The Collaborative for Student Success is yet another Common Core shilling group, supported by folks like the Gates Foundation, the New Ventures Fund, and the Fordham. It has to be lonely over there, standing up for the Common Core when nobody will even mention its name unless they're paid to do so.
Election Doesn't Matter
Last week executive director Karen Nussle issued a memo declaring Common Core a non-issue in the race for President, and she has a legitimate point. At this point Common Core lacks support among Presidential candidates as surely as roasting and eating baby pandas does. But Nussle sorts out the different types of non-support.
Many of the contenders have a complicated relationship with the
standards marked by inconsistencies and shifting positions, while others
have staked out governance positions on standards that are
I think "complicated relationship" is a nice way to put it. There are, for instance, the flip-floppers. She calls out Rubio, who used to brag about his role in getting CCSS adopted in Florida. And Chris Christie and Fiorina and Huckabee (and Jindal and Walker) who are all for Common Core before they were against it. Nussle does not dig further, considering that this might be a result of selling the Core, not on their merits as educational standards, but on their merits as a good political posture. I suppose you can argue that the flip floppery is a sign that these candidates are unprincipled, but I think it's also a sign that Common Core was never a matter of principle to begin with. The Core were sold as politically expedient and politically sale-able. These deserters of the Core deserted the standards as soon as it became evident that they did not possess the only qualities that ever made CCSS in the first place.
Nussle's "unconstitutional" crack is for Cruz and Trump, both of whom have promised to undo the federal Common Core laws, and while I hold the feds responsible in large part for the Core's existence and prevalence, even I understand that talking about undoing the federal Common Core laws is like promising to repeal the federal laws requiring it to snow in Alaska. It's a cynical, cost-free to promise nothing, appropriate for two supremely cynical sonsabitches. To even sort of make good on the promise, Nussle points out, they have promised to use any Presidential power they can to undermine the Core, which would make for spectacular overreach and abuse of power. Oh yeah-- Ben Carson is in this group. Is he still here? Apparently.
Nussle also brings up the "principled leaders" while simultaneously giving them a pass for actually being flip floppers. Bush and Kasich "have consistently and unapologetically supported higher standards" she says, conveniently switching from "common core" to "highers standards" because otherwise both would just be flip-floppers who were a little slower on the flop than the rest. That would be appropriate for Kasich, who was still spouting the "but these were created by the governors" line long after even Common Core PR flaks had dropped that fiction (I watch him at the NH beauty pageant and my impression that Kasich is more clueless than diabolical). Bush, on the other hand, had staked out education as the issue-based limo that would drive him to DC, and ever since the wheels came off, he's been unsure about whether to wait next to the vehicle for a tow-truck or to just hitch a ride with something else.
Nussle does a nice call-back to the Washington Post prediction that Common Core would be the most important issue of the election before pointing out that it barely came up at all in GOP debates, and devotes twelve whole words to acknowledging that Democrats are also running for President and not talking about Common Core.
The Core Is Safe
Nussle wraps up by explaining why the Core standards are in no danger.
The enactment of ESSA forever ends what has long been the greatest point
of vulnerability for Common Core: federal entanglement through Race to the Top and secretarial waivers in states’ decisions surrounding the adoption of standards and the selection of aligned assessments.
Yes, for people whose theory is that the Core was doing fine until Obama and Duncan and the feds messed everything up, ESSA is good news because it protects the states from the results of any federal elections, and Nussle is convinced that CCSS is firmly entrenched in forty-three states.
On the one hand, she has a point. Most states that "replaced" Common Core did it through the highly technical Lipstick on a Pig technique of changing the name and a few words here and there.
On the other hand, Common Core is dead, and public education is fighting a long clean-up battle against the shambling zombies that still grunt its name.
The portions of Common Core that are not on the Big Standardized Test are dead and gone, gone, gone. When was the last time you heard about a school sinking big bucks into the Common Core speaking and listening program? How many teachers are under intense pressure to implement instruction that meets those standards? Speaking and listening standards are absolutely part of the Core, but they're not on anybody's BS Test, so nobody cares. For all intents and purposes they don't exist.
What about schools and teachers who claim they are being led by the Common Core to new heights of educational awesomeness? I have read dozens of essays by these folks, and they all have one thing in common-- they are full of baloney. Here is the process followed by every single one of these schools and teachers:
1) Do whatever your professional judgment tells you is best for your students.
2) Credit it to the Common Core standards.
At this point, "Common Core" has about as much clear and specific meaning as "stuff." It means something completely different to every person that uses it, encounters it, or interprets it, and its decay into empty nothingness is accelerated by the lack of any sort of anchor-- there's no person, no group, no "authority" in place to say, "No, this is what it really means."
Common Core still exerts an unhealthy influence in a thousand corners of the country, depending on how deep the kool-aid runs in the veins of the People In Charge. But it's no longer possible to have a real conversation about it because nobody means the same thing by the words. So in a sense, Nussle is correct in believing that nobody can hurt the Core any more. However, nobody can hurt the Core anymore because it's already dead, shambling and shuffling around, desperate to eat brains but unable to form a single useful thought or join up with any of the other policy zombies.