Malloy administration recruits “Dream Team” to sell Common Core to Connecticut teachers

38 Comments

The Malloy administration is implementing a new Common Core PR extravaganza.

Initially Malloy and his team wanted to run a $1 million Connecticut taxpayer funded pro-Common Core advertising campaign.

But when a political firestorm forced them to back down, the Malloy team came up with a different publicly funded campaign to sell the Common Core.  This time the brainchild is from an out-of-state company hired by Commissioner Stefan Pryor to manage the effort.

The company hired to lead Connecticut to the Common Core Promised Land is called Learnzillion.com.

Learnzillon.com will train teachers on how to persuade their fellow teachers to better appreciate the Common Core and become proficient at utilizing the Common Core to prepare students from kindergarten to high school to become “college and career ready.”

According to Learnzillion, the Common Core Dream Team is;

 “…a group of extraordinary teachers from around the country. They represent district, charter, and private schools, and bring with them a diversity of experiences and backgrounds. This group is united in their goal to develop themselves and each other, through a collaborative process of creating, curating, and sharing high-quality resources for use with students.

But being on the Dream Team is about more than creating great content—it’s about being a member of a vibrant and enthusiastic community of educators who are eager to help others and hopeful about the future.

We’re currently recruiting talented teachers of math and ELA in grades 2-12 to join the 2014 Dream Team. Dream Team members are selected through a highly competitive application process. We’re looking for teachers who are not only content-area experts, but also those who are eager to share and collaborate with others, hungry for feedback, and excited about growing their leadership skills.”

Dream Team members will be trained and then paid to bring the Common Core to Connecticut’s public schools.

In this case, 97 Connecticut public school teachers have been recruited.

In addition to the taxpayer funds, LearnZillion has been raising funds on Wall Street.  According to Techcrunch.com, just a year ago, “To help it scale and continue to add content to its free resource, [LearnZillion announced] that it has raised $7 million in Series A financing.”

According to the company, “Teachers and parents can get access to the LearnZillion platform for free, while schools and districts are required to subscribe to a paid, enterprise-level plan, which gives them access to premium professional development content, teaching insights and analytics, among other things.” 

So Learnzillion is collecting money from the state taxpayers so it can train public school teachers to better appreciate the Common Core.  Then company, in turn, can then cash in by getting school districts to subscribe to a “paid, enterprise-level plan” to access their information paid for my Wall Street investors.

And what gives Learnzillon.com the skills to take on this herculean task?

Just take look at the classroom experience the company’s Board of Directors brings to the effort…

  • Robert J. Hutter is a Managing Partner of Learn Capital. Rob is chairman of Edmodo, a leading social learning network for K12, and he also serves on the boards of several Learn Capital portfolio companies including Schooltube, BloomBoard, MobLab, and LearnZillion. Rob was co-founder of Edusoft (acquired by Houghton-Mifflin). 

  • Commissioner Pryor not only retained the services of Learnzillion.com but Hutter’s Learn Capital Portfolio Company, BloomBoard, also snagged a lucrative Connecticut contract. 
  • Mark Jacobsen has advised companies and entrepreneurs for over 25 years. According to his website, “He loves working closely with entrepreneurs and helping them build their companies.” Mark was a co-founder of O’Reilly AlphaTech Ventures in 2005. Mark is currently a board member of AMEE, Betabrand, CollabNet, Planet Labs, Fast.ly, LocalDirt, LearnZillion, OpenSignal, O’Reilly Media, Path Intelligence and SeeClickFix. 
  • Andrew Klingenstein has over 15 years of experience investing in and providing legal and business assistance to start-up companies in the DC area.  For many years, he was a principal and co-founder of Fairfax Partners, a Virginia-based venture capital firm specializing in IT and healthcare companies. 
  • Peter Moran currently focuses on Digital Health (Augmedix, Covered, Rayvio) and Tech Enabled Education (LearnZillion). Over the past 15 years, he led DCM into new sectors including interactive Gaming (Trion Worlds), altering Consumer Experience (FreedomPop, Slice), and a diverse array of Enabling Technology including novel energy storage solutions (Enovix), companies focused on improving energy efficiency via LED lighting (Bridgelux), and next gen semiconductors (Analogix). 
  • Joanne Weiss recently resigned her position as United States Secretary of Education Arne Duncan’s Chief Staff.  She was in charge of Race to the Top Funding. Before joining the Department of Education, Weiss was Partner and Chief Operating Officer at NewSchools Venture Fund, a venture philanthropy firm.   Prior to her work at NewSchools, Weiss was Chief Executive Officer of Claria Corporation, “an e-services recruiting firm that helped emerging-growth companies build their teams quickly and well. 

The whole scam is a dream come true for the corporate education reform industry and they have Governor Dannel “Dan” Malloy and Commissioner Stefan Pryor to thank for the business opportunity.

Check back for  more about Malloy’s use of taxpayer funds to persuade us that the Common Core is the “solution” and the array of out-of-state consultants the Malloy administration has hired to “educate” us about the benefits of the Common Core.

  • educationmatters

    Go watch the original Robocop…and then try and tell me it isn’t a spot on piece of prophecy.

  • JMC

    Astounding. Keep flipping up the rocks and shining the light of truth on these insects, Jon!

    • JMC

      In Soviet army pictures from WW2, there’s always a Commissar with a pistol standing behind the assault troops. And there were Kapos in the German death camps. Like them, The Dream Team will come back with some honorific title and some DOE authority, and then proceed to terrorize and pollute the public schools, submit loyalty reports, and work as scabs for the introduction of CCSS and TFA temps.

    • Linda174

      With a $500 stipend for three days and additional virtual collaboration hours plus the summer CCS lollapalooza day each teacher will make less than the new minimum wage requirements recommended by the Malloy admin. Learn zillions rakes in the dough while teachers slave for chump change. And who will use these scripted, canned, corporate coerced CCS “lessons”? Very few, but Pryor can now check the box “proving he provided support for teachers”. For me this is a display of disrespect for teachers and our valuable time/expertise. We are human capital to be used and manipulated.

      • JMC

        I wonder if they’ll use Sleep Deprivation on these future cultists and Shame and Guilt on the hesitant.

        • Linda174

          You get free coffee, muffin and a wrap for lunch and grateful to be “chosen”. CT makes new strides in Grittology, did you hear?

          http://curmudgucation.blogspot.com/2014/04/ct-makes-new-strides-in-grittology.html

          • JMC

            Awesome funny essay. And I like blogmaster Peter Greene’s quote from his 3-23-2014 essay on the reformy set: “If I can help just one kid figure out the right bubble to fill in on his test, I will feel like I’ve made the world a better place.”

  • Michelle Viers

    How many former Obama officials are cashing in on Common Core?

    We should keep a count.

  • Castles Burning

    Scam? 1.5 million dollars for a company that not only can locate (see Linda174′s graphic above) 97 teachers of “dream” status in CT, but somehow discovered a concept overlooked by most educators when trying to teach their students. They gave it an-easy-for-teachers-to-remember acronym (PCK) and I anticipate that the changes in the educational world will be much publicized. With the 1.5 million now perhaps more can learn about PCK from this teacher-saving organization::

    “It’s hard to teach a lesson. It’s harder to teach it well. And it’s particularly hard to teach it in a way that resonates and sticks with students. Teachers not only have to understand their content, they have to know the best way to teach it.

    This idea of Pedagogical Content Knowledge (PCK) – knowledge of the content and the way to make it accessible to students – is at the heart of LearnZillion. PCK has become even more important with the depth that is now required by the Common Core State Standards. Our offerings are meant to help get teachers started with lessons that were designed with PCK in mind.”

    Scam you say?

    • loveteaching

      Thank you. As a teacher one should look at this an opportunity to enhance our practice, better understand the common core, and ultimately help better educate our students. Politics need to take a back seat to what is good for kids. The standards were put in place a few years ago, and now as a teacher I have an opportunity to learn more about the standards, and implement lessons with input from other teachers. Typically I have to pay to learn new initiatives, go to training, and pay for continuing education classes. How can I make an honest opinion about new standards without diving deeper and practicing with them. Our focus needs to shift away from the who supports the standards, and move towards how to create dynamic, authentic lessons and units that excite kids to learn. Get rid of the high stakes testing and let kids love learning. Too much time is being wasted arguing the politics behind the common core, and not the application and how to best serve kids.

      • Linda174

        That’s if you agree with the CCS and the process by which it was developed. When did that take place? Did I miss it?

        And it’s not just CCS…it is tied to and never to be separated from SBAC and teacher evals tied to test scores. It is a trifecta well planned ahead of time. The GATES USDOE will NEVER give up the HST. I am not sure laying out all the facts is arguing.

        A Quick Summary:

        I) WHAT IS COMMON CORE?

        What many call ‘Common Core’ is really a set of initiatives that were introduced to states via the Race To The Top Funds.
        In order for states to quality for the Race to the Top Funds, they were required to:

        1) Implement the new Common Core State Learning Standards

        2) Use new standardized tests to evaluate student and teacher performance

        3) Set-up a longitudinal database which contains student demographics and performance data

        Part of a larger political project to remake public education in order to implement new national standards and tests for every school and district in the country in the wake of dramatic changes in the national and state context for education reform

        A well-financed campaign of billionaires and politically powerful advocacy organizations that seeks to replace our current system of public education with a market-based, non-unionized, privately managed system.

        The CC standards were initiated by private interests in Washington, DC, without any representation from the states. Eventually the creators realized the need to present a façade of state involvement and therefore enlisted the National Governors Association (NGA) (a trade association that doesn’t include all governors) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), another DC-based trade association. Neither of these groups had a grant of authority from any particular state or states to write the standards. The bulk of the creative work was done by Achieve, Inc., a DC-based nonprofit that includes many progressive education reformers who have been advocating national standards and curriculum for decades. Massive funding for all this came from private interests such as the Gates Foundation.

        II) WHO WROTE COMMON CORE:

        The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation provided the funding to write the new standards.

        Two Washington DC trade organizations: The national Governor’s Association (NGA) and the Counsel of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) worked with education industry partners to write and trademark the new standards.

        Those principally involved in CCSS development, one views a listing of 29 individuals associated with Student Achievement Partners, ACT, College Board, and Achieve. In truth, only 2 out of 29 members are not affiliated with an education company.

        Two years later, CCSS were released by the National Governors Association (NGA) Center for Best Practices and the Council of Chief State School. Development of the standards themselves was headed by David Coleman, labeled the “architect” of CCSS and now president of the College Board. Coleman’s background includes consulting and assessment, not education, and Coleman also represents the entrepreneurial backing CCSS have received, including funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

        In all, there were 135 people on the review panels for the Common Core. Not a single one of them was a K–3 classroom teacher or early childhood professional.” Parents were entirely missing. K–12 educators were mostly brought in after the fact to tweak and endorse the standards—and lend legitimacy to the results.

        III) Who Funds and Benefits from Common Core?

        It is important to know that think tanks, CCSS developers, teachers unions and reform organizations have all received large grants from the Gates Foundation to promote Common Core. These Gates funded organizations span the political spectrum.

        The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation pours money in support of the Common Core. Goldman Sachs contributes to the Partnership for Public Service committed to the Common Core.

        All are part of “Big Philanthropy” and are taking advantage of draconian cuts to state education programs by privatizing what states used to provide.

        The “nonprofit” Student Achievement Partners, founded by CCSS “architect” David Coleman, also benefits handsomely via Gates. All that Student Achievement Partners does is CCSS, and for that, in June 2012, Gates granted Coleman’s company $6.5 million.

        In total, the four organizations primarily responsible for CCSS– NGA, CCSSO, Achieve, and Student Achievement Partners– have taken $147.9 million from Bill Gates.

        IV) SUMMARY

        In sum, CCSS has been developed by political and corporate leaders without expertise or experience in education. Top-down, standards-driven education de-professionalizes teachers, devalues the field of education, and reduces students to passive learners. And commercial interests, not students, will gain from implementing CCSS,

        The capitalists have figured out how to open up public schooling to private capital and how to have public monies transferred to private companies. You get schools to “fail” by setting up ridiculous benchmarks (such as “No Child Left Behind” and now “Common Core”); and then when the school has failed, you take it out of local control and turn it over to charter school companies and other “reformers.” All federal funds are tied to these programs and each district will receive funding, or not, based on their performance.

        Standardized testing is not about “assessment” of student “competency”; it is a big stick to whack teachers and break their unions

        Common Core is an insurance policy for mega-corporations, and following close behind in the fine print is the proliferation of charter schools and vouchers, and all are to the detriment of our schools and our society.

        The Common Core was a prerequisite for a particular BUSINESS PLAN for ed tech to be used for the training of the children of the proles (everyone else’s children). The Common Core is the engine that drives the education deform juggernaut.

        • jrp1900

          Linda174; Excellent Comment. You are right that the Common Core is part of a much wider dynamic to remake public education.

      • sue

        How do you plan to use your new expertise to teach the rest of us?

      • Castles Burning

        I want to say this in the gentlest way possible. I hear that you want to make an informed for-yourself opinion about the standards and that is noble . . . I hear you wanting to teach without having to “waste time” on politics and that is why I strongly recommend that you reread what has been said here and on blogs like Diane Ravitch.

        One can no longer ignore the politics and privatization as it is RUINING public education as the comments to you and around you indicate. It is a hard realization to come to, but I trust that you will make it because you care about the students and want to be a good teacher. Be wary and, as someone near and dear likes to say, be aware. You must educate yourself politically and this blog is an excellent place to start.

        I wish that I could accept your thank you, yet I am accepting the spirit in which it was written. My comment was pure sarcasm. Teachers do PCK without even needing a name for it.

      • Philip Stull

        At some future point you will realize that this effort is not about improving education nation wide but about wealth transfer. Corporate America wants in on the $$$ going to public education and teacher’s salaries and retirement monies are just some of the areas that they want to decrease. If Comon Core is so great why do they not want it in the schools that their children and grandchildren go to. Do you believe that if this was being required of the elite private schools that they would not be yelling about big government intrusion into their schools. Read, reflect, and imagine a system where all schools teach the same lessons every year so that their students pass a national test and if you wanted to change what you teach or the method that you find most effective, you are told NO!

      • JMC

        How can you better understand the common core when its makers make every effort to conceal the questions in it? D’ya think there might be a reason for that? You might as well attempt to understand unicorns better.

      • cindy

        As a parent, your comment is so hard to read. Imagine a world where corporations push GMO foods into our public schools. And the teachers just said “let’s not worry about where this all came from. Let’s just make it palatable and help the children enjoy their meals.” You really have to look into this deeper.

        Yes, this is all very revolutionary, precisely because it extracts the love of learning and discovery and true critical thinking out of education and substitutes it with an artificial, diluted, exercise in building skills which will then be measured on Standardized tests. I really don’t think children will reflect on their educational experience and think back fondly on all the teachers who helped them pass those tests. You sound like a young, and very new teacher. Please dig deeper.

        • jonpelto

          Well said Cindy…

        • loveteaching

          I am not young, and not a new teacher.

          • cindy

            Ok, so I rescind that comment. But testing, feeding test-prep, personalized one-to-one technology learning, focus on skills over quality content, bad bad bad for children. And just like GMO’s, we will not know the impact for years. This is an experiment that has people ignoring truth about children, ignoring data on why schools and children “fail.” and no amount of dream team lessons will fix that. While teachers blindly do what they are told, without question, without critical thinking, our educational system disintegrates, and will not meet the real needs of students.

      • Guest

        I commend what you are doing. As usual, not one single comment here is directed at the content of the standards, but rather at the politics. My children have been tremendously successful since the district I live in started implementing a CCSS progressions-aligned curriculum two years ago. We live in a diverse community with some of the best teachers in the state. I wonder if more people actually read the progressions instead of just looking at the ridiculous assignments in textbooks, they might think “yes, this is exactly what learning should look like.” Keep fighting the good fight, and continue to make it the right fight. I don’t love every standard, but at least I’ve read them and can attest that they are a huge improvement over what we had pre-2010.

        • Billy Smidders

          I’ve read them [CCSS] and can attest that they are a huge improvement over what we had pre-2010.

          Please do so. Thank you

          • Linda174

            We’ve read them. We live them. It’s not simply the standards as they come with baggage attached. The Gates USDOE rules us all. The standards become the curriculum when test scores determine student, teacher and school worth. The curriculum narrows. SBAC drives all. Just wait. And couldn’t learn zillions cough up a little more than slave wages for our “dream team”? By the way I don’t teach standard children who are common. I am not preparing widgets for corporate America. I believe in supporting children to become informed, free thinking, independent caring citizens. What they choose to pursue as their passion is their choice, not pre determined by the Gates education industrial complex. Respect children, teachers and humanity.

          • Linda174

            The CCS is not revolutionary. The focus on reading and writing in the content areas was established many years ago, the CT blueprint for literacy. The math standards were 80% aligned with CT. The ELA standards are a jumbled mess. The goal is to create new markets and an additional layer of top down control funneling more tax dollars from local budgets. It has little to do with improving teaching and learning. At least learn zillions could cough up more than slave wages for our “dream team”. It’s all about the money. Kids are props.

            “In the corporate press release, News Corporation Chairman and CEO, Rupert Murdoch told reporters, “When it comes to K through 12 education, we see a $500 billion sector in the U.S. alone that is waiting desperately to be transformed by big breakthroughs that extend the reach of great teaching…Wireless Generation is at the forefront of individualized, technology-based learning that is poised to revolutionize public education for a new generation of students.”

          • Linda174

            Can’t edit for some reason. The ct math standards when reviewed were 80% aligned with the CCS. Actually CCS math dumbs down in the high school years compared to what we now offer. And the loops kids have go through for basic math is ridiculous.

          • Billy Smidders

            Linda, you are spot on and I couldn’t agree more. My question was intended for guest to answer in his/her reply to loveteaching… The jargon used is 100% reformer… “progressions-aligned curriculum”…

  • jrp1900

    As you make your way through the LearnZillion text, your heart sinks: you are forced to exclaim: “look at what they doing to the language of education!”

    First, the idea of a “dream team” of teachers is vulgar and stupid. There are many good teachers and undoubtedly there are some bad ones. But there is no surefire way to come up with the top 100 “extraordinary” teachers, supposing one even wanted to engage in such a puerile and mindless exercise. It’s no accident that the term “dream team” has been lifted from the sports world. Because in the sports world it’s all about competition, and the best are those who are willing to compete. The teachers who signed onto this nonsense are implicitly agreeing to a model of education as competitive struggle, exactly the model being pushed by the corporate reformers.

    So the Dream Team is set to engage in a “collaborative process of creating, curating and sharing high quality resources for use with students.” I take it that “high quality resources” refers to lesson plans and instructional materials and the like. But if so, wouldn’t we be one step nearer to a standardized curriculum? Common Core defenders say that the Core is about standards and not curriculum, but the implication of the language above is that the Dream Team is looking to develop “resources”, “great content,” for other teachers to draw on. This is certain to have an effect on curricular choices, especially when the State has thrown its weight behind the Dream Team as a perfect authority. Incidentally, I love the use of the word “curating” in this context. It’s a nice pretentious touch, high-sounding but empty. It conjures up a bygone age of the teacher as the custodian or guardian of academic knowledge and tradition. Today’ teachers are little more than conduits for marketing “educational products and services.”

    “vibrant and enthusiastic community of educators.” Pure marketing hype. The typical language of those who make a living by selling cars, beer and baked beans. Now these people are bringing their methods to bear on selling education. Hmm…

    “developing leadership skills.” In today’s Wallmartized United States, “leadership skill” is a key component in the value of “human capital.” The corporation is always on the look-out for those bright and “enthusiastic” employees who are natural leaders. When the leaders compete with each other that’s good–because it forces everyone to reach for their best. And the other nice thing about having leaders is that by definition you also have followers. Corporate Education reformers would like to see teachers compete with each other and they would like to see the teaching profession more hierarchically organized. Beware when you hear them prating on about “leadership”–what they really have in mind is competition and stratification among teachers.

    The LearnZillion scheme is typical of privatization. The Private Company hires (bribes!) some politicians to pass legislation and policy in its favor. Hired guns are put into office to do the company’s bidding. The guns dole out the big-time contracts to the company. The company corners “the market” and is a virtual monopoly. The executives and shareholders of the company make out like bandits. It’s just piracy and plunder all the way!

    • Linda174

      AFT is tweeting this accomplishment:

      @MeridenPatch: 6 Meriden Teachers on CT Common Core ‘Dream Team’ http://t.co/4LH0auyhpF

      • Mary Gallucci

        The rank and file needs to challenge the AFT leadership. It can be done–there are measures you can take.

        • riled

          How ? Needs to be done. They are endorsing Malloy and are expecting rank and file to canvas. Must be stopped dead in its tracks and Peters et all have to go. How do we do it?

          • Billy Smidders

            How much of our paychecks go towards union dues? Not sure what I am paying for. Look at the past 4 contracts and compare to our current contract… Slow bleed.

  • brutus2011

    The edu-reformy folks want a way to be able to get rid of teachers whenever it suits them. Common Core and all testing strategies are management tools to control labor and costs while providing a way to shift accountability from those who make the most money. This is not about learning or pedagogy or effective teaching–it is about money and power and control.

    All teachers who cannot see this should be forced to take Econ 100/101 all over again….

  • Guest

    I feel sorry for the children. Every day, this blog reveals yet another blow to any chances for real education to happen. Teachers must understand that they are deeply involved in politics whether they like it or not. To bring real and equitable education to all children, teachers must be sociopolitical agents of change and stop “burying their heads” in the classroom.

    • Unknown guest

      You need to realize that one major reason that some teachers “bury their heads” is for survival. You have no idea how fast retribution can occur should a teacher speak anything contradictory regarding their school administrators or district. I have seen it happen and I have been a target of it. At one school an administrator went around prior to the SBAC testing farce and actually told the juniors that should they not show up to take the test of the test that, as a result of said lack of participation the school would lose $$$, then the result would rest on their shoulders. So what happened? Kids showed up for the “test” and then spent hardly any time taking it seriously! I say good for them. They “participated” and now the school may? get some money?? but the results are clearly worthless.
      You also need to ask yourself; where do teachers have the time to fight this onslaught of b.s that is continuously pushed our way? Our day is filled enough, please and thank you. Students, parents, administrivia pumped out by non-educator administrators take command of all our attention and strength.
      Not only that but it would seem that our own unions are holding back on truly speaking out and against all of this and one is left to ask – Why? Why is the CEA quiet about D.Boy and his announced re-election? Why are they quiet about the Dream Team and the fact that this group of individuals can discuss anything EXCEPT getting rid of CCSS?
      So before you condemn teachers you better take another and more illuminated look at what we already have to do.

  • Guest

    These teachers are sellouts. They are being used as part of a propagana machine. Pure and simple.

    • Castles Burning

      They are being used but maybe they do not yet realize it. I would not characterize “loveteaching” from all that I can tell as a sellout.

  • Brian James Moore

    As a member of the CT Dream Team I have experienced Teach Fest in April and the Summer Academy just a few days ago. Both of these events were the most valuable professional development sessions I have ever participated in. There are about 1000 educators from across the state who participated in the Summer Academy earlier this week and according to surveys from the event over 97% of them found it valuable and enriching. There is a lot of hatred being thrown around about the common core out there; however the real professional educators are spending time enhancing their skills so they can be better prepared to go back this fall and lead a new group of students to succes. I have read the common core standards extensively and the skills and knowledge te common core requires students to obtain is exactly what we need. Let’s stop making up excuses and start doing the hard work of getting it done.

    • jonpelto

      Let’s for a moment say that the standards are the way to go and professional development will provide teachers with additional background that will allow them to “better teach to the new standards.”

      If the corporate education reform industry (and the likes of Malloy and Pryor) were serious about the standards, they would be phased in, strict standardized testing would not be held immediately and students, teachers and schools would not be punished for their “failure” to meet those standards immediately.

      The standards are not the issues – but in fact – are nothing more than a place holder for the effort to privatize “failing” schools and divert scarce funds toward more testing, test prep, textbooks, software, consultants, computers, internet bandwidth etc…

      There is nothing wrong with enhancing standards and even aligning standards at a national level – but the issue is the connection between the “new” standards and the children and teachers and schools and communities that will then be punished for “failure” when that “failure” is inevitable because the process is not properly implemented and the resources needed are not equitably distributed.