MEDIA WATCH: All the news that fits, they print. How The New York Times handled the Common Core controversy in its May 16, 2012 report on David Coleman

The story in the May 16, 2012 New York Times was headlined "Backer of Common Core School Curriculum Is Chosen to Lead College Board" and it quoted Stephen Krashen. Here is Stephen Krashen's Comment: "...Not quite what I was trying to say: Comments about the Common Core Standards and Tests... I was quoted in an article in the NY Times about David Coleman’s appointment as head of the College Board. I had sent the reporter written statements and a few of my short articles before the interview, but like most reporters, she preferred the oral interview. Coleman is “an architect of the common core curriculum standards,” so I was asked what I thought of the standards. (I was not informed about the purpose of the article. I did not know Coleman was appointed head of the College Board until I read the article on the internet.) "

Here is what appeared form Krashen in the NY Times:

"There’s no reason on earth for common core standards and these tests that we’re wasting billions of dollars on," said Stephen Krashen, an emeritus education professor at the University of Southern California. "The problem is poverty, poverty, poverty. Middle-class children who go to well-funded schools do very well, but even the best tests, the most inspiring teachers, won't mean anything if the kids don't have enough to eat."

Here is what I tried to say: "There's no reason on earth for common core standards and these tests that we're wasting billions of dollars on," said Stephen Krashen, an emeritus education professor at the University of Southern California. "The rationale for the standards and national tests is the belief that our schools are broken. The only evidence for this is our mediocre scores on international tests. But middle-class children who go to well-funded schools do very well on international tests, scoring at the top of the world. Our overall scores are unimpressive because we have so many children living in poverty, about 22%, the highest percentage of all industrialized countries.

"This shows that the problem in American education is poverty, not a lack of standards and tests and not teaching quality. Poverty means food deprivation, lack of health care, and little access to books. The best tests and the most inspiring teachers will have little impact when children are hungry, sick, and have little access to books."

"PS: According to Education Week, Coleman wants to align the SAT to common core standards..."

Ohanian Comment:

Tamar Lewin also phoned me for a New York Times soundbite. . . only in their formula of three positive comments/one negative, Steve won out. And I'm glad because it is critical to get the point about poverty in there.

That said, the Times went overboard on their formula--with five people saying Coleman is great--so it gives the impression that everybody admires Coleman--except for one crank professor in California.

It is important to look at how many of these Coleman fans are teachers. Weingarten claims teacher credential. I'll let the New York City people argue that one. But I will ask: why isn't one public school teacher quoted?

Besides Weingarten, Arne Duncan, Jeb Bush, and Kati Haycock love Coleman. As does the Texas Commissioner of Education (even though he doesn't like the standards). What a group!

The reporter just asked me my opinion of David Coleman, not providing any context. . I think my comments fell on the cutting room floor because I talked from the experience of teaching third graders-- about how damaging Coleman's doctrine will be to young children. . . in the context of his "don't give a shit" declaration and children's need to make connections to text. I also criticized Coleman's insistence that students must read lots of non-fiction because that's "where they gain world knowledge." I said, "Tell that to Tolstoy, Dickens, Toni Morrison."

Way too esoteric for the NYT.

I emphasized to the reporter Coleman's observation that teachers must convince students that "People really don't give a shit about what you feel or what you think." She chose to use what he said two sentences later.

I find Randi Weingarten's praise of Coleman especially disgusting. Just where is the evidence that he is "very respectful of the teacher voice?" And last night Anthony Cody, who seems to be speaking for Save Our Schools, repeatedly told us on #SOSChat on Twitter that SOS can't denounce the Common Core because this would alienate the NEA and the AFT.

I'm thinking about the way the NEA fought against our petition to bring down No Child Left Behind, and I have certain unprintable words for them. The AFT has resistance groups in New York and Chicago, but mostly I have unprintable words for them too. I remember the days when they fought with me about publishing book review in New York Teacher, claiming teachers didn't want to read reviews. I'd buy the books and send in the reviews anyway. I got terrific fan mail. Another day and I'll tell you a terrific story about Banish Hoffman and my reviews. But my point here is that the unions have a long history of keeping teachers down. The Common Core is the latest example.

Joanne Yatvin Letter to New York Times

"Sorry, but I cannot congratulate the College Board for replacing a politician with a dilettante. As one of the major authors of the Common Core State Standards, David Coleman has already demonstrated that he is neither an educator nor a good judge of child/adolescent behavior. In projecting his own elitist preferences and romantic visions of college studies onto math and English standards for K-12 students, he has created an instrument that will only increase grade retentions and high school drop-outs. Now, he promises to change the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) designed to recognize student abilities, apart from school grades, to an achievement test based on the Standards. Is he bent on decreasing college attendance, too? Sincerely yours, Joanne Yatvin "

Bob Schaefer of Fair Test makes an excellent observation, one that points to the real agenda with the Coleman appointment.

"The hiring of David Coleman as its next president is consistent with the College Board's aggressive push into the K-12 assessment arena. Unlike the university admissions testing market where the Board has little or no growth potential due to the end of the baby boom echo and competition from ACT, K-12 has been flush with money and demand for more exams as a result of programs such as "Race to the Top" and NCLB Waivers.

"Under Gaston Caperton, who was hired with the goal of "growing the bottom line" for the company, the Board aggressively expanded its Advanced Placement program of high school courses and tests, introduced the controversial middle school ReadiStep pre-pre-SAT, and promoted its SpringBoard curriculum as well as services to align high school subjects with its tests.

"Coleman's pledge to align the SAT with the Common Core Standards is the next logical move in the testing industry's drive to dominate public U.S. public education with "one-size-fits-all" products in its self-appointed role as the country's non-elected, national school board.

"Bob Schaeffer, Public Education Director FairTest: National Center for Fair & Open Testing"


David Coleman, an architect of the common core curriculum standards that are being adopted in nearly all 50 states, will become the president of the College Board, starting in October. The College Board, a membership organization of high schools and colleges that administers the SAT, the Advanced Placement program and other standardized tests, helped design the standards -- an outline of what students should learn in English and math from kindergarten through high school -- meant to ensure that all high school graduates are prepared for college.

Mr. Coleman's new position will involve a continued focus on college readiness. "We have a crisis in education, and over the next few years, the main thing on the College Board’s agenda is to deliver its social mission," he said in an interview on Tuesday. "The College Board is not just about measuring and testing, but designing high-quality curriculum."

For the last year, Mr. Coleman, 42, a former Rhodes scholar and McKinsey & Company consultant, has been barnstorming the nation, speaking to thousands of teachers to explain and promote the standards. He will succeed Gaston Caperton, who last year announced his plans to step down. Mr. Caperton came under some criticism for his salary of $1.3 million; Mr. Coleman will earn a base of $550,000, with total compensation of nearly $750,000.

"David is innovative and an excellent choice for the College Board," said Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers. "He's put the common core on the map and he's very respectful of the teacher voice."

Many other leading education figures, including Arne Duncan, the secretary of education, and former Gov. Jeb Bush of Florida, also endorsed the appointment. Kati Haycock, president of the Education Trust, said, “David is one of the true creative geniuses in the ed reform world, one of the brightest, most engaging and most persistent people in the field.”

Common Core avatar David Coleman will now head the College Board, trying to integrate Common Core, SAT, and all that testing stuff.While full adoption of the standards is uncertain — and the possibility that all states would agree to use the same tests and passing scores a distant fantasy — the advent of common standards could someday make college admission tests like the SAT almost irrelevant. And some education experts say that possibility, even far down the road, has helped spur the College Board’s growing emphasis on its Advanced Placement program.

In the interview, Mr. Coleman spoke far more of the AP program than of any other aspect of the College Board’s work. "The College Board should consider any student in an AP class a student in our care," said Mr. Coleman, a co-founder at Student Achievement Partners, a nonprofit organization that promotes the common core. "We need to find better ways to support their success." Robert Scott, the Texas commissioner of education whose state is one of a handful that has not adopted the common core, said he thinks highly of Mr. Coleman, and shares his educational goals -- but not the desire for national standards. "Texas law requires curriculum decisions to involve teachers, parents and other members of the community, and you can’t do that if you're adopting standards developed somewhere else," Mr. Scott said. Mr. Coleman and the standards have other critics, too. "There’s no reason on earth for common core standards and these tests that we're wasting billions of dollars on,” said Stephen Krashen, an emeritus education professor at the University of Southern California. "The problem is poverty, poverty, poverty. Middle-class children who go to well-funded schools do very well, but even the best tests, the most inspiring teachers, won’t mean anything if the kids don’t have enough to eat." In progressive education circles, Mr. Coleman is often criticized for his emphasis on "informational texts" over fiction, and his push for students to write fewer personal and opinion pieces. Last year, he gave a speech making that point in strong terms, asserting that it would be rare, in the working world, for someone to say, "Johnson, I need a market analysis by Friday, but before that I need a compelling account of your childhood." Reaction on education blogs was explosive.

On Tuesday, Mr. Coleman said he should have chosen his language more carefully, emphasizing that he was talking about older students. Over all, Mr. Coleman said, there is widespread enthusiasm for the standards. "The degree of consensus is remarkable," he said. "I think a lot of my success has been my ability to work with teachers." — Tamar Lewin

New York Times

May 16, 2012


Add your own comment (all fields are necessary)

Substance readers:

You must give your first name and last name under "Name" when you post a comment at We are not operating a blog and do not allow anonymous or pseudonymous comments. Our readers deserve to know who is commenting, just as they deserve to know the source of our news reports and analysis.

Please respect this, and also provide us with an accurate e-mail address.

Thank you,

The Editors of Substance

Your Name

Your Email

What's your comment about?

Your Comment

Please answer this to prove you're not a robot:

3 + 3 =