REDMOND, Wash. – A new, run-of-the-mill press release about a Texas school district’s technology purchases is, in actuality, a revelation about the real motivations behind the Common Core learning standards experiment.
On Sunday, the Microsoft Corporation issued a news release trumpeting the Pasadena Independent School District’s decision to purchase “12,900 Dell Venue 11 Pro Tablets with Windows 8.1 and Microsoft Office 365 with OneNote” for its students and teachers.
Pasadena is the latest addition to a growing list of districts that are spending huge sums of tax dollars to put Microsoft devices, programs and services into their students’ hands.
The district’s decision was announced during the International Society for Technology in Education conference – “the world’s largest ed tech conference” – which runs through July 1.
“There is a massive transition to digital happening across the country and around the world in education, and schools looking to prepare their students for the world beyond the classroom are empowering their students and teachers by providing devices, services, training and other elements needed for improved student outcomes,” Margo Day, vice president of U.S. education at Microsoft, said in the news release. “At Microsoft, we are proud to be a partner with so many great schools that are leading the way forward for education and in preparing our youth for tomorrow’s workforce.”
If the last part of that Day’s quote sounds familiar, it should. Former Microsoft CEO Bill Gates and other Common Core supporters have used that same language – probably word for word in some instances – to justify the one-size-fits-all learning standards that they’re busy foisting onto schools in more than 40 states.
The official fairy tale – er, “narrative” – of Common Core goes something like this: a group of well-meaning governors and big-hearted philanthropists got together and spontaneously decided the best way to improve America’s K-12 system was to create a set of “rigorous” and uniform learning expectations that would elevate and guide student learning in all 50 states.
What they didn’t mention was that synchronizing instruction among most of the nation’s 13,500 school districts allows Microsoft and other technology companies to create a suite of K-12 products and services that can be universally used in classrooms without any messy or expensive state-specific alterations.
Common Core actually makes far more sense when it’s viewed as part of a money-making scheme – advanced by corporations and the politicians they control – than an attempt to improve the nation’s public education system.
It’s a fact that Microsoft and other companies are enjoying – or will soon enjoy – a financial bonanza from the standards experiment.
What students will get out of the bargain is far murkier. The math and English learning benchmarks that make up Common Core were never field tested on actual students in actual classrooms before they were adopted by more than 40 states. A group of education scholars have gone so far as to argue that Common Core represents a step down in quality for students in many states.
Let’s be clear: only anti-modernists in the mold of the Unabomber would oppose efforts to use technology to invigorate and revolutionize K-12 education. There’s no reason why Americans can’t have exciting new technology in their kids’ classroom while preserving the long-held principle of locally controlled schools.
We understand that creating a one-size-fits-all education system would make things easier and more profitable for Microsoft and other companies. But in our view, that’s simply too high a price to pay.