State of Florida Education Commissioner Tony Bennett, speaking at a business summit in Tallahassee, has urged Florida educators to proceed at full speed in the implementation of the new Common Core State Standards. His refusal to warn businessmen and legislators of the rapids ahead mark him as just another politician holding a critical office in Florida.
The commissioner presents this attempt to nationalize the school curriculum in areas assessed by standardized tests as a “joint effort of over 40 states.” He failed to mention that joining the Common Core effort was the only means for states to be considered in their applications for the $4-plus billion Race to the Top school funds being dispersed by the Obama administration (remember the Recovery Act?)
The commissioner also failed to share that the major financial contributors to this political movement are Microsoft, Pearson Education, and the U.S. Department of Education. Microsoft will be selling the computers and software, and Pearson Education will be developing the curriculum in any new national education program. The Obama funds ($175 million) are helping to define the assessments in math and reading. These three organizations will totally control the curriculum, the delivery, and assessment of any Common Core.
The commissioner also failed to mention that Florida has already committed to no textbooks after 2015. The general plan of the Common Core is to deliver and assess student progress on-line using yet-to-be acquired computers.
Neither the new curriculum, derived from the new standards, nor the student assessment to be developed by two different consortia, are yet in place as of 2013. Never mind says the new commissioner, “people in business set a deadline, a timeline, and bust our tails to meet it.” The Commissioner of Education should know that education is a lot more than a business.
Consider the following planning data:
For the business-types that Commissioner Bennett seems to be courting, the run-up to the Common Core State Standards is a dream. Either business carves out a huge piece of the $10,615 per pupil (2010) spent each year on 45 million public school children, or they step in when the Common Core crashes and burns.
The presence of the Jeb Bush Foundation speakers on the program with Commissioner Bennett suggests that failure would quickly rationalize privatization of education and vouchers for entrepreneurial agencies. Perhaps the Commissioner should re-title his talk “Breakthrough to Mediocrity.”
Dr. Wiles of Crescent Beach is an educational consultant in the area of curriculum development and the author of a major textbook on educational change, “Curriculum Development: A Guide to Practice 9th edition.”