Billionaire software tycoon Bill Gates has poured some $200 million into efforts to develop and promote the Common Core State Standards Initiative, a set of K-12 math and language arts curriculum benchmarks and high-stakes standardized tests now implemented in classrooms across America.
Under the auspices of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Gates and his wife dropped an effort to convince leaders in American Catholic leaders to adopt Common Core, Catholic Education Daily reports.
The Gates Foundation thwarted its own plan to generate support for Common Core among Catholic leaders when an employee representing the Council for a Strong America, a Gates Foundation grantee, got in contact with the wrong Catholic.
The Council for a Strong America employee is Sara Pruzin, a state operations liaison for the Gates-funded nonprofit (and once an intern for Rep. Nancy Pelosi).
In late August, Pruzin wrote to Daniel Guernsey, a director of the Cardinal Newman Society’s K-12 Education Programs. She wanted him to write newspaper op-eds and letters to the editors endorsing Common Core.
“We are concerned about the strident attacks coming from parts of the Catholic community, which we believe are inaccurate and meant more to divide than to inform,” Pruzin wrote, according to Catholic Education Daily (a Cardinal Newman publication).
“We feel that it is important to respond to the negative statements about the Common Core, rather than let them go unanswered,” Puzin also urged.
This strategy was not an intelligent one because the Cardinal Newman Society has criticized Common Core as “rushed, untested and experimental.” Further, the nonprofit focused on Catholic education has observed, “Catholic schools already outperform public schools.”
Pruzin later indicated that her criticisms were, in fact, aimed at the Cardinal Newman Society and its “Catholic Is our Core” initiative.
The Council for a Strong America has received a grant of $1.7 million from the Gates Foundation. Its goal — concerning Catholic schools and Common Core — has been to contact about 50 Catholic school leaders.
In April, in April, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops urged extreme caution on Common Core implementation in Catholic schools.
“Our schools have resisted the need to adopt educational trends while addressing the ever changing needs of children in education,” a statement from the Conference’s education component said, according to Catholic Daily.
Strangely enough, of course, Common Core isn’t quite good enough for the billionaire couple when it comes to the education of their own three children. The three Gates scions — Jennifer, Rory and Phoebe — have attended Lakeside School, Seattle’s most elite, fancy-pants private school. (RELATED: Bill Gates Loves Common Core For Your Kids, BUT NOT HIS)
The hallowed halls of Lakeside School, where Gates himself attended, are a sweet place to attend classes if you have the means.
Lakeside’s website doesn’t discuss Common Core much at all.
“The mission of Lakeside School is to develop in intellectually capable young people the creative minds, healthy bodies, and ethical spirits needed to contribute wisdom, compassion, and leadership to a global society,” reads the schools mission statement. “We provide a rigorous and dynamic academic program through which effective educators lead students to take responsibility for learning.”
A 2011 webpage from Lakeside School does discuss how Lakeside has sort-of-kind-of used Common Core’s relatively obscure science component as a framework. The page notes, however, that Lakeside students are “generally more advanced than average” and won’t be subject to any of the standardized testing which the hoi polloi in public schools will undergo.
Tuition for the 2013-14 academic year was $28,500 per kid (not including books, laptop, field trips, etc.).