Common Core exposé ties motive to money in undercover video

Printed from:

BOSTON – Project Veritas, a nonprofit “guerilla reporting” organization that has made headlines exposing questionable practices at taxpayer-backed activist groups like now-defunct ACORN, released an undercover video on Tuesday that it says shows Common Core is little more than a publishing ploy to sell more textbooks.

The national Common Core State Standards Initiative in public schools is “all about the money,” the group says in highlighting a sales executive’s comments caught on a hidden camera in California. As with any video, there’s no easy way to tell how much it has been edited or to judge the context of what is being shown.

The video, released at 10 a.m. Tuesday, has already scored its first victim – Dianne Barrow, a West Coast accounts manager for Boston textbook powerhouse Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

Barrow is shown saying she “hates kids” and is “in it to sell books.” But she also says textbook publishers motives have more to do with profits than with helping children learn.

“Don’t even kid yourself for a heartbeat,” Barrow adds in the video. “You don’t think that the educational publishing companies are in it for education, do you? No, they’re in it for the money.”

Houghton Mifflin reportedly fired Barrow after London’s Daily Mail newspaper asked about the video.

“It’s all about the money,” Barrow is seen telling an undercover Project Veritas journalist. She didn’t immediately respond to a voice-mail message seeking comment.

The individual who made these comments is a former employee who was with HMH for less than a year,” Linda Zecher, Houghton’s chief executive, said in a statement distributed by the company.

“Houghton Mifflin Harcourt is as appalled by these comments as we expect readers will be,” Zecher said. “These statements in no way reflect the views of HMH and the commitment of our over 4,000 employees who dedicate their lives to serving teachers and students every day.”

Project Veritas reporters also secretly recorded a teacher from New York’s Brooklyn borough spouting off in an obscenity-laced tirade slamming Common Core as a “new (expletive) system that (expletive) sucks, to sell more books and then we have to learn something new with the students.”

“Oh my God, it’s all a money game,” the public school teacher says.

Common Core, which aims to establish consistent educational standards across the nation, has been adopted by 42 states and the District of Columbia. The initiative has prompted criticism that it runs counter to the spirit of the 1965 Elementary and Secondary Education Act which bans the federal meddling with local school curriculum development. President Barack Obama’s 2010 “Race to the Top” initiative provided financial rewards to states that adopted the standards.

Critics assert that Race to the Top, which offered grants to participating states from a $4.35 billion pool, favored applicants who agreed to adopt Common Core.

Common Core’s official website, however, counters that the Race to the Top program “does not specify the Common Core or prevent states from creating their own” standards.

“Many states that were not chosen for Race to the Top grants continue to implement the Common Core,” the website’s fact sheet adds.

Patrick Humphries, president of the Greater Boston Tea Party Organization, said Tuesday he was first alerted to the Project Veritas investigation last week. Humphries said Common Core is a focus for his group, adding that it strongly backs a ballot initiative aimed at dumping the standards in Massachusetts, which began implementing them in pilot programs several years ago.

Then-Gov. Deval Patrick, a Democrat and Obama supporter, pushed for the adoption of Common Core after the state won $250 million from the Race to the Top pool, according to a report in Commonwealth Magazine. In July 2010, the Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education voted unanimously to adopt Common Core standards. Patrick praised the move, claiming the new system is “consistent with our MCAS” and that Common Core “will enhance the commonwealth’s already rigorous standards.”

In November, however, the education board voted to ditch the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, or PARCC, tests, which are aligned with Common Core. The state board instead adopted a “hybrid” testing system combining PARCC with the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System, a new set of tests called MCAS 2.0.

MCAS, Humphries noted, was considered the national “gold standard” for statewide academic assessments after its adoption in the early 1990s.

If anything, the nation should be looking at our standards,” Humphries said.

Humphries recalled that the Massachusetts Business Alliance for Education led the way to implementing MCAS. The alliance, however, quickly backed the Common Core initiative in 2010.

Critics of PARCC and Common Core, including the Pioneer Institute, a Boston-based conservative think-tank, have argued that the new methods have been corrupted by “big money.”

“Follow the money,” said Humphries, echoing an oft-repeated tenet of investigative reporting and corruption probes.

Tuesday’s video will be the first in a series of reports from Project Veritas, Humphries said, citing contacts the group initiated Friday. “There’s more to come.”