Friday, March 28, 2014

Jeb Bush's Shiny Campaign

If you wanted to find all of the bullshit talking points about the CCSS Reformy Complex, you'd be hard pressed to do better than clicking on over to Learn More. Go Further.

It takes a little clicking to learn that LMGF is brought to you by the Foundation for Excellence in Education (and I'm sure I'll be neither the first nor last person to point out how appropriate it is that these champions of privatization have chosen FEE as their acronym), and FEE is founded and led by that champion of reformy stuff, Jeb Bush. And FEE is here to sell you all the wonders that are the Common Core.

One gets the impression that this is a work in progress. In some corners of the site one finds the name "Learn More. Go Further Florida." And there is a definite Florida-centric nature to some portions, while other portions take a more nation-spanning view. It's almost as if somebody connected to the site had a strategy to take a local story and upscale it as a sort of national platform for some sort of major nation-wide undertaking, an undertaking so large that it might not come to full flower for another two years, a project that could stretch all the way from Florida to New Hampshire and Iowa. Though in fairness, I'll note that Jeb's mug is absent from this shiny shiny ad campaign.

The site is slick. And if nothing else, it is an interesting study in what research and focus groups must be telling the folks who want to market a Presidential candidate an educational vision, and the corporate sponsors that back them (more about that at the bottom).

For one thing, we can deduce that they have totally gotten the memo that lots of folks don't think that teachers like Common Core very much. They have lined up four freshly scrubbed teachers, all women, none with a mention of TFA in sight, and all four with branny new twitter accounts that made their first noise on March 15. All four have tweeted since then with a string of advertising copy for the core, some of which are nearly identical for each of the women. You may well have seen them; this morning their accounts are appearing as promoted "Who To Follows" on my twitter page.

Were I supremely cynical, I might conclude that these women were a magical combination of stock photography and an ed department intern, but I'm a cynic with a computer, so I dug just a bit. Here are our four teacher voices for FEE (see what I did there? Jeb, you should not make it so easy).

Rian Meadows is a teacher ambassador at the Florida Dept of Ed. It appears that at least in 2011, she was an economics instructor at Florida Virtual School (FLVS) — the nation's first-ever statewide virtual public high school. Faye Adams is a charter school teacher in Pasco County. Angela Anchors is a charter school teacher. And Beth Smith seems to actually work at an honest-to-God public school, where she has only just been promoted to Assistant Principal from her previous job as reading specialist. 

There's a whole other point to be made about exactly how these women are being used as props-- their twitter accounts are @USteacher[firstname]. So we've picked women who teach elementary school and reduced them to first names, like Miss Mary on Romper Room. They appear in ads in classrooms, with children.

You can click on an ask-a-teacher link, and cut-out pop-up clips of these women will appear to read answers in a manner that will do nothing to dispel the impression that they are Stepford Educators. Ask "Are teachers excited about Florida Core Standards" and one (I think it's Beth) pops up to say earnestly, "We sure are." And then we get the usual line about how the Core will free teachers to teach creatively because, gosh darn it, there's already just too much teaching to the test, and under the Core, those testing days are over.

I offer that as a representative sample of the site's content, because taking us through all of it would be like repeatedly punching you in the heart. The site depends heavily on spin, equivocation, and just plain flat out lying. As I said at the top-- every piece of bullshit you've ever heard about the CCSS regime of reform is here, in slickly well-designed webullar glory. 

Teachers totally helped write the Core. It totally leaves local school boards in complete control. It is not a curriculum. Critical thinking out the wazoo. Competitive in a global market. The only time the site deviates from the standard baloney is when it goes for even bigger piles of baloney-- in reply to the "myth" that the states' tests weren't broken site asserts "Many states had reading proficiency standards that would qualify their students as functionally illiterate by international standards."

And there is copy devoted to promoting the Florida miracle, because claiming that the state has achieved miraculous advances in education has been a proven winner for members of the Bush family in the past. These claims are similar to what we used to call the "Texas miracle" in that they are not really based on what we used to call "facts." Head over to Integrity in Education to read the breakdown of how reality-impaired these claims are.

There is along page of supportive quotes from all the usual subjects: Petrelli and Brickman from the Fordham, Kramer and Villaneuva from TFA, and (ex-)Mayor Bloomberg all check in with words of support for the Core.

There are slick ads that I'm sure some of you are seeing already; these assure us that what's at stake is everything. Those are paid for by the Higher States Standards Partnership, a group with their own website; the HSSP brings together a coalition of the Business Roundtable, the US Chamber of Commerce and a whole long list of individual corporate sponsors. So if we know one thing from this campaign, it's that corporate interests are willing to spend even more money to buy their access to great public ed money pile. [Update: Erin Osborne has done the research and broken down the folks behind HSSP and put it all in a chart. It's amazing, and there's not an actual teacher in sight.]

There is good news for disruptive types. The site includes both a place to "tell your story" and the opportunity to ask questions of these four educational spokemavens. Knock yourselves out, folks.

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