What makes a marketing expert qualified to write educational standards that have become the de facto nationalized standards for schools across the country? Nobody knows. And the National Governors Association (NGA)—a Washington DC based trade group which holds no legislative authority, yet spearheaded the development of the Common Core—isn’t telling.
In a July, 2009 press release the NGA stated “The Work Group’s deliberations will be confidential throughout the process.” Since then, the NGA continues its shroud of secrecy as to how the standards writers were chosen for the Standards Development Work Group and how the standards themselves were developed.
However, when the states committed to adopting Common Core in their Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), the agreement professed: “The CCSSO and NGACenter will convene Achieve, ACT, and the College Board in an open inclusive, and efficient process to develop a set of end-of-high school expectations in English language arts and mathematics based on evidence.” (This language can be found on page 129 here under the section titled Develop K-12 Standards in English Language Arts and Math.)
Martha Vockley, principal and founder of the marketing business VockleyLang LLC, was a member of the English Language Arts (ELA) Work Group. It’s still a mystery how this group was formed with no classroom teachers, special education teachers, or early childhood specialists.
So who is Martha Vockley? According to her Web site, she is an award winning writer and project manager. What did she write about that won her an award? Was it anything education related? Maybe for some of her marketing work? No. Her award winning article titled Safe and Secure? Healthcare in the Cyber World can be viewed here.
While Vockley has no publisized professional teaching background per se, her Web site boasts of a lovely portfolio of brochures and other promotional materials created for schools and educational organizations. Vockley is also listed as a team member for Grunwald Associates, a company which offers market research, business development, and strategic consulting. Her profile at Grunwaldshows she has a master’s degree in professional writing and a bachelor’s degree in English.
Sandra Stotsky, the only ELA content expert on the Common Core Validation Committee refused to sign off on the standards that Vockley helped develop. Numerous criticisms have been leveled against the ELA standards, including the increased emphasis on the reading of informational texts. Stotsky asserts, “A diminished emphasis on literature in the secondary grades makes it unlikely that American students will study a meaningful range of culturally and historically significant literary works before graduation. It also prevents students from acquiring a rich understanding and use of the English language. Perhaps of greatest concern, it may lead to a decreased capacity for analytical thinking.”
In addition to the concerns regarding the de-emphasis of literature, questions have been raised about the appropriateness of the literary examples that made the cut into the copyrighted set of standards. Parents across the country expressed outrage over books such as The Bluest Eye and Dreaming in Cuban, listed as reading exemplars in Appendix A of the Common Core State Standards. With no transparency as to who suggested these books for the exemplar reading list, it is unclear if Vockley supported adding materials such as these, which some consider nothing more than soft porn.
These exemplars cannot be removed from the appendix by state boards of education without violating the copyright. Nor can the weight given to informational texts be changed without copyright infringement. In fact, there is no clear process to amend the standards, even by the copyright holders, The National Governors Association Center for Best Practices (NGA Center) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO). .
With the upcoming election cycle, voters are looking for the Colorado gubernatorial candidate Bob Beauprez (R) to demand answers from incumbent John Hickenlooper (D) who currently serves as vice-chair of the NGA. Hickenlooper might wish to avoid questions about Vockley and the NGA’s role in Common Core State Standards—questions like:
-How do you find it acceptable for states to sign a Memo of Understanding (MOU) that pledges “an open inclusive, and efficient process” in the development of the Common Core State Standards, yet the NGA—the organization for which you are vice-chair—insists on keeping the selection process secret regarding the hiring of standards writers and the creative process of writing the standards? What is the NGA hiding?
-As vice chair of the NGA,what concerns you about the only mathematician on the Validation Committee—a mathematician who happens to be affiliated with NASA—refusing to sign off on the Common Core Math Standards?
-As vice-chair of the NGA, what is your response to the only content expert on the ELA Validation Committee refusing to sign off on a set of standards that were developed in part by a marketing expert?
-Why won’t the NGA release how the standards writers were chosen and by what criteria they were selected?
-Why won’t the NGA share the minimum qualifications for standards writers?
-Why won’t the NGA waive confidentiality agreements signed by Work Group and Validation Committee members to allow for transparency in how the standards were developed?
-Why won’t the NGA share who elected marketing expert Martha Vockley to be part of the Standards Development Work Group—the group tasked with writing the Common Core State Standards? Who made the decision to hire her?
While who elected Martha Vockley for the Common Core Work Group remains unknown, Colorado voters will be deciding in November if they want to re-elect NGA vice chair, John Hickenlooper.
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