Democrats’ Common Core E-mails Reveal Stark Divide

(Photo: Flickr, Creative Commons)

(Photo: Flickr, Creative Commons)

While the US’s political focus was on a number of leaked emails that came out last week during the National Democratic Convention suggesting party leaders had engineered the nomination process to support Hillary Clinton, another email from the same collection pertained to President Obama’s education policies — and revealed a key policy divide among the Democratic coalition.

Though it got far less attention, the email in question showed that the deputy communications director at the DNC, Eric Walker, denied an advertisement for television that would have defended the use of the Common Core standards while putting down GOP candidates who support local control of education.

In reference to the ad, Walker wrote: “Common Core is a political third rail that we should not be touching at all,” Walker wrote. “Get rid of it.”

Walker went on to state that video clips pushing for local control of education featuring Senator Ted Cruz and Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump should be removed.  He added that criticizing the GOP candidates are “politically dicey.”

“Most people want local control of education,” he wrote, “so having Cruz and Trump saying it on a DNC video is counterproductive. Would get rid of any references to that.”

Alongside Education Secretary Arne Duncan, the Obama administration has spent the last eight years working toward the centralization of federal control over education, pushing the Common Core curriculum, and seeking to evaluate schools through test scores, writes Eric Schulzke for Deseret News Utah.

In response, teachers unions say that they are not surprised:

“Obama was candid with the Unions in 2007,” said Peter Cunningham, a Democrat who served as assistant secretary of education in the Obama Administration. “He told them he supported merit pay, teacher accountability, and parental choice. They booed him and endorsed Hillary.”

Now Executive Director of Education Post, an education reform journal out of Chicago, Cunningham is critical of the Democratic education platform, which he says depends on “high-stakes standardized tests that falsely and unfairly label students of color.”  He went on to say that the tests are used to close failing schools and to evaluate teachers and principals.

In addition, he argues that the platform supports a parents’ ability to opt their child out of standardized testing without penalizing the student or the school.  He said that doing so does not hold anyone accountable.

The debate surrounding the Common Core standards continues around the country, with many states such as New York making changes to their standardized tests in an effort to appease parents who say the tests are too hard, too long, and use up too much class time throughout the year.  While gains were made on standardized tests throughout New York State this year, officials say that this could be a result of students being required to answer fewer questions, which could show that students simply had an easier time taking the exam rather than having learned more, reports Tiffany Lankes for The Buffalo News.

Across New York State, the number of students who reached proficiency levels went from 31.3% to 37.9% in reading and 38.1% to 39.1% in math.  All proficiency rates increased from 31.1% in 2013, when the state first introduced Common Core tests.