Reject Do Not Use, Ohio Knitting Mills,” Steve Snodgrass

December 11, 2018;

The New York Board of Regents should turn down a $225,000 Gates Foundation grant because it is a conflict of interest, writes Nicholas Tampio, a Fordham University political scientist and education policy critic. The grant in question would support a “targeted communication” campaign aimed at promoting a “common understanding” about “learning standards, accountability indicators, and other Department policies.”

Tampio is the author of Common Core: National Education Standards and the Threat to Democracy, released by Johns Hopkins University Press. He writes that the Gates Foundation “has poured hundreds of millions of dollars into the writing, promotion, and implementation of the Common Core standards. The Gates Foundation has awarded grants to a wide array of groups including the National PTA, the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, the American Federation of Teachers, the NEA, The Education Trust, and the National Urban League.”

NPQ has written about the Gates Foundation’s obsession with common core standards a number of times, including in a 2016 article by Marty Levine, who wrote:

[Gates Foundation CEO Sue] Desmond-Hellman has led the foundation as it has invested heavily in the effort to create a national set of learning standards, the Common Core Curriculum. Despite over $300 million in foundation funding, alliances with other large foundations, and strong support from the US Department of Education, the effort has drawn bitter opposition and decreasing support. The strong push that the DoE gave states to implement the Common Core was seen as an unwanted intrusion of federal power into local schools. The use of Common Core to build a testing regimen for students and teachers was seen as disruptive and ineffective. Test data show little impact on bridging the inequity gap in states using Common Core.

Tampio likens the situation to the heavy pre-selling of an expensive movie, in that “advertising can inflate opening day ticket sales, but then a movie sinks or swims based on word-of-mouth. The Common Core standards are a bomb, and no amount of advertising can make people enthusiastic about them. Making a few changes, primarily to the explanations, and renaming them as the Next Generation Learning Standards should not fool anyone.”

Tampio also accuses the foundation of trying to control the narrative with public relations grants. This is also far from a new charge about that institution, which has taken to serially apologizing for its anti-democratic behavior but is well known for its grants to media organizations covering topic areas in which Gates has major initiatives.

“Parents have been waging a valiant effort to get the Regents to hear our grounded critique of the reform agenda,” Tampio writes, “The Regents should do the right thing and say no thank you to the Gates Foundation.” Meanwhile, perhaps the Gates Foundation might consider the time and energy parents and other stakeholders must spend organizing against Gates initiatives instead of for ones they can believe and invest in among the costs of its growing number of failed educational efforts.—Ruth McCambridge