'Common Core' and CORE? Has the Chicago Teachers Union sold out too cheaply to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation on 'Common Core' nonsense?

The Chicago Teachers Union Drinks the Gates Kool-Aid? On November 12, 2012, the Chicago Teachers Union sent out an announcement, via its website, celebrating the 12th Annual Teachers for Social Justice Curriculum Fair. The curriculum fair, held on Saturday November 17, is co-sponsored by Teachers for Social Justice and Rethinking Schools. Great! But if you scroll down the announcement, you'll come to the "Current Professional Development Offerings."

2013 Chicago Teachers Union Quest Center New Teacher Professional Development Offerings

All courses aligned to the new CPS Framework for Teaching and the Common Core State Standards $195* for Three Hours Graduate Level CPS Lane Placement Credits and/or 45 CPDUs/PTPs

Organizing the Elementary Classroom for Teaching and Learning Organizing the High School Classroom for Teaching and Learning * Price does not include book fee/materials fee, if required (see individual course descriptions). Price quoted is for CTU members only.

To explain the Common Core, the Quest Center links to EngageNY, a document of the New York State Department of Education which emphasizes the "Data-Driven Instruction cycle" (DDI).

Watch those verbs

The CTU notes that "CPS is not currently mandating any particular lesson plan format system-wide" but advises teachers that "including Blooms Taxonomy verbs in your objectives will provide clarity regarding the type of work students will do to show their competency with the skills you are teaching."

It is interesting to note that the advice CTU gives teachers contradicts what Common Core architect David Coleman preached. He debunked "prior knowledge," insisting that students be directed to the text and only the text.

Q: What does "text complexity" mean in relation to the CCSS? I’ve heard that we should only be giving students very challenging, non-fiction texts to read. A: The CCSS initiative describes text complexity in terms of three factors: quantitative measures, such as Flesch-Kincaid (readability) levels; qualitative evaluation, such as levels of meaning, complexity of themes, and language conventionality; and "reader and task" considerations, such as the relevance of a particular text to the students' prior knowledge and experiences as well as to the task at hand. All three factors should be considered equally when selecting text for students to read. The CCSS contain specific guidelines for how much fiction vs. non-fiction text students should be reading at particular grade levels, which are described in the CPS Literacy Content Framework; while teachers are expected to follow these guidelines, it is still up to teachers to determine exactly what their students will read, taking all three factors into consideration when choosing specific texts.

"Best Practices" is the answer

Q. What should I do to meet the needs of my special education students? A: The standards were written with the assumption that with appropriate accommodations all students, including those with exceptional needs, can achieve them. You should continue to differentiate your instruction, following all IEP requirements, goals, and modifications, and implement "best practices" in your curriculum to meet the needs of all your learners.

Yes, indeed, teacher. Just implement "best practices" and you'll do fine.

The reader is directed to the Chicago Public Schools website, where the first thing encountered is a PowerPoint slide declaring, "CPS consists of a system of schools that prepares every student, in every community, to succeed in college and career."

How cynical can it get? Chicago has over 100 schools without libraries. Not to mention the more than 15,000 homeless children.

Recommended websites: Just Ask Bill

For more advice, the CTU tells teachers that the following websites contain "useful, reliable information about the Common Core State Standards."

This harkens back to Bill Clinton's infamous "It depends upon what the meaning of the word 'is' is. If the—if he—if 'is' means is and never has been, that is not--that is one thing. If it means there is none, that was a completely true statement"

I would parse the CTU use of "reliable" the same way. Achieve the Core, AKA Student Achievement Partners, the outfit founded by David Coleman that received $18 million from the GE Foundation to push the Common Core

ASCD, which has received millions from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to promote the Common Core

Common Core Curriculum Mapping Project, whose development was financed by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation

ISBE Common Core [Illinois State Board of Education], which makes the bold claim that the Common Core is "evidence-based." They don't say whose evidence.

PARRC online needs no introduction

The Teaching Channel, which has received $11,076,761 from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to push the Common Core. I provide more information here.

The National PTA OK, I laughed out loud. The PTA received buckets of money from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to promote the Common Core, and that's what they do.


Three cheers to CTU for not mentioning the AFT Share My Lesson offal, which is the worst collection of junk traveling as Common Core lessons that I have encountered. Research Needed The CTU Quest Center makes this claim: CTU's Quest Center conducts research on issues important to our members and to all public education advocates. They offer position papers on the following topics:

Class Sizes

High Stakes Testing

Merit Pay

Extended Day

The CTU Question Center doesn't seem to have a position paper on the Common Core. It's past time for them to do some real research in this area--instead of just offering teachers hot links to people who have swallowed the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Kool-Aid. Here's the back story.

The Chicago Teachers Union Quest Center awarded $600,000 American Federation of Teachers Innovation Fund Grant

Aug. 30, 2011 The Chicago Teachers Union Quest Center has been awarded a grant for $600,000 ($200,000 for each of the next three years) by the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) for their proposal to hire teams of teacher leaders to partner with the Union's curriculum and instruction experts. The grant will create model units of instruction, classroom performance assessments, and materials aligned to the new, higher and more rigorous set of state-adopted Common Core State Standards (CCSS). The CCSS identify what students are expected to know and be able to do in math and English language arts. Eight teacher development teams will also train colleagues across the district to tailor the model units to meet the unique learning needs of each classroom and capitalize on the pedagogical strengths of each teacher. This is the first time CTU has been awarded this competitive grant. The CTU Quest Center is one of only five recipients of the Innovation Fund grants, supported by the AFT and several private philanthropies.

The Chicago Teachers Union sold out way too cheaply. And who did they sell out to? The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Broad Foundation were among big funders of this AFT grant. Whatever Bill wants, Bill gets--even from the Chicago Teachers Union.

— Susan Ohanian

November 14, 2012

Index of Common Core [sic] Standards


November 16, 2012 at 1:41 PM

By: John Whitfield

Standards being part of the problem

I don't know if "sold out" is the correct terminology, but Susan is the leader of the resistance to the abusive ways they are using standardized test scores, and the excessive amount of testing they bestow upon our students. We have battles raging on many fronts, as we all know. I have great respect for Susan, having seen her present at the State Biilngual Education conferences over the years. Susan is right up there with Steven Krashen and Alfie Kohn. That is, taking on "Common Core" standards would be like a 3rd party candidate taking on the republicrats, though it's been done. We need IFT / AFT and IEA / NEA solidarity to start, along with entities like PURE (Parents United for Responsible Education) and Substance. The latter two with resistance leaders like Sharon and Julie are already on board, needless to say. Union bureaucrats shouldn't take the title personally, but to keep remembering their roots in the rank n file, and those affected by the standards, students and teachers as well as administrators. Kohn, for one, states that "standards are part of the problem." But Alfie goes into great detail to support this argument, which we hear too little about.

November 17, 2012 at 10:18 AM

By: Rod Estvan

Resistance or subversion of the common core?

Susan Ohanian raises important points on the common core and urges resistance on the part of teachers to their imposition. I would suggest unfortunately that the war against the common core has been lost. Teachers will implement the common core, just as public school teachers have implemented other changes in curriculum dictated by powerful forces in our society which are inherently dedicated to training a disciplined work force that will be both more productive and less expensive than the generation that proceeded it.

The best path for progressive teachers is not direct opposition and resistance in the form of failure to implement the common core, but rather subversion to the extent that is possible, along with injection of aspects of more progressive pedagogy where possible. Direct opposition will at least in CPS lead eventually to the firing of the teacher.

I took note of Ohanian reference to special education where she notes CCSS best practices “The standards were written with the assumption that with appropriate accommodations all students, including those with exceptional needs, can achieve them. You should continue to differentiate your instruction, following all IEP requirements, goals, and modifications, and implement "best practices" in your curriculum to meet the needs of all your learners.”

Access Living, for which I am an education policy analyst, has examined this issue as part of its formal paper on Illinois’ Performance Evaluation Reform Act some time ago. This paper was reviewed in an extensive article by Substance which readers can look up. We simply do not agree that all will be well if students receive appropriate accommodations, in fact we have argued that each and every IEP for students with disabilities should have embedded in them specific academic growth expectations linked to the individual realities of students that were agreed to by an IEP team.

This idea was rejected both by the Illinois State Board of Education, special education administrators, and some special education teachers who are members of statewide organizations because if explicit growth standards were embedded in IEPs using standardized measurements drawn from defined assessments then litigation by parents against school districts would be far simpler than it is now. Currently we have vaguely written expectations based on standards statements which are open to legal interpretation in a variety of ways.

Currently, unless the student with a disability has astute parents in districts throughout Illinois, they are being passed from grade to grade with minimal academic advancement. Effectively for far too many students with disabilities, special education has become a custodial process to get them though public education with the least pain and cost possible as the late founder of Designs for Change Dr. Don Moore once correctly said to me.

Rod Estvan

November 18, 2012 at 12:45 PM

By: Jackson Potter

Common Core

I agree with Rod on this one. We have to navigate a litany of mandates that we may or may not agree with. The CTU could refuse to help our members cope with any of the new requirements, and then we'd be guilty of abandoning the people who elected us to defend their interests. It would be irresponsible to argue that we could dismantle a set of standards so deeply embedded into law and practice by simply refusing to engage. Additionally, the far more dangerous aspect of common core is the battery of exams that are beginning to emerge, not the standards themselves. Increasingly, fighting the lure of high stakes testing and their destructive impact upon curriculum and instruction, is where we need to focus our collective energy.

November 19, 2012 at 8:52 PM

By: Susan Ohanian

Common Core

I agree with Jackson Potter that the Common Core is just a delivery system for the Real Thing: The National Test, which politicos and the Business Roundtable have yearned for ever since Arkansas governor Bill Clinton held hands with IBM chief Lou Gerstner--and delivered America 2000, the precursor to NCLB and RTTT, for President Bush the Elder. Clinton never got the national test he yearned for, but now Obama has brought it home. You can see a sample item from the test that Illinois 10th graders will take:§ion=Article

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