US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has once again thrown himself into the fight over Common Core Standards in an attempt to correct what he sees as widespread misapprehensions that Common Core represents an attempt by the federal government to encroach on authority of the states. Duncan spoke at a press event organized by the Education Writers Association where he used strong language, calling on those present to serve as a "truth squad" and call out people making false claims about government involvement in Common Core.
According to Betsy Hammond of The Oregonian, Common Core is on the minds of many education advocates as many states prepare to roll out the standards at their schools while some are taking a second look at their commitment to do the same. When Common Core – which was created under the auspices of top state education officials from all over the country – was first released, support not only from academics but also business leaders made them popular enough to be quickly taken up by more than 40 states.
Duncan helped propel states to adopt them by using federal leverage to get states to adopt either the Common Core or similarly high standards for what students should learn in reading, writing and math.
That hasn't stopped critics from decrying them as a federal intrusion into state and local matters.
Just this morning, one reader emailed me a litany of complaints about Common Core that asked,"If Common Core is so good, why was it pushed through, clandestinely, instead of being discussed in communities prior to when stimulus money was used to bribe cash-strapped Governors into accepting a pig-in-a-poke?"
It's hard to characterize Common Core adoption as clandestine, as the Standards were extensively covered in education media since their release. However, according to recent polls by Gallup and Phi Delta Kappa, parent awareness of the new standards remains at an appallingly low level. Duncan believes that this ignorance is what is making it so easy for Common Core opponents to spread misinformation about them – something that he asked for the press to help remedy.
"Make sure you investigate what's true and what's not," Duncan said.
He said reporters should get the word out that the U.S. Department of Education welcomes public input on what numbers would make sense to use.
Having been superintendent of Chicago schools during the early years of No Child Left Behind, Duncan said, "I am very aware of unintended consequences and perverse incentivesâ¦ We want universities to do a good job around cost containmentâ¦ We want states to continue to invest in higher education."