by Susan Ohanian

The press release emanating from the office of Achieve Inc CEO Michael Cohen raises certain questions. First, note that Cohen’s previous jobs include: Director of Education Policy at the National Governors Association (1985-90) and Director of Planning and Policy Development at the National Association of State Boards of Education (1983-1985). During the Clinton Administration he served as Assistant Secretary for Elementary and Secondary Education, Special Assistant to President Clinton for Education Policy, and Senior Advisor to U.S. Secretary of Education Richard Riley.

Reading the press release, I wonder:

  • *HOW to get people to raise up against the oppressive phrase knowledge-based economy, a term rolling off the tongues of the “haves” as an excuse for their refusal to acknowledge the vital skills possessed by people making things work every day, a term employed to keep people in their place, a term that won’t provide a living wage;
  • *WHEN the media will recognize that the Standardisto “knowledge-based economy” is a smokescreen for the Corporate “greed-based economy”;
  • *HOW the Common Core prepares a student to study draft horse management in college;
  • *HOW people at Achieve distinguish an impressive set of curriculum materials and instructional and professional development tools aligned to the Common Core State Standards from a patch of stinkweed;
  • *WHAT it will take to alarm progressives about the faith-in-corporate-solutions that Achieve identifies as a mission in public schools;
  • Mission

    1 a: a ministry commissioned by a religious organization to propagate its faith or carry on humanitarian work
    b: organized missionary work
    c: a course of sermons and services given to convert the unchurched or quicken Christian faith
    2: a body of persons sent to perform a service or carry on an activity: as
    a: a group sent to a foreign country to conduct diplomatic or political negotiations
    b: a team of specialists or cultural leaders sent to a foreign country. . . .

  • *WHEN teachers will decide they can no longer be missionaries preaching the corporate gospel;

    1 a member of a military unit usually of construction engineers
    2 a: a person or group that originates or helps open up a new line of thought or activity or a new method or technical development
    b: one of the first to settle in a territory
    3 a plant or animal capable of establishing itself in a bare, barren, or open area and initiating an ecological cycle
    4 (to come: courtesy of Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation) A state that evaluates teachers on the results of an unvalidated, meaningless testing regime;

  • *IF new teacher oaths will include an affirmation of missionary dedication to converting the unStandardized
  • *HOW long it will take for the Achieve definition of pioneer to be recognized by Merriam-Webster;
  • *IF anyone knows the meaning of After decades of testing against internally focused expectations. . . .
  • *IF people are taking odds on how many steps Achieve and their partner Bill Gates have in mind when they promise that this test, designed so students will fail, is just an important step among many still to come;
  • *IF options on the movie are available: 63 Steps to Public School Elimination.;
  • *HOW long students can survive under the regime of the rich and engaging instruction the standards demand, for which Common Core architect David Coleman offered this advice in reading a rigorous text: “You’re going to practice it again and again and again and again. . . so there’s a chance you can finally do that level of work”;
  • *HOW the promise that the skills called for in the standards are the ones that will best prepare students for to have career options and postsecondary opportunities line up with the Common Core writing lessons demanding that 8-year-olds abandon their voice and write like bankers.
  • *IF anyone [besides New York Times editorial]can top the hypocrisy of promising that Common Core standards and testing lead to a lifetime of opportunities;
  • *IF people realize the size of Achieve’s horse in this Standardisto race. Achieve partnered with NGA and CCSSO on the Common Core State Standards Initiative and was selected by states to manage the PARCC assessment consortium;
  • *IF this press release is part of the Achieve delivery on its 2012 $9,297,699 grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Purpose: to strengthen and expand the ADP Network, provide more support to states for CCSS implementation, and build strategic national and statewide alliances by engaging directly with key stakeholders;
  • *OR IF this is just part of the 2012 $3,500,000 grant from Bill and Melinda for “general operating support.”
  • *IF anyone will join an ad hoc Committee to Keep Corporate Missionaries Out of Public Schools.
  • But the truth is I know we don’t need another committee. What we need is Revolution!

    Press Release

    Statement by Michael Cohen on Release of New York State Assessment Results

    Washington, DC — August 7, 2013 — In today’s knowledge-based economy postsecondary success demands higher skills and some postsecondary education or training.[emphasis added] With the release of new assessment results, New York State is taking an important step to transforming the mission [emphasis added] of K-12 education to that of preparing all students to be college and career ready by insisting that they be academically prepared to enter and succeed in postsecondary career training programs and 2- and 4-year colleges. These new assessments begin to provide students and parents accurate information so they can tell if they are on track academically to meet real world demands after high school. After decades of testing against internally focused expectations, students are now being tested against the academic standards necessary for success in the settings they will enter after high school.[emphasis added]

    New York is a pioneer.[emphasis added] It is one of the first states, along with Kentucky, to implement new assessments designed to be aligned with the Common Core State Standards. The results show that students and schools in New York State have some considerable distance to go. This is not a surprise. It is consistent with national data showing that fewer than 40% of students nationally meet college-ready benchmarks and NAEP proficiency standards. While many high school graduates of New York schools are well prepared for postsecondary success, too many are required to take and pay tuition for remedial courses, or can gain entry-level jobs but lack the preparation and skills to advance in a career.

    This is not a cause for alarm. It is not a reason to back away from standards, assessments and accountability. Instead, it is reason for state education leaders, local school boards and educators — including teachers, principals and local administrators — and higher education institutions, to work together and double down on efforts to systematically improve classroom instruction. New York State is continuing to develop an impressive set of curriculum materials and instructional and professional development tools aligned to the Common Core State Standards to support classroom implementation statewide. [emphasis added] This is an important step among many still to come as improvements in instruction will not happen over night [sic]. [emphasis added]Because of the widespread adoption of the Common Core, the supply of high quality instructional and professional development materials from a variety of sources in and outside of New York State will steadily increase and improve over time. Teachers and school leaders must be given the ongoing support and time, to work together to continuously improve instruction. And like many other states, New York will be working to improve the quality of state assessments so they better support the rich and engaging instruction the standards demand.[emphasis added]

    This is also reason for business leaders, employers, and colleges and universities to strengthen their support for standards and assessments. This means helping students, parents and the public — often starting with their own employees — understand that the skills called for in the standards are the ones that will best prepare students for to have career options and postsecondary opportunities.[emphasis added] It also means insisting on and supporting robust and sustained implementation statewide.

    Many will debate the appropriateness of particular accountability and implementation policies, but there is no denying that students are ultimately the ones who are held accountable for their performance once they leave high school. If educators, parents, state officials and business and higher education leaders work together to improve instruction, test scores will steadily improve. More importantly, a generation of students in New York will be prepared for a lifetime of opportunities. [emphasis added]

    Media Contact: Chad Colby (202) 419-1570