Gates Is at It Again: The Common Core-Centered "Collaborative for Student Success"

THE HAGUE, NETHERLANDS - NOVEMBER 13 :  Bill Gates, Microsoft co-founder and Chairman of the Bill and Melinda Gates foundatio
THE HAGUE, NETHERLANDS - NOVEMBER 13 : Bill Gates, Microsoft co-founder and Chairman of the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation arrives for a meeting Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte (not seen) in The Hague, Netherlands on November 13, 2014. (Photo by Yasin Yagci/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

Billionaire Bill Gates really wants the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) for "mass" education.

One was edupreneur David Coleman, who started the "silent partner" organization at the center of CCSS development, Student Achievement Partners (SAP), with pal Jason Zimba and who has since been promoted to president of one of two testing organizations at the center of CCSS development, College Board. Moreover, Coleman and his SAP co-founder Zimba have connections to US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan dating back to 2002, when Duncan was CEO of Chicago Public Schools (CPS) and Coleman and Zimba's Grow Network rode the assessment wave created by No Child Left Behind (NCLB). Here is Grow Network's 2003 contract with CPS.

The other person who asked Gates in 2008 to pay for "2009 state-led" CCSS was CCSS co-owner organization, Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) President Gene Wilhoit. Wilhoit joined SAP in 2013. Wilhoit is now with the University of Kentucky Center for Innovation in Education (CIE), which Gates paid one million dollars in February 2013 to help launch expressly "to advance implementation of the common core."

In 2008, Gates agreed to pay, and he continues to do so.But the Core is having its share of resistance.

It needs a Super Support Group.

Enter the Collaborative for Student Success (CFSS), a "grant making" mega-Astroturf group entirely centered on promoting CCSS.

CFSS was featured as an unquestioned authority on Politico's November 11, 2014, Morning Education page. Here's the clip:

COMMON CORE SCORECARD: The Collaborative for Student Success is circulating a memo today arguing that there's no need for Republican candidates to run away from the Common Core to win over their base. Opponents of the standards may be loud, but they're not mainstream, the memo argues. The evidence: Just six of the 44 governors in Common Core states have expressed interest in repealing the standards. The collaborative's executive director, Karen Nussle, counts just four gubernatorial races where Common Core was a factor: Arizona, Colorado, New York and Pennsylvania. She also notes with satisfaction that pro-standards candidates won in all races but Arizona. "These statistics demonstrate quite conclusively that, far from being a political loser, support for the Common Core does not jeopardize a candidate's political prospects," Nussle writes. The memo:

According to CFSS Executive Director Karen Nussle's Linkedin bio, she is a "communications strategist" who once worked for then-Minority Whip, Republican Newt Gingrich, and who owns her own communications firm. CFSS has not been around for even a year yet- based on Nussle's bio, it seems to have been established in January 2014- yet it has already been positioned as an organization worthy of national news for its "memo" cheering Republicans in their support of CCSS.

That's exactly how grass roots reform works, don't you know.

As noted on the CFSS "Get the Facts" page, here is the so-called CCSS story:

In 2009, state governors from around the country came together with state school chiefs to discuss education reform. ... By early 2010, states began to voluntarily adopt the state standards. ...There has been some confusion about Common Core, much of it based on misinformation and a misunderstanding of what Common Core is, and how much local control states retain after they voluntarily adopt the standards.

No mention of Coleman's dominant role, nor of SAP's central role, nor of the Coleman-Wilhoit 2008 request that Gates bankroll an arguably-national standards effort that the state governors had not just happened to "come together" to create.

And certainly no mention of the hook that CCSS and its federally-funded assessments have become in securing Duncan's state-led-castrating NCLB waivers.

Such facts would only interfere with the single CFSS mission of selling CCSS.

But where there is a shiny new, turfy CCSS organization, there is Bill.

The bottom of the CFSS home page includes the following statement:

© 2014 Collaborative for Student Success. All Rights Reserved. The Collaborative for Student Success is a project of the New Venture Fund © 2014 [Emphasis added.]

Photos throughout this site courtesy of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

CFSS cannot even fake independence from Gates by producing its own website photos.

Indeed, aside from his providing CFSS website photos, guess who is footing the New Venture Fund bill for this CCSS push?

You know it: Bill Gates- to the tune of $10.3 million for "comprehensive and targeted communications":

New Venture Fund

Date: May 2014

Purpose: to support the successful implementation of the Common Core State Standards and related assessments through comprehensive and targeted communications and advocacy in key states and the District of Columbia [Emphasis added.]

Amount: $10,300,300

"Comprehensive and targeted communications" apparently includes Republican politicians following the November 4, 2014, elections. On November 11, 2014, CFSS issued this memo to "interested parties." Here is an excerpt:

Even amidst a Republican wave, candidates elected to statewide governing positions largely resisted pressure to call for repeal of the Standards:

- 86% of Governors in pro-Common Core states have not expressed interest in repealing the Standards (38 of 44 Governors)
- 90% of state Superintendents in Common Core states have not taken steps to repeal the Standards (40 of 44 Superintendents)
- Among the 44 states with Common Core on the books, only six Governors and three State Superintendents have sought to repeal it

Target the Republicans. Be sure that they feel secure in supporting CCSS.

Never mind that the CCSS assessments have yet to hit most of the nation.

Never mind that CCSS cheerleader, Republican Jeb Bush is considering a 2016 presidential run- one that will follow the 2014-15 federally-funded, CCSS-consortium-assessment implementation deadline as such is entangled with Obama-Duncan Race to the Top (RTTT)- and one that could well discolor any previous Republican love affair for CCSS- especially since Republican resistance to CCSS appears to focus on federal overreach into state education affairs.

The CFSS memo does not discuss the as-of-yet looming CCSS assessments to be encountered in most CCSS states during the 2014-15 school year.

An aside: There are some who insist that CCSS can (and should) be divorced from the assessments. However, CCSS was never intended to exist without its high-stakes assessments.Here is a question:

If CCSS is so safe, why is Gates paying CFSS $10.3 million to "target communications" on the issue?

He must still be unsure his CCSS purchase is actually in his Gates-monogrammed bag.

There is another Gates money layer to the CFSS story.

Note that two strategic "partners" on this list are Coleman-founded Student Achievement Partners (SAP), which solely exists to promote CCSS, and Thomas B. Fordham Institute, "expert" promoters of CCSS nationwide.

A number of other CFSS "partners" include business organizations- a hallmark of "economically driven education reform," or the insistence that the chief purpose of education is to serve business.

And you thought education had a loftier purpose.

The CFSS "about" page offers more details about other CCSS-friendly "philanthropy" supporting CFSS:

The Collaborative is supported by both regional and national foundations, including: Carnegie Corporation of New York, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Helios Education Foundation, Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust, William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, Lumina Foundation, and the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation. Other funders may soon be joining this important effort.[Emphasis added']

More "funders may soon" push "state led" CCSS via this CCSS "grant making" machine. How novel in this age of Astroturf.

Though no Astroturfers could beat out Bill for his unrelenting, CCSS money-spew, a word on both Hewlett and Helmsley is surely in order:

First Hewlett: Like Gates, Hewlett also wants CCSS to drive public education in a manner unprecedented by any other set of "standards." In October 2014, a Hewlett-funded, pro-CCSS group released a "report" modeling a CCSS-centered "new accountability" for states willing to take the CCSS-centric bait.

Former CCSSO President Gene Wilhoit is part of this Hewlett-funded group.

CCSS has turned out to be the economic gift that keeps on giving for the likes of CCSS insiders such as Wilhoit and Coleman.

Politico offers none of this fiscally-spider-webbed background on the amply-funded and -connected CFSS. Astounding.

As for Helmsley: In January 2014, Helmsley divided $1.6 million between both national teachers unions, the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) and the National Education Association (NEA) so that teachers could "review" items produced by the two federally-funded CCSS testing consortia, Smarter Balanced and PARCC, and also train other teachers on how to allow these tests to drive classroom instruction.

A corporate-reform-friendly byproduct of this Helmsley-funded effort is that it enables test-driven reformers to advertise that teachers were "involved" in the two CCSS testing consortia.Nice, huh?

Now, one of the best "facts" on the CFSS site is the hologram of "educator" support for CCSS. CFSS lists five national organizations as implied proof positive of teacher practitioner support for CCSS:

There is great support for the Common Core State Standards among educators - from the National Network of State Teachers of the Year, the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics to the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers...

No mention that CCSS part-owner, Gates-funded CCSSO sponsors the State Teachers of the Year; no mention of the Gates money paid to both the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) and the National Education Association (NEA) expressly for CCSS; no mention that Gates dished out dough to the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards for other issues so much so that NBPTS handed him the keynote spot at its March 2014 conference. (In 2010, AFT also handed over a keynote to Gates.)

Of the above five named organizations, only the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) appears to be free of ties to Gates Foundation money. However, let us avoid making the CFSS-induced assumption that since NCTM endorses CCSS, so do the majority of American public school math teachers.

All that CFSS existence has proved yet again is that CCSS is top-down, manufactured "reform." And where there is manufactured reform, there must be "communications strategist"-led, manufactured support.

It's all in the sale. Just ask Bill.


Originally posted 11-12-14 at

Schneider is the author of the ed reform whistle blower, A Chronicle of Echoes: Who's Who in the Implosion of American Public Education