Chip Cherry Doesn’t Understand Common Core



Chip Cherry doesn’t know what he’s talking about.

Yesterday The Huntsville Times, which doesn’t seem to concern itself with anything resembling accuracy so long as it can stamp the word “opinion” on it, published a piece by the President and CEO of the Huntsville/Madison County Chamber of Commerce written in support of Alabama’s version of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) called the Alabama College and Career Ready Standards (CCRS).

And no, despite having the power of the chamber of commerce behind him, he doesn’t evidently even know how to subtract.

Mr. Cherry does a fine job of repeating the CCSS claims made by CCSS supporters, but as with most of the CCSS or CCRS supporters, he offers absolutely no evidence supporting his claims.

So, lets run down these claims:

CCRS Development and Adoption History

The Alabama College and Career Ready Standards are aligned with the Common Core State Standards, developed by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers more than a decade ago and voluntarily adopted by 45 states plus the District of Columbia.

From the beginning Mr. Cherry is attempting to re-write history.

It is true that Alabama’s CCRS are “aligned with” CCSS. On this count he is correct. Many CCRS supporters (even many whom I highly respect like Larry Lee) will try and claim that Alabama significantly re-wrote the Common Core Standards.

This is not true. Alabama’s version of CCSS is practically identical to the national version of CCSS. You can compare Alabama’s CCRS to the National CCSS by looking at the standards found on their two sites. Here is CCRS. Here is CCSS. If you compare them side by side, you’ll see that they are, as Mr. Cherry states, “aligned.”

Unfortunately, that’s about the last thing that Mr. Cherry gets right.

Work began on CCSS in 2009 by the Achieve organization a group of business leaders and politicians, not “more than a decade ago” as Mr. Cherry claims. More than a decade ago is more than 10 years, not less than half that time. As Achieve included governors from many states, this work was quickly moved to the National Governors Association. This work was funded primarily by The Gates Foundation.

The National Governor’s Association pulled together a group 60 individuals in 2009 to write the standards. This group included two work groups of 25 people with the following composition:

  • 6 from College Board,
  • 5 from ACT
  • 4 from Achieve

There were no teachers on either work group. Not one.

In the Feedback Groups of 35 people. which looked at the work accomplished by the work groups, were populated by predominately college professors.

There was one classroom teacher involved in one feedback group.


These standards were written in private almost entirely by the businesses who will directly benefit from making every school system in the nation teach exactly the same thing: testing and textbook companies.

No wonder the Chamber of Commerce supports the adoption and implementation of these standards.

He’s correct that 45 states along, the District of Columbia, four territories, and the “Department of Defense Education Activity” have adopted the standards.

Most of the states adopted CCSS within a year of their creation by the Gates Foundation funded NGA/Achieve group.

From creation to adoption in less than one year.

You know what that didn’t leave time for? There was no time for review, trials, assessments, input from teachers, or input from parents.


CCRS/CCSS Is Rigorous (Total BS)

Cherry later wrote:

The defense community in particular has recognized that rigorous national standards are essential. A workforce with inferior skills in science and technology will undermine national security as well as compromise financial and information networks.

There is zero evidence that CCSS/CCRS will increase rigor. None. It hasn’t been put through any trails of any kind.

As I wrote back in February, would anyone in this city other than Mr. Cherry think that implementing a new standard, to the tune of $40 million here in Huntsville alone, without testing these standards in anyway is a good idea?

As Cindy Lutenbacher, a teacher in DeKalb County public schools wrote on Wednesday:

Common Core … robust … rigorous academic standards … global economy … 21st century workplace … competitive … college-ready … Duplicitous buzzwords ad nauseum, we’ve heard them ten thousand times in the barrage of press releases about Common Core. And every one is bogus.

“Bogus” is a bit too kind for my tastes. Total BS is more likely. Business leaders, like Mr. Cherry, do love their buzzwords, when they’re trying to sell you something. And that is exactly what the Chamber of Commerce with Mr. Cherry as their leader, are trying to do.

This is entirely about the transfer of public money into private corporations.

A highly conservative estimate is that implementing common core will cost between $8 and $16 Billion dollars. If Huntsville is any indication, that estimate is far too low.

Schools Must Be Uniform Nationwide

It’s a shame that Mr. Cherry never studied logic in school. If he had, he might have realized that the next two parts of his argument contradict one another. (It’s also a shame that The Huntsville Times didn’t either I suppose.)

First he claims that:

One way to help raise student achievement across the country is to identify what students should know at each grade level, adopt curriculum that aligns with those benchmarks, and assess performance against those same benchmarks, regardless of the state residency of the child.

In other words, as he goes on to appeal to our local military families, if a child has to move from state to state, that child should be covering the same material at the same grade level nationwide.

The only way such a goal could be achieved is if CCSS were far, far more than a simple set of  “benchmarks.” If this goal were possible, the only way it would be possible would be if the CCSS instituted a national curriculum. Individual states, individual school districts, would no longer be able to decide upon their own curriculum. The only way for a student to move from school to school, district to district, or state to state and be at the same level would be if every classroom, nationwide, were teaching the exact same material on the same day.

In other words, for this to happen, CCSS must be a national curriculum.

But, Mr. Cherry goes on to write that it isn’t:

The standards have also been misinterpreted as curriculum or content.

Curriculum – what is taught in the classroom – is still determined in Alabama by local education districts that choose from a list of options approved by the state.

Well, sir, which is it?

Either we’re going to be uniform nationwide or we’re not. But we cannot be uniform without a uniform curriculum, you know like the book of criteria that Core Authors released to textbook publishers about what should be in a Core curriculum.

But lets use our reason her for a moment. What will this uniformity mean for our classrooms. Well, once again a teacher shows the way:

it destroys the creativity and spontaneity of the very best teachers. “No, kids, sorry—we can’t pay attention to that bird in the window. Right now we’re focusing on ‘ask(ing) and answer(ing) questions to demonstrate understanding of a text, referring explicitly to the text as the basis for the answers.’”

Creativity in a classroom? What a waste of time when there are tests to be taken.

Silly teacher.

The Zero-Sum Mentality Strikes Again

Mr. Cherry wraps up his “opinion” the way he began–with the assumption that if we’re not “Number 1” that education has no benefit.

He begins by talking about rankings:

In 2010, we ranked an embarrassing 40th in the nation. Since then, we have advanced six places — not good enough, but a genuine beginning. Our continued progress is linked to the State’s Plan 2020 that is based on rigorous academic standards adopted by the State Board of Education in 2010.

He concludes his opinion in a similar vein:

[CCSS/CCRS] enable states and even individual schools to gauge their achievement against a national standard.

You know, Mr. Cherry, you might want to read up on those “rigorous academic standards” adopted by the State Board of Education in their “2020” plan a bit more. It seems that those rigorous academic standards are dramatically different depending on one’s race or ethnicity. But you see what he’s saying here, right? Being 40th out of 51 (counting the District) is “embarrassing.” Being 34 out of 51 is, too.

Honestly, I know that I live in a state that has brought home the National Championship in football for the past 4 years, so Alabama likes to be #1. And there should only be one #1. But education does not work that way. The student who ranked #2 still received an excellent education. In fact, if the education was individualized to meet the student’s needs, the student “ranked” #23,000 out of 23,000 also received an excellent education because it met that student’s needs.

Just because my son, who is on the autism spectrum, will likely never score as well on a standardized test as my daughter, who is not on the spectrum and is usually at the top of her grade levels in the “rankings” does not mean that my son is receiving a substandard education.

His education is just a valuable to him and to his future ability to contribute to society as the education that my daughter is receiving. In fact, it is more valuable for this simple reason. My daughter will contribute to society regardless of the education she receives. My son needs special assistance to reach that goal.

Education is not about being “#1.” It’s about finding a way to bring all of our children into society in such a way that they can contribute to it.

Rankings are for sports teams, not for children. And anyone who tells you otherwise is trying to sell you something.

To the tune of $16 billion dollars.

No thanks, Mr. Cherry. Your vision of education is fundamentally flawed. If you were an actual educator, perhaps you could understand that.

As it is, it would be best if you simply sat down and shut up. You’re embarrassing us.

"Children see magic because they look for it." --Christopher Moore, Lamb: The Gospel according to Biff, Jesus' childhood pal.


  1. As teachers were sitting at Columbia with brand new lap tops attempting to log on to the system it just couldn’t handle the load. It was a mess. Pearson folks just kept marching and telling us how this program would be the end of an educator’s worries.. The train had left the track, teaching was no longer “teaching”- it was reading the blue script in the TE, testing, being beaten up when our “dots” (test scores) didn’t rise, and the endless data! Good Lord the data collected! Yes, testing, checking progress, reteaching, and having high expectations – all necessary, but so is seeing that child as an individual and taking them from where they are when they arrive day one and moving them forward academically w/o applying pressure or unnecessary stress to them.

  2. I haven’t been able to locate good ol’ Chip’s opinion piece, but I wonder if he mentioned that the Chamber of Commerce is holding a forum THIS WEDNESDAY to discuss the Common Core Standards. Registration deadline for this event was today, but don’t worry — it’s already full.

    1. And of course the meeting is full. It was likely full before they decided to hold it. The Chamber has made a habit of scheduling events for a very small, select group of participates.

  3. Hello Russell, and may I say an excellent post. I found it through Diane R’s twitter feed. I am a university professor and oversee an ELA program at a regional university. I lament the lack of teacher involvement in this process and the entire, shall we say, top down approach. But I will say this: in comparing CC to ALCOS in my content area, I do see clarity and continuity and a focus on literacies, which in contrast lead me to prefer CC. However, and this is a big however, I see no need for an expansion of the testing mandate, rather it should be shrunk. We already have national tests, ACT/SAT, and do not need more. Student performance is best monitored, best overseen by the classroom teacher, the trained professional on the ground. The local community and the state apparatus need to address the resources made available to students to address and to compensate for income inequality, the single greatest factor in determining why students perform the way they do.
    Ideally CC should have been implemented in a range to 3-5 paradigms, metropolitan, urban, suburban, rural, small city, for a period of at least 3-5 years so as to provide working models for the entire state. These laboratory districts would have provided data and accessible experiences for the state. However, once more, those on the ground were not consulted. So now after the fact, perhaps the best approach to take is to say CC is here but corporatizing and privatizing of public schools are not inevitable, nor is a lockstep march into the horrors standardized testing and having the tests drive the curriculum and entire organization of schools. I think the focus needs to be on shifting our focus to in-class, onsite evaluations that are meaningful and arise from the pedagogy and the curriculum and away from standardized tests and the corporate powers the benefit from them.
    The real key, to my mind, is the mediocrity of the curriculum materials, those expensive packages and endless worksheets we pay so much for. But that topic is for another day.

    1. greenrootstn,

      Thanks for your comments and especially for taking the time to read my postings.

      The reason that I believe that CCSS will lead to additional testing, and an increased reliance on standardized testing is two-fold.

      First, this is what has happened in my district. My children have seen a dramatic increase in both summative and in particular standardized formative testing this past year, and the justification for this testing is always CCSS. I have yet to hear of a single district that has begun implementing CCSS that hasn’t also increased both formative and summative testing in a standardized manner.

      Second, RttT specifically requires both formative and summative testing to evaluate student “growth” as well as teacher, principal, school, district, and state performances. While CCSS doesn’t require in itself an increase in testing, it’s adoption does lead to an increase in testing.

      I do certainly hope that I’m wrong.

      You’re also right that Common Core is here. However, since it went from a proposal to adoption within basically a year’s time, it would seem that we can certainly move quickly when we want to (or as I point out in my current post, when we’re bribed to do so).

      The primary reason I’m not willing to accept the idea that CC is here now, is simple: I think it wrong. I think the way it was developed and pushed on the states is also wrong. Further, I’m convinced that if we simply move on, we won’t learn from our mistakes.

      Having said that, I do understand the importance of picking one’s battles. And as such, yes, CC is likely a done deal.

      Either way, I appreciate your insight, and your willingness to share it.

      Good to meet you,

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