhelming adition to the ‘surplus labor’ (those who do not work and never will or at best precariously and low paid) and turn the teaching profession into an international call center.

    The curriculum is point and click so you can visit a few porn sites and e-Harmony when you get bored and then just switch back to the curriculum screen.

    As for critical thinking or critical pedagogy, forget it.  The content of the curriculum is developed by young entrepeneurs and must be signed off on by the CEO and friends.  Any points of view that run contrary to the corporate narrative will be punished through vaporizing or banishment.  Thus, critical thinking will be reserved for teachers who know when and how not to open their mouths.  Many will silence themselves simply to survive the neo-feudal landscape; others will refuse to partcipate due to morality and ethics.

    The mergers and acquisitions will be international as Pearson has shown with their purchase of connection Academy, the second largest online ‘earning’ scam that trades on Wall St. and now in England’s PLC.

    Read ‘Education PLC’ by Stephen Ball and you can see what the US will soon experience.  Foreign countries with pockets full of treasury printed dollars roaming the educational landscape to see what deals they can vacuum up as ‘Education does Walmart’.  Dubai teaches over 250,000 elementary kids in England and the country has outsourced basically their entire social services to outside countries looking to loot the ever failing Western Empire.  Same will happen here as the $600 billion dollar educational industry is now cracked open like a Brazilian nut.

    As for the unions, the leadership knows all of this but won’t tell its members for fear they will rebel and also for fear they may lose their six figure salaries and access to the one percent.  God forbid they might strike or want to include outrageous demands like no privatization in their collective ‘begging’ agreements.

    From Channel One to fables on cable and the Internet it has been quite a grueling haul for corporate America, but they are almost over the finishing line.

  • Cindy Lutenbacher

    Yesterday, at a meeting of us progressive educators in Atlanta, I said, “Replacing teachers with computers and tests and minimum wage folks to read lesson scripts-it’s exactly what the corporate f-ers want.”
    The group laughed in agreement and sighed, “Well, I guess you can’t be our spokesperson after all.”

    [Sorry that I have nothing more intelligent to add than this comment.  Our group is busy planning our next actions...]

  • Cindy Llutenbacher

    By the way, I went directly to the library to read  CHRYSANTHEMUM.  Beautiful book, and it reminds me of the power of the opinions of others, especially on young ones who are busy creating themselves.

    • Susan Ohanian

       I have such a strong image of you in the library reading CHRYSANTHEMUM.
      Thank you.

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