Common Core Funding U.S. Department of Education

Laura Chapman: The Federal Marketing Campaign for Common Core

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You have probably read many times that the Common Core standards are not related in any way to the federal Department of Education. Don’t believe it.

Reader Laura H. Chapman investigated the marketing campaign paid for by the U.S. Department of Education:

“Federal policies are so alien to the educational thought and practice that USDE has funded a full-scale marketing program in an effort to secure compliance with these measures.

“For compliance with Race to the Top, for example, USDE’s offered a $43 million grant to IFC International, a for-profit consulting and public relations firm. The grant was for two purposes: (a) to create the Reform Support Network (RSN) enabling Race to the Top grantees to learn from each other, and (b) to promote promising practices for comparable reforms nation-wide. The grant included $13 million for nine subcontractors, each with specialized skills for RSN’s marketing campaign.

“The sophistication of the marketing campaign is suggested by one of the largest subcontracts— $6.3 million to Education First. The founding partner is Jennifer Vranek, a former advocacy expert with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. She and others working for Education First helped a number of states apply for the RttT competition. They have fashioned PR campaigns for the Common Core State Standards in many states. The firm’s website includes a sample of the firm’s communication and advocacy services: “Outreach and public-engagement strategies and activities; strategic communications planning; reports, white papers and articles designed to synthesize, explain and persuade; development of communications tools, including marketing materials, web copy, press releases, and social media content.” (Education First, website 2014).

“Here is one example of RSNs work. In December 2012, anonymous contract writers for RSN published a portfolio of suggestions for marketing key policies in RttT. “Engaging Educators, A Reform Support Network Guide for States and Districts: Toward a New Grammar and Framework for Educator Engagement” is addressed to state and district officials. It offers guidance on how to persuade teachers and principals to comply with federal policies

“Engaging Educators then packs about 30 communication strategies, all portrayed as “knowledge development,” into four paragraphs about “message delivery options.” These include “op-eds, letters to the editor, blast messages, social media, press releases,” and regular in-house techniques (p. 4). RSN writers emphasize the need to “Get the Language Right,” meaning that messaging should focus on improving student learning (p. 6).

“Among the other suggested techniques for messaging are teacher surveys, focus groups, websites with rapid response to frequently asked questions, graphic organizers placed into professional development, websites, podcasts, webinars, teacher-made videos of their instruction (vetted for SLO compliance), and a catalog of evocative phrases tested in surveys and focus groups. These rhetorical devices help to maintain a consistent system of messaging. RSN writers also suggest that districts offer released time or pay for message delivery by “teacher SWAT teams that can be deployed at key junctures of the…redesign of evaluation systems” (p. 9).

“The marketing campaign calls for the use of “teacher voice groups” as advocates for reforms. A “teacher voice group” is RSNs name for a non-union advocacy collective funded by private foundations favoring pay-for-performance. Five voice groups are mentioned by name. All have received major funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation: Teach Plus ($9.5 million), Center for Teacher Quality ($6.3 million), Hope Street Group ($4.7 million), Educators for Excellence ($3.9 million), and Teachers United ($942, 000). Other foundations are supporting these groups. For example, Teach Plus receives “partner” grants from eight other foundations including the Broad, Carnegie Corporation of New York, Joyce, and several investment firms.

“Of course, the marketing campaign for the Common Core is not limited to this paper trail to federal funds. Another marketing program can be seen this USDE website, that just assumes teachers should be implementing the CCSS…

“Foundation money is also keeping the marketing campaign in place. For example, a website operated by Student Achievement Partners—key players in writing and first stage marketing of the CCSS— is made possible with funds from the GE and Helmsley Foundations see”;

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