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‘Common’ Goal: Corporate Ownership Of Education

Above photo: Oakland Education Association members and supporters of public education marched and rallied in Oakland against charters and privatization of education. From

And our children’s futures.

Common Goal. Part I.

Lamar Alexander and Patti Murray didn’t (really) write the new Every Child Succeeds Act (ESSA). The Business Roundtable (BRT) did. See the BRT resounding endorsement for ESSA here. Ok, they didn’t write it in the literal sense. Kind of like ALEC only writes “model”legislation. or maybe as they say it in their own words:

“Thanks to the efforts of our CEO members and partners in the civil rights community who worked with leaders in Congress, the new law is consistent with the principles Business Roundtable released and promoted while the legislation was being developed.”

Or let me share the Business Roundtable “Principles for Reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act” guiding principles.  Pretty much ESSA in a nut shell.

Let me break this down for you:

By now, those of us who are fighting for public schools are pretty aware of how the Common Core state standards (CCSS) were crafted behind the scenes by corporate interests (via ALEC and The Business Roundtable. If you need a primer on that first, see HERE and HERE.

For a full list of education reform organizations associated with ALEC click here.

The final culmination of all their efforts is the control of both the content (what is taught) and method (how it’s delivered). CONTENT is covered in PART I of this blog. METHOD is covered in Part II.

It started (circa 1984 when UNESCO first coined the term Common Core) in a document called “A Methodological Guide to the Application of the Notion of Common Core in the Training of Various Categories of Educational Personnel.” It will end (post 2016) with the “disruptive, innovative, personalized, career and college ready” ELIMINATION of public education. The passing of ESSA has delivered everything the Business Roundtable wanted on a silver platter: Control of educational content, methods of privatization (charters and outsourcing services) and alternative assessments for teacher and teacher education “accountability.” They say this in their own wordsOne Business Roundtable (BRT) spokesperson says: “We are particularly pleased that the final legislation includes challenging academic standards; annual testing; increased transparency of school performance through state, district and school report cards; required state action to improve low performing schools; and enhanced support for public school choice and charter schools.”


Content is the “WHAT” we teach in a curriculum. Call it Common Core, call it  state-created “career and college ready standards.” Call it “lilly lala poohpa” for all I care. We can pretend that the adoption of the ESSA bills means that states DON’T HAVE to adopt CCSS and that we now have more “freedom” to choose standards. I can also pretend that unicorns exist… but that does not make it so. Member of the Business Roundtable have been supportive of the idea of national or Common Core standards for decades.

They’ve even devised COMMON EMPLOYABILITY SKILLSThis document was crafted by something called theNational Network (within the BRT). Look this document over. Notice the overlaps with the new K12 “career and college ready standards” in your state or district. For example see how these Language Arts goals (below) in the Common Employability Skills paper eerily reflect the new language arts Common Core goals:

“READING: Understanding written sentences and paragraphs in work-related documents • Read and comprehend work-related instructions and policies, memos, bulletins, notices, letters, policy manuals and governmental regulations • Read and comprehend documents ranging from simple and straightforward, to more complex and detailed • Attain meaning and comprehend core ideas from written materials • Integrate what is learned from written materials with prior knowledge • Apply what is learned from written material to work situations.”

Career and college ready objectives are designed in the likeness of their corporate sponsors. The Common Employability Skills paper states: “Educators and other learning providers will also have an industry-defined roadmap for what foundational skills to teach, providing individuals the added benefit of being able to evaluate educational programs to ensure they will in fact learn skills that employers value.”


According to their website, “The National Network represents major business sectors and is funded through a collaborative partnership of Business Roundtable (BRT), ACT Foundation, The Joyce Foundation, Lumina Foundation, Bill and Melinda gates and Walmart Foundation. Members include leaders in the manufacturing, retail, health care, energy, construction, hospitality, transportation and information technology sectors.” Now recall that 1984 UNESCO document entitled “A Methodological Guide to the Application of the Notion of Common Core in the Training of Various Categories of Educational Personnel.”

So if I am reading this document correctly, our children must spend 12+ years of their lives learning what it is that Walton, Broad and Gates value? Now their investment in the Common Core standards begins to make much more sense. The standards were always the intended gateway toward privatization (see more about this under Method).  These CEOs are calling for a modernized Higher Education Act and are working to ensure career and technical education programs authorized under the Perkins Act align with employer needs. 

The National Network of Business and Industry Associations, calls itself “an innovative partnership that joins 25 organizations focused on better connecting learning and work.” Their goal is to develop tools that:

  • articulate the common employability skills required for workers across all career fields;
  • rethink how various professional organizations build credentials to help workers move easily between professions; and
  • increase the use of competency-based hiring practices across the entire economy.

So one can read between the lines here now and see the clear intersections between bullet one and Common Core standards, while bullets 2 and 3 signal the development of competence-based (CBE) or outcomes-based education. One can begin to see how easily CBE fits in with the BRT goal in their Common Employability Skills document where they write: “This model can take its place as the foundation for all industries to map skill requirements to credentials and to career paths.” They add that educational institutions will be EVALUATED based on their ability “to ensure students will in fact learn skills that employers value.”

NOT coincidentally in May of 2014 UNESCO put out a report declaring the “need for tools to measure non-cognitive and ‘21st Century Skills’ in order to assess young peoples’ readiness to enter the workforce”.


Since the BRT had influence in the new ESSA legislation, and the intersections between BRT corporate goals and education reform policies are designed to achieve those goals, it’s logical to surmise how ESSA was designed to suit the needs of corporate interests.

Still not convinced?

Meet Dane Linn, the Vice President at Business Roundtable, who oversees the Education & Workforce Committee, advancing Business Roundtable positions on education reform, U.S. innovation. (wait until you see who the President of BRT is in Part II of this blog!)

According to the BRT website: “Linn joins the BRT most recently from The College Board, where he served as Executive Director of state policy. Prior to The College Board, Linn served as Director of the Educational Policy Division of the National Governors Association (NGA) Center for Best Practices. During his 16 years in this role, Linn represented governors’ education policy issues at the federal level and to state and local associations. He also co-led the development of the Common Core State Standards, which have been adopted by 46 states.”

We need to become keenly aware of the language and intention of ESSA now-we do that by becoming familiar with whose interests it really serves and who its core architects truly are and what this means for the future of our children.

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