Common Core – How the Spiders Got Into PA

The Infestation Begins

In the PA Bulletin published October 16, 2010, the PA Dept of Ed announced that after a three-year process of revising the state’s own standards (wonder how much time, money and resources we spent on that effort), they were switching course and going with Common Core State Standards (CCSS):

“Following action by the Governor and then-Secretary of Education Zahorchak on June 4, 2009, the Board withdrew its proposed standards on September 9, 2009, to join the Common Core initiative.”

It goes on to say that Professor Suzanne Lane of the University of Pittsburgh did an independent study to:

“… compare the public draft of the Common Core released Nationally on March 10, 2010, with the proposed State-level revisions previously referenced. Dr. Lane’s study revealed comparable levels of rigor and relatively similar content alignment between the Common Core and the Commonwealth standards (Lane, 2010).”

The first draft of Common Core was not released until March 2010, but then-Governor Rendell made the decision to change course in June 2009. PA officially withdrew the proposed standards in September 2009 and joined the Common Core initiative before Suzanne Lane had even reviewed the public draft. I don’t know who Suzanne Lane is, I’m sure she’s a knowledgeable person, but why not seek opinions from a few more professors and experts?

The House and Senate Education Committees received  regular, biweekly updates on Common Core. Adam Schott, Executive Director of the State Board of Education gave testimony at the May 4, 2010 Senate Education Committee Hearing in which he said:

“The Common Core initiative, while closely linked with Race to the Top, is a state-led effort, facilitated by the Council of Chief State School Officers and the National Governors Association (NGA). Forty-eight states, two territories and the District of Columbia have joined in the process of writing a common set of English/language arts (ELA) and math standards that are ‘research and evidence-based, aligned with college and work expectations, include rigorous content and skills and are internationally benchmarked.’ After examining the policy questions around Common Core, conferring with colleagues from other states, and briefing education stakeholders, the Board has cemented its intent to replace our state’s existing mathematics and ELA standards with the Common Core … “

This is the standard propaganda line about Common Core we’ve heard ad hominem.

He gave two conditions for the “cementing” of the standards. The first criteria being that they are properly vetted and the second criteria is that the Common Core standards are equally if not more rigorous than Pennsylvania’s current standards. On one hand, State Ed lauds it’s own standards as being some of the most rigorous and robust in the nation, but we were in the process of revising them and then abandoned them to sign on to Common Core, which ended up being very closely aligned to our standards anyway. Huh?

Properly Vetted?

See Common Core Commotion – PA’s Sunshine Laws Left Most of Us in the Dark.


Are we expected to believe that all these states organically came together and agreed to one set of standards and accepted that they would be owned and copyrighted by the National Governor’s Association, to which each state can only add, not replace or delete, 15% of its own content? And all in a short period of time.

Research and evidence based?

The claim that the English Language Arts (ELA) and Math standards are “research and evidence-based” defies logic. There is no research or evidence, unless “research and evidence” is now subjective opinions and claims from the very organizations involved in the design and development of the standards. Saying it doesn’t make it so. How can there possibly be research and evidence on standards and assessments that haven’t even been fully implemented?

Internationally Bench-marked?

When I searched the term “internationally bench-marked” to see exactly what it means, one result led me to Achieve, Inc.’s web site, another spider organization weaving the Common Core web, which gives the following definition:

“In education, international benchmarking typically refers to analyzing high-performing education systems and identifying ways to improve our own systems based on those findings. One of the main ways to identify high-performing education systems is through international assessments, particularly the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) and Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS). Consistent high-performers include countries like Singapore, Finland, Korea, Canada and Japan.”

First of all, in some of these other countries, only selected students, aka “the best and brightest” actually take the PISA test. In the U.S., we test just about everyone.

The web site has a ‘Myth vs Fact’ page that discusses the “myth” that the standards are not internationally benchmarked. It says in response:

“Standards from top-performing countries played a significant role in the development of the math and English language arts/literacy standards. In fact, the college- and career-ready standards provide an appendix listing the evidence that was consulted in drafting the standards, including the international standards that were consulted in the development process.”

So is “playing a significant role” and being “consulted in drafting” the same as “benchmarking”? Who knows. The world of Common Core is full of doublespeak and linguistic tap dancing. When we find out about one thing and discover it is misleading or untrue, they just start calling it something else. I’m surprised the name of Common Core hasn’t been changed to “Unicorns and Lollipops” by now.

Using Finland as an example of one of the “high performing” countries to which Common Core was “internationally benchmarked,” I did a search on what Finland’s education system looked like. See my next post – Common Core – Benchmarking to Finland’s Success for what I found.

Next:  Common Core – ‘Benchmarking’ to Finland’s Success




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