The Kick-off of "Parents as Partners Week": Who is David Coleman and why should we care?


DOE officials are working hard, trying to persuade us that they now have a different attitude towards parents.  Next week is called “Parents as Partners” week, starting off with a meeting on Tuesday at Seward Park High School.  Though today’s DOE press release calls this “a conversation” with the Chancellor, the prescribed topic is the new Common Core standards, and parents will only be “allowed” to submit their questions on index cards.  Clearly, this will be no “conversation”.
In reality, the Common Core standards are being imposed from above, pushed by the Gates Foundation and others, with no proof of efficacy and no input from parents.
David Coleman, who is going to give a presentation on the CC, gave one last April to “educational leaders” hosted by SED; here are  videos and transcripts .  As reported in EdWeek: 
Working under a contract with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, an avid backer of the standards, David Coleman and Susan Pimentel wrote a pair of documents highlighting the key ideas of the standards and describing the qualities of instructional materials they consider a faithful reflection of them.
As of  August 2011, 44 states and the District of Columbus adopted the Common Core, in exchange for the promise of being considered for Duncan’s Race to the Top funds – though by law, the federal government is supposed to stay out of the business of prescribing curriculum.
While Coleman is credited as one of the primary authors of the ELA standards for grades K-8, he apparently has no experience of teaching students either in elementary or middle schools, though he does brag that he once attended PS 41 in Manhattan.  Here is his bio from the SED website:
Mr. Coleman's most recent initiative is Student Achievement Partners, LLC, an organization which assembles leading thinkers and researchers to design actions to substantially improve student achievement. In this process, rigorous policy analysis, research, and design are integrated to focus on the most significant outcomes for students. Student Achievement Partners serves foundations and school districts. Previously, Mr. Coleman founded the Grow Network acquired by McGrawHill in 2005 which has become the nation’s leader in assessment reporting and customized instructional materials. Mr. Coleman was a lecturer at the University of London before going to work in the pro bono education area of McKinsey & Company. He is a Rhodes Scholar and a graduate of Yale University, Oxford University and Cambridge University.
Coleman is also listed as on the board of The Equity Project, Zeke Vanderhoek’s hugely hyped but underperforming charter school; Vanderhoek bragged on 60 Minutes about firing teachers that the year before, he had gone to great lengths to recruit.  His mother is Elizabeth Coleman, president of Bennington College, who eliminated tenure in 1994 and fired one third of the faculty.
The details of the Common Core are beyond my level of expertise, but one fact stands out:  Coleman has rigidly prescribed that in grades K-5, at least half of the material read by students must be non-fiction, or what he calls “informational text”. 
 As pointed out by Susan Ohanian, he also disparaged the writing of personal narratives in his speech hosted by SED:
Do people know the two most popular forms of writing in the American high school today? …It is either the exposition of a personal opinion or it is the presentation of a personal matter. The only problem, forgive me for saying this so bluntly, the only problem with those two forms of writing is as you grow up in this world you realize people really don't give a sheet  about what you feel or what you think.” 
 Only the video shows that he pronounced the word “sheet” differently from the way SED chose to spell it.
Similarly, one could say the same about the attitude of DOE and SED towards parents.  Like so much else of they do, they want to inculcate us with the value of the CC, though they never bothered to ask us what we thought of it before adopting it.
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