Helmsley Steps Up Its Fight for the Common Core. This is What It's Doing

As the much-anticipated landing of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) has hit some rocky shores lately, the Gates Foundation isn't alone putting big resources into keeping the ship afloat. Other funders are spending big, too, including the Helmsley Charitable Trust.

The foundation just gave $1.7 million to America Achieves to support its Teacher and Principal Fellowship programs that bring together over 100 educators to advise policymakers on the rollout of the more rigorous Common Core standards. The bigger idea here is to give teachers and principals more of a voice in this roiling national debate and, implicitly, activate them as informed allies in the Common Core push.  

A serious question remains regarding the relative freedom of these fellows to say what they please under such a pre-ordained initiative, but it is clear that America Achieves and the Helmsley Charitable Trust want the voices of the implementers of the standards at the table.

The Helmsley Charitable Trust has also funded organizations such as the Council for a Strong America to mobilize “unexpected messengers” like law enforcement leaders, retired military leaders and business leaders to advocate for the importance of adopting the Common Core. The New Venture Fund also received a cool $1 million from the Helmsley Trust to support state education agencies and state-based education organizations’ work to educate the populace about the Common Core.

The Helmsley Charitable Trust, of course, is not alone in their strong advocacy on behalf of the Common Core. Apart from Gates, funders like the GE Foundation, Bechtel, and Hewlett have poured millions into public education campaigns as well as campaigns for select groups like teachers and school leaders. Meanwhile, America Achieves is working to translate philanthropic dollars in support of the Common Core into on-the-ground demonstrations of how the new standards might catalyze improved learning outcomes for kids. The Common Core Challenge, launched by America Achieves in 2013, provides an “interactive demonstration for America's teachers to see best practices and find high-quality, free tools to align lessons and instructional practice to the new standards.”

This multi-pronged approach to convincing educators and the broader public about the virtue of the Common Core has produced mixed results as some states have trickled out of the broader coalition, delayed its implementation, or chosen alternative paths entirely.

I guess money really can’t buy you love (for the Common Core).