Common-Core Architect Helped Launch Rhee Advocacy Group

By Stephen Sawchuk — May 29, 2012 1 min read
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One of the key architects of the Common Core State Standards, David Coleman, is listed as a director on the board of StudentsFirst, the advocacy group begun by former D.C. schools Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee.

This is one of the things that came to light while reporting our recent series on education advocacy organizations and campaign finance. Two other employees at Student Achievement Partners, the nonprofit group that Coleman began to help districts implement the common core, are also listed on StudentsFirst’s IRS application.

“I helped the organization get started and have discussed with them that a new board will be beginning in June,” Coleman told me in an email. He declined to elaborate.

StudentsFirst calls the trio “founding” board members. That board is to be succeeded by a (presumably permanent) board in June. Its spokeswoman, Nancy Zuckerbrod, told me it was always planned for Coleman and the others to step down this summer.

Why pick Coleman initially?, I asked.

“He’s a really impressive guy,” Zuckerbrod said. “Michelle is totally on board with the common core. She’s a big fan.”

A bunch of other groups have also lent StudentsFirst support in its early days. The Broad Foundation gave the group about half a million in start-up funding, while Education Reform Now, another advocacy group affiliated with Democrats for Education Reform, was at one point listed as its financial sponsor. DFER President Joe Williams told me that was done in the haste to get the StudentsFirst group set up before Rhee appeared on “Oprah” to formally announce its launch.

Coleman, who was recently tapped to lead the College Board, has not weighed in on StudentsFirst’s policy agenda, which includes such things as revamped teacher-evaluation systems, opening more charter schools, and supporting a limited number of school vouchers.

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Teacher Beat blog.