Saturday, December 28, 2013

Ads on Google: Who's paying to sell Common Core?

Who is paying Google to sell Common Core stuff?

You may have seen one of the many the good lists available of the folks who received Gates money to promote Common Core.

Here are a few:

What you may not have noticed, is the growing cadre of publishers, software companies and a host of others who are paying Google (and other websites) to promote Common Core and/or to peddle lots of stuff:  software, books, lessons plans, workbooks, videos, practice tests, etc.

There was also this ad on Craigs list looking for Common Core writers:

One easy way to see who may be profiting from Common Core (or trying to, anyway):  Do a simple search on Google and look for the ads.

Below is a search on Google for "common core" done 12/28/13 from California (the ads change frequently and change based on your location).

The paid advertisements are shown in the Orange boxed areas and are usually labeled as "ads"...

While we do not have direct pricing data, it is likely that these folks are paying Google probably in the range of $2 to $10 every time anyone clicks on their ad.

Scholastic appears to be one of the more efficient advertisers (not showing in this search results page) and are likely paying an advertising agency to manage their ads.  Yep, check the lists above to see that Scholastic also received ~$6.7M in Gates money.

Scholastic appears to be using a technique in search engine advertising called "negative exact match."  With this setting, they are likely not placing any ads for searches of the exact "common core" phrase.  Rather, they are only placing ads when another word or phrase is also used in the search.  For example, Scholastic's ads do not show up when we searched for "common core."  However their ads did show when we added one or more words to the search, for example, when we searched for "common core stinks" or "common core is dumb" (or other less family-friendly words and phrases).

See below example below:

Scholastic (or its agency) is likely doing this to avoid the throng of crowds driving up the price on the exact phrase "common core."  Note that Google's "pay per click" ad system is a bidding model where competition for search terms increases the "per click" ad price.

Scholastic also appears to only be advertising this way in California or they have dynamic or custom state-specific web pages.  This shows some sophistication that only comes with paying someone (probably to the tune of tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars per year), just to manage these ad campaigns.  However, since their paid ads show for things like "common core stinks," it appears whomever they hired is not doing their job well.

Another interesting Common Core ad spender leads to a site called "Get to the Core" (, put out by the Stand for Children advocacy group.  Think they might be on the Gates money list?  Yep.  Appears they received ~$8.4M from Gates for Common Core.  Perhaps they are spending a chunk of that money on these Google ads.  At least they do not try to obscure their mission, which appears to be "defending" Common Core (see pop-up below from their website):

With the Google advertisers, many appear to be buying ads nationwide, even in states like Texas where Common Core was not adopted. With these ad placements, they are mostly wasting their time and money.

The ads appearing for these searches are likely costing these companies millions per year, just for Google advertising.  The costs are sure to increase next year when Common Core is rolled out widely and parents and teachers will be searching online for help.  If these companies are spending millions to promote Common Core on Google, imagine they are expecting to make tens or perhaps hundreds of millions in return.  Or they may just be looking for places to waste, er um, spend Gates money.

Click the links below to see who is buying ads in your state or location:

If you see anything interesting, odd or funny, please take a screenshot and come back to share it with us here in the Comments section!  Thank you!

Friday, December 20, 2013

California: Common Core's last stand in 2014?

Of all the states, Common Core makes the least amount of sense for California… it’s the most absurd of all.

We have more to say about this after months of research, but, briefly here’s why:

- California’s current state standards, especially in math, have already been rated by the experts, and even the politically-appointed California standards evaluation committee, as being superior to Common Core. In math, most Common Core standards put our kids a about year behind where we have been with our CA state standards. We had some of the best standards in the nation and now are effectively “failing” every child, holding kids back almost an entire year. Next year under the new Common Core standards, our straight-A son will effectively be re-taking much of his 5th grade math all over again in 6th grade under Common Core. We have the data to show this, standard by standard, and it's public information that most of the public (and most in education or politics) have likely never seen. Look for more on this soon.

- California did NOT get any Race to the Top grants for K-12. Zero. So all the hoops California jumped through in 2009-10 were all in vain. Yet, defying all logic, we are still spending $1.25B+ taxpayer dollars (when voters did not intend the money to be used for this) and probably 10+ years of work, just to switch to LOWER standards.

- California already had very strong progress in public schools the past 10-12 years. Under our already truly "rigorous" state standards, curriculum and tests, our state test scores and college-readiness measures have been increasing steadily, across all demographics, DESPITE our huge influx on new, non-English speaking students and HUGE increases in class sizes. Where we live, our public schools have been rated as some of the best in the nation, despite also having grown to ~35 kids in a class (from ~20 just a few years ago).

- The $1.2B that is going to go to big publishers for new materials, countless re-education camps for teachers, testing administration, etc. could be used for SO MANY other things... pick your favorite: hiring more teachers, more pay for teachers, credentialing, technology improvements, etc. The opportunity costs for throwing out a decade of test results and progress is immeasurable.  Likewise is holding an entire generation of kids back a grade for an entire year.  What is the cost of this?!

Added (12/21/13):

- Apparently, Gov. Brown opposes Common Core.  He's made statements in the past he opposes gov. standards and tests, he did again just this past week.  However, its confounding that he's also asked for and got $1.25B to implement it.  Watch for him to now divert that money elsewhere and/or completely get rid of or delay any standardized testing or having it be used for ANYTHING.  Testing to appease some folks, while not using the tests for anything to appease others.

- California is a local control state, which means any school district may reject Common Core.  In an election year in 2014, watch the sparks fly in school board and local races, esp. in Republican dominated districts.  We have already seen many districts having fiery Common Core debates and forums.  Unfortunately for those districts, parent and teacher concerns have been ignored, possibly to the peril of those School Board members in future elections.

- California also has a voter recall (remember what happened to Gov. Davis 10 years ago?) and proposition process.  If unrest grows, it could turn into a recall or proposition seeking to defund or reverse Common Core implementation.

- The waivers from the Feds:  Schools in California, it seems, should be getting waivers from the DOE for not doing full testing in 2014 and using scores to measure teachers.  Some have already been granted.  How can the executive branch of the government "waive" a federal law?  Seems more and more common tactic of this DOE and the administration (just look to "amendments" to FERPA in 2008 and 2011).  Other states can't be happy about this. Turns out some Common Core fans are not happy about this either:

For California, Common Core makes absolutely no sense, regardless of your political views on other issues. It defies logic in every way. 

Yet, we have not heard any arguments from anyone in California justifying any of the above... let alone any good arguments. 

The California story is truly unique, not found in other states. Other state Common Core proponents may argue, “Well, Common Core increases our standards from where we were before and we need to compete Internationally.” Others with great state standards, like Massachusetts, at least got some of the federal money and RTT grants to help justify and mask the true dumbness of their moves. Other states have many schools that are very underfunded, struggling or just desperate. Not so in California. 

Furtrher, the California government (Democrats and Republicans) have shown some willingness to snub Sec. Arne Duncan and D.C. (see the fight over AB 484). We also have folks from all sides of the political spectrum willing to stand up against Common Core. 

If California were to opt out of Common Core (a long-shot, perhaps, but we are hopeful), COMMON CORE would be no more. It would completely collapse without California’s ~6M students. Our prediction: If Common Core loses at least 50% of the nation’s students (even if not 50% of the states), it would collapse and mostly die as national effort. 

Ironically, thanks to the media and school administrations being in the tank for CommonCore, California also likely has the lowest awareness among parents about all of the above and about all of the downsides of Common Core. We also have probably some of the heaviest PR campaigns coming from our Dept. of Ed and school administrations pushing Common Core. 

In 2014, when California parents and teachers wake up and realize the nightmare we are in and see through the PR campaign and story we've been sold, you can be sure there will be enough outrage to make many changes, especially in the 2014 election year. 

In a scan of ~16 California politicians running for office in 2014, not even ONE mentions Common Core on their websites. We intend this to change to be nearly 100% mentioning Common Core, pro or con, one way or another. If you are representing voters in our state and in your districts, at least be upfront and honest with those voters about where you stand on this important issue. We intend to work with others to produce voters guides making this information more clear and more available. 

Look for Common Core to be a defining issue in 2014, especially in California. It may be the sleeping giant that seals the fate of Common Core.

What do you think?

Merry Christmas, Happy New Year and keep putting our California children and their education FIRST in California. California kids are not common.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Welcome to UnCommon California's Blog!

Like many parents in California, up until about a month ago, we had not heard much about Common Core.

However, a month later and after a lot of research, here we are.  We are not professional education experts.  We are not professional bloggers.  We are not politicians.  We do not have ulterior motives or an agenda.

We are like many of you... parents who care about their children's education and who have become very concerned with the changes taking place in our local school and other schools across the nation.  It now seems to us that the education of an entire generation of kids is at stake.

We hope to raise awareness of the problems with Common Core, especially as it relates to our schools in California.  We speak from the perspective of parents, but we highly value the opinions of many others, including the experts, school board members, administration, teachers and many others impacted by Common Core.  This cause is growing rapidly and has only recently reached California.

We will also strive to present a non-partisan perspective.  You can tell how big an issue is when you have folks from opposite ends of the political spectrum coming out against Common Core.  We welcome Democrats, Republicans and those across the political spectrum.  We also welcome those who usually abstain from politics.  We are willing to listen to all sides of this issue.  We have views on various topics and issues, but we strive to be focused on THIS issue of Common Core and encourage others to do the same.

We believe that, when all the facts come out about Common Core--how California got into it in the first place, how it compares with the existing California Content Standards, how it comes with decreases in child privacy protections--parents will want something better for our California kids.  They will also wonder why it took so long for them to find out about it and what went wrong along the way to get us in the predicament in which we find ourselves.

Our goals are simple and straightforward, but critically important. Accomplishing them will not be easy.  We ask for your help and we seek to join other causes like ours around California and the nation.  The forces working against us are great.

We will strive to work with parents, teachers, school communities, other groups and local and state governments around California to:

1). Raise awareness of all aspects of Common Core: how it came about, how it compares to other options (including existing California Content Standards), how it removes local and state control over education, how it is part of an effort to reduce child privacy protections, and other key aspects;

2). Reverse Common Core adoption by petitioning the Governor, state and/or local legislatures, the California Department of Education, the California Superintendent of Schools and local schools across California.  Further, to encourage California and each school to retain the rigorous and proven California Content Standards and STAR test;

3). Encourage California officials, working collaboratively and closely with parents and educators in local school districts, to revise and improve existing California Content Standards and the STAR test to make them even better--surpassing the quality of others available.  We should do so in a fair and open process, with ample opportunity and time for debate and public input.  There is no reason California schools cannot have the very best standards, curricula, teachers, tests, technologies and students in the nation.

4). Petition Congress and/or the courts to reverse the so-called "amendments" made by the U.S. Department of Education to reduce the child privacy protections contained in the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA).  Further, to petition California government bodies to repeal or amend various state statutes, such as SBX5 1, which also reduce child privacy protections.  Also to petition California legislature and our Governor to enact new and more stringent child privacy protection legislation.

Our California kids are not "common."  They are unique, special and exceptional.  They deserve better than Common Core and they do not deserve to have their lives monitored or their privacy infringed.  We need education that fits our kids--education that is uncommon and exceptional.

Welcome to UnCommon California.  We hope you will join us.  Thank you for your support!