Steve Cates: A Timeline For Common Core


Did the Common Core Standards appear magically out of thin air? Unlikely.

This is a guy who lives in my neighborhood, who’s a professor of English in Chicago who I know and who I have not received some official endorsement from. He’s not somebody who I exchange ideas from on a regular basis. And the notion that somehow as a consequence of me knowing somebody who engaged in detestable acts 40 years ago, when I was eight years old, somehow reflects on me and my values doesn’t make much sense, George.” (Candidate Barack Obama describing his relationship with William (Bill) Ayers to moderator George Stephanopoulus.

The genesis of the Common Core Standards movement has been little examined but documentation of how this phenomenon began is very important. Did the foundation of Common Core Standards begin in Chicago in the mid 1990s when Barack Obama was very much involved in “education reform” through the distribution of many, many millions of dollars? Why is the then very public effort of the late 1990s Chicago education “reforms” being hidden now?

1991: Mike Klonsky and William Ayers co-found the “Small Schools Workshop (SSW).”[1]

1994: Mike Klonsky and his wife Susan whom had/have a long history of communist affiliations were listed on a “Membership, Subscription and Mailing List” for the ChicagoCommittees of Correspondence, an offshoot of the Communist Party USA[2]

1994: Barack Obama is appointed chairman of the Woods Fund and served on the board of that organization until 2001 (William Ayers became one of eight Fund directors in 1999). [3]

1994: Barack Obama becomes board member of the Joyce Foundation.[4]

1995: Chicago public schools go under the control of the Mayor Richard M. Daley (1989-2011).[5]

1995: William Ayers becomes the founding board member of the Chicago School Reform Collaborative.[6]

1995: In an interview for a book published that year, William Ayers claimed to be “a radical, Leftist, small ‘c’ communist.” [7]

1995: As the result of a $49.2 million grant, William Ayers founds the “Chicago Annenberg Challenge” (CAC) and Barack Obama was the organization board chairman from then until 1999. Obama would serve on the board until 2002. [8]

1995: CAC and SSW have the same 115 Sangamon St, Third Floor, Chicago mailing address, both entities used this address until 1999. [9]

1995: Small Schools Workshop (Klonsky and Ayers) obtains Chicago Annenberg Challenge grant of $1,056,162 (CAC, governed by Obama and Ayres give education grant to SSW). [10]

1996: Barack Obama officially joins and seeks the endorsement of the socialist/Acorn affiliated Chicago Chapter of the New Party[11]

1997: William Ayers awarded “Citizen of the Year” by the city of Chicago (At the direction of Mayor Daley who stated in 2008 that, “I also know Bill Ayers. He worked with me in shaping our now nationally-renowned school reform program”). [12]

1997: Obama and Ayers are panelists at Michelle Obama organized event (November 20, 1997). [13]

1997: Obama writes review of William Ayers’ book “A Kind and Just Parent: The Children of Juvenile Court” (December 21, 1997). [14]

1998: The Chicago Public Education Fund is created by the CAC with $2 million in “seed money” (Barack Obama is CAC board chairman). [15]

1999: Arne Duncan, the current Secretary of U.S. Department of Education and a primary advocate for the Common Core Standards who has been an Obamaacquaintance since the late 1980s was appointed Deputy Chief of Staff for the Chicago Public Schools (Mayor Richard M. Daley). [16]

2001: Arne Duncan appointed Chief Executive Officer of the Chicago Public Schools (June 26, 2001). [17]

2001: The Bill and Malinda Gates Foundation gave the Chicago Public Schools a $12 million grant for school reform. [18]

2001: Obama begins serving on the Leadership Council of the Chicago Education Fund Board for about three years with William Ayers’ father Thomas Ayers and brotherJohn Ayers. [19]

2001: Common Core Standards architect David Colemans’ Grow Network obtained $2.2 million in funding from the Chicago Education Fund. In the Chicago Public Education Plan Barack Obama, Bill Ayers, and Michael Klonsky are listed as members of the Education Plan’s discussion groups. [20]

2002: The Bill and Malinda Gates foundation begins a multi-year school reform funding process that reached approximately $28 million by 2012. [21]

The preceding is incomplete as the listing of activities, amounts, organizations, and people is voluminous. Suffice as to say, after many years and millions of dollars (as much as $150 million with matching grants to CAC funding) the Summary of the August 2003 Final Technical Report of the Chicago Annenberg Challenge Research Project makes the specifies that:

“The Challenge’s “bottom Line” was improving student achievement and other social and psychological outcomes. Our research indicates that outcomes in the Annenberg schools were much like those in demographically similar non-Annenberg schools and across the Chicago School system as a whole, indicating among the schools it supported, the Challenge had little impact on student outcomes.” [23]

In 2008, when researcher Howard Kurtz attempted to access the CAC documents that are stored at the Daley Library of the University of Illinois Chicago he was denied. The records remain classified as highly restricted. [24]

Barack Obama was mistaken when he stated that Bill Ayers was just some guy in the neighborhood. Barack Obama was mistaken that Bill Ayers was a professor of English. Barack Obama has seemingly nurtured the perception that his primary claim to fame prior to elective office was as a “Community Organizer” while never being forthright about his activities during the education reform days of Chicago leading people to believe something that is demonstrably incorrect.

The primary activity of Barack Obama during the 1994 through 2002 period was education reform in Chicago along with a bunch of people who call themselves Leftists and communists. Many of those people are now actively involved in the implementation of the Common Core Standards in America. Is this either an accident or a coincidence?

References Cited

[1]: “In 1991 Klonsky and Ayers co-founded a project known as the “Small Schools Workshop” (SSW), premised on the notion that if high schools were to limit their enrollment to no more than 400 students (and optimally to fewer than 200), the learning atmosphere on campus would be improved. Klonsky has served as SSW’s director since 1993”.

[2]: “In 1994 Mike Klonsky and his wife Susan Klonsky (Sue Eanet), were listed on a “Membership, Subscription and Mailing List” for the Chicago Committees of Correspondence, an offshoot of the Communist Party USA (Chicago CoC “Membership, Subscription and Mailing List” 10.14.94)

“Movement for a Democratic Society is a multi-issue activist organization affiliated with the newly revived Students for a Democratic Society (SDS)…… Original members of the 2006 Movement for a Democratic Society board included:….Michael Klonsky”

[3]: “Woods Fund of Chicago…Board of Directors….Barack Obama (Director 1994-2001)”

[4]: “Previous notable board members include US President Barack Obama who served on the board from 1994 through 2002”.

[5]: “With Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg poised to take control of the New York City schools, raising new questions about the future of the education establishment, some of the answers may come from Chicago, where Mayor Richard M. Daley won control of the schools in 1995”.

[6]: “The Joyce Foundation strongly supports the proposal for the Annenberg Challenge Grant submitted from Chicago. At its meeting just two weeks ago, our Board of Directors approved a grant of $80,000 to Professor William Ayers at the University of Illinois at Chicago to establish the Chicago School Reform Collaborative – the working group that Ayers organized to develop and submit the CAC grant proposal and that would become an arm of the CAC once established in 1995.”

[7]: “Mr. Ayers wrote that teachers should be community organizers dedicated to provoking resistance to American racism and oppression. His preferred alternative? “I’m a radical, Leftist, small ‘c’ communist,” Mr. Ayers said in an interview in Ron Chepesiuk’s, “Sixties Radicals,” at about the same time Mr. Ayers was forming CAC”.

[8]: From 1994 to 2002, Obama served on the boards of directors of the Woods Fund of Chicago, which in 1985 had been the first foundation to fund the Developing Communities Project; and of the Joyce Foundation.[31] He served on the board of directors of the Chicago Annenberg Challenge from 1995 to 2002, as founding president and chairman of the board of directors from 1995 to 1999. (Chassie, Karen, ed. (2007). Who’s Who in America, 2008. New Providence, NJ: Marquis Who’s Who. p. 3468. ISBN 978-0-8379-7011-0).


[9]: “Contact Person: Olivia Mulcahy and Susan Klonsky
Small Schools Workshop115 South Sangamon Street, First Floor
Chicago, IL 60607

[10]: “External Partner: Small Schools Workshop

Grant Award: $1,056,162 (First funded December 1995)”/p>

[11]: “Minutes from a January 11, 1996 meeting, Kurtz claims, prove Obama’s affiliation with the group. The New Party’s Chicago Chapter had apparently recorded the president’s extensive involvement, including a purported request that he be endorsed by the movement.

“Barack Obama, candidate for State Senate in the 13th Legislative District, gave a statement to the membership and answered questions,” the minutes read. “He signed the New Party ‘Candidate Contract’ and requested an endorsement from the New Party. He also joined the New Party.”

[12]: “Ayers worked with Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley in shaping the city’s school reform program, and was one of three co-authors of the Chicago Annenberg Challenge grant proposal that in 1995 won $49.2 million over five years for public school reform. In 1997 Chicago awarded him its Citizen of the Year award for his work on the project. Since 1999 he has served on the board of directors of the Woods Fund of Chicago, an anti-povertyphilanthropic foundation established as the Woods Charitable Fund in 1941”.

[13]: “Just a few weeks before this review was published in the Chicago Tribune, Obama and Ayers appeared together on a panel about juvenile justice organized by Michelle Obama on November 20, 1997:”

[14]: “On December 21, 1997, Barack Obama wrote a short review of William Ayers’ book A Kind and Just Parent: The Children of Juvenile Court, which had recently been published by Beacon Press. Here’s a photo of how the review appeared in the Chicago Tribune:”

[15]: “The Chicago Annenberg Challenge spawned the fund and became its first donor in June 1998 when it committed to donate $2 million in seed money. Chicago Tribune Charities became the second lead donor when it added another $500,000 to the pot. Substantial gifts from the Pritzker Foundation and the Polk Bros. Foundation and a number of smaller donations have boosted the fund’s total to nearly $4 million. Its fund-raising target this year is $10 million”.

[16]: “Mr. Duncan’s acquaintance with Mr. Obama began on the basketball court nearly two decades ago but has flowered since he became the chief executive of the Chicago Public Schools in 2001, and Mr. Obama has used him as a frequent sounding board in discussions of education policy”.

[17]: “Mayor Richard M. Daley appointed Duncan to serve as Chief Executive Officer of the Chicago Public Schools on June 26, 2001”.

[18]: “As Dave Ferrero remembers it, negotiations for the $12 million grant the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation gave CPS in 2001 began about 15 months before Arne Duncan was promoted from deputy chief of staff to CEO.

“Those last two pieces started to fall into place right around the time [Duncan] was named,” Ferrero says. “Something clicked when that transition took place. We got from Arne an assurance that he was behind the idea.”

[19]: “Barack Obama served on the Chicago Public Education Fund board’s Leadership Council for approximately three years, along with Thomas and John Ayers, the father and brother (respectively) of Weather Undergrounder Bill Ayers”.

[20]: “Clark wrote that as CAC was closing down, a pilot program called Grow Network was starting up in New York. Founded by David Coleman–known as the “Architect” of the Common Core standards – and Jason Zimba, the Grow Network negotiated a contract in 2001 with the Chicago Public Education Fund on behalf of Chicago Public Schools (CPS).

In that same year, current U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan began as CEO of CPS; two years after taking on his new role, Coleman’s Grow Network finalized its $2.2 million contract with CPS to provide the school district with student performance data for the 2002-2003 school year”.

[21]: “Chicago joins New York, Los Angeles, Boston and 10 other school districts around the U.S. in signing the compact agreement. All are eligible to submit proposals to the Gates Foundation to win a share of the grant. CPS has received approximately $28 million from the Gates Foundation since 2002 to spur innovation approaches to education reform”.