Perdido 03

Perdido 03

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

New Pro-Common Core Message Push Not Going So Well

Late last month, pro-CCSS advocates and supporters announced they had enough of losing the Common Core message wars to Common Core critics and opponents and were going to start a new message blitz that was sure to turn things around:

Supporters of the Common Core academic standards have spent big this past year to persuade wavering state legislators to stick with the new guidelines for math and language arts instruction. Given the firestorm of opposition that took them by surprise, they consider it a victory that just five states, so far, have taken steps to back out.
But in a series of strategy sessions in recent months, top promoters of the standards have concluded they’re losing the broader public debate — and need to devise better PR.

So, backed with fresh funding from philanthropic supporters, including a $10.3 million grant awarded in May from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, supporters are gearing up for a major reboot of the Common Core campaign.

“We’ve been fighting emotion with talking points, and it doesn’t work,” said Mike Petrilli, executive vice president of the Fordham Institute, a leading supporter of the standards. “There’s got to be a way to get more emotional with our arguments if we want to win this thing. That means we have a lot more work to do.”

Step one: Get Americans angry about the current state of public education.

To that end, expect to start hearing from frustrated college students who ended up in remedial classes even though they passed all their state tests and earned good grades in high school. “These kids should be as mad as hell” that the system failed them, Petrilli said.

Expect poignant testimonials, too, from business owners who have tried to hire kids from the local high school only to find they can’t do tasks involving basic math, such as separating out two-thirds of a pile of lumber.

Step two: Get voters excited about the prospects of change. Teachers who like the standards are going to be sharing more concrete examples of benefits they see in their classrooms. Groups representing minority students will likely be more vocal, too. The National Council of La Raza, for instance, is promoting a new video featuring a little girl who credits the standards with teaching her the word “whimsical.”

And there will be a whole lot more from the pro-Common Core side on social media, including Pinterest pages full of student work. A coming Twitter blitz will aim to stir up buzz for a new video that tracks a debate between four people who at first seem to want very different things from their schools — but end up discovering they all support the standards. The video, produced by an Arizona coalition, doesn’t once mention the well-worn talking points “academic rigor” or “international benchmarks.”

“The Common Core message so far has been a head message. We’ve done a good job talking about facts and figures. But we need to move 18 inches south and start talking about a heart message,” said Wes Farno, executive director of the Higher State Standards Partnership, a coalition supported by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Business Roundtable.

Yesterday pro-Core supporters and advocates rolled out a social media campaign at #supporthtecore hashtag meant to show the support "real" teachers and parents feel for the Common Core.

The only problem was, few "real" teachers or parents showed up to support the Core, though plenty did to oppose it:

On Tuesday Common Core opponents demonstrated the strength of their fervor so much that they were able to take over a social media campaign that the standards’ supporters hoped would help them gain ground.

As Breitbart News reported August 1, proponents of the controversial standards planned for a new PR blitz that would inject some “emotion” into the dry data talking points they have been delivering thus far. Since the anti-Common Core campaign has been run mostly on social media, the standards’ supporters had hoped to get in on some of that action.

According to U.S. News & World Report, the Collaborative for Student Success, groups such as Teach Plus and Educators 4 Excellence, teachers and other Common Core supporters took to Twitter Tuesday for a campaign outreach initiative that aimed to urge teachers, parents, and others to share their positive views of the nationalized standards.

“It’s critical that their voices be heard in this debate, especially as teachers prepare for a new school year,” Karen Nussle, executive director of the Collaborative for Student Success, told Politico Pro's Morning Education.

Taking advantage of the situation, parents and other concerned citizens who oppose the standards pushed ahead and co-opted the hashtag #supportthecore to voice their opinions about the Common Core and to respond to supporters’ tweets. 

You can see the tweets for yourself at hashtag #supporthecore, but they were in the vein of the one I left:

Or this one left by NYC teacher Arthur Goldstein:

Or this left by NYC teacher Gary Rubenstein:

As I say, you can go to hashtag #supporthecore and see the tweets for yourself, but they're in that vein.

Core supporters who were hoping to use hashtag #supporthecore to show how much support there is for the Core were very sad to see their hashtag "hijacked" by Core critics and opponents and made known their displeasure in a US News piece:

"What’s been interesting and frankly disheartening is the responses from some of the Common Core opponents have been so vitriolic. I would almost describe it as bullying," says Michael Petrilli, president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, which supports the standards. "Here you have these teachers speaking their mind and standing up for something and they’re getting all kinds of nasty reactions back."

Petrilli followed that up with this tweet:

Petrilli never pointed to any specific example of "bullying" that came from anti-Core tweeters and I haven't seen any either.

That's not to say that there isn't an example out there, just that if you have to search long and hard for one, then Petrilli's allegations of "bullying"  by anti-Core tweeters don't hold much water.

In the late July Politico piece I posted above, Petrilli is quoted as saying 

“We’ve been fighting emotion with talking points, and it doesn’t work,” said Mike Petrilli, executive vice president of the Fordham Institute, a leading supporter of the standards. “There’s got to be a way to get more emotional with our arguments if we want to win this thing. That means we have a lot more work to do.”

What we discovered yesterday is that much of the emotion and passion is on the side of Core critics and opponents, not supporters and advocates.

In fact to show you how little emotion and passion there is on the pro-CCSS side, Educators4Excellence, the Gates Foundation-funded education reform group, posted some "talking points" Common Core supporters could use for their #supporthecore tweets.

Dunno about you, but if I'm feeling emotional and passionate about an issue, I don't need "talking points" to express my emotion and passion over it - I can write my own, thank you very much.

That CCSS supporters felt the need to help script pro-CCSS tweets while anti-CCSS people left all kinds of inventive and interesting tweets (I really dig Arthur Goldstein's Doctor Seuss-inspired tweet!) says so much about where the real passion, energy and emotion in the Common Core War lie.

I think the whole kerfuffle here is that the pro-CCSS people are pissed at the anti-Core people for expressing their opposition and criticism for the Core at what was meant to be a pro-Core hashtag event, essentially short-circuiting the roll-out of the "new" and "better" Common Core PR.

But I think they've made an even bigger mistake than just rolling out a social media event that got "hijacked" by anti-Core people by then declaring that "bullying."

As I tweeted to Petrilli last night:

And in the end, I think that's the takeaway from this whole thing.

Pro-CCSS people announce a new CCSS messaging roll-out, one that will touch people emotionally, see that effort overwhelmed by anti-Core people, then whine about it in the media.

Can't imagine that's going to win over many new pro-CCSS recruits in the Common Core War.

Maybe time for a "new" new roll-out?

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