Panelist at Podesta Think Tank on Common Core: 'The Children Belong to All of Us'

February 3, 2014 - 9:02 AM

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Paul Reville, former Massachusetts Secretary of Education and Harvard professor, was a panelist at the Center for American Progress on Jan. 31, 2014. (CNSNews.com/Penny Starr)

(CNSNews.com) – In addressing criticism of the Common Core national education standards, a panelist at the Center for American Progress (CAP), a liberal think tank, said critics were a “tiny minority” who opposed standards altogether, which was unfair because “the children belong to all of us.”

The CAP was founded by John Podesta, former chief of staff to Bill Clinton and now an adviser to President Barack Obama.  At a CAP event to promote Common Core on Friday, CNSNews.com asked about the critics who say federal monetary incentives attached to Common Core is driving the states to implement the standards.

Paul Reville, the former secretary of education for Massachusetts and a Common Core supporter, said,  “To be sure, there’s always a small voice – and I think these voices get amplified in the midst of these arguments – of people who were never in favor of standards in the first place and never wanted to have any kind of testing or accountability and those voices get amplified.”

“But those are a tiny minority,” he said. “An overwhelming majority of teachers are saying this is something – as [panelist] Toby [Romer] said – that makes sense.”

Reville continued, “Again, the argument about where it came from I think privileges certain sort of fringe voices about federalism and states’ rights, and things of that nature, when really what we’re doing at the national level here now, state by state, is what a lot of our states thought made sense individually.”

Common Core The Classroom

Amy Lawson, a fifth-grade teacher at Silver Lake Elementary School in Middletown, Del., teaches an English language arts lesson Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2013. The school has begun implementing the national Common Core State Standards for academics. (AP Photo/Steve Ruark)

“Why should some towns and cities and states have no standards or low standards and others have extremely high standards when the children belong to all of us and would move [to different states in their educational lives]?”

“And the same logic applies to the nation,” Reville said. “And it makes sense to educators. It makes sense to policymakers, and it’s why people have voluntarily entered into this agreement.”

“So, it’s less about where it came from and more about, ‘Okay, now we settled on this as a set of targets, what are the strategies we need to implement, to be successful at it?’ because educators and students want to be successful,” Reville said.

The Common Core website describes the creation and mission of the standards as follows:

“The nation’s governors and education commissioners, through their representative organizations the National Governors Association (NGA) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) led the development of the Common Core State Standards and continue to lead the initiative.”

“Teachers, parents, school administrators and experts from across the country together with state leaders provided input into the development of the standards,” reads the website.

“The Common Core State Standards Initiative is a state-led effort that established a single set of clear educational standards for kindergarten through 12th grade in English language arts and mathematics that states voluntarily adopt,” says the website.  “The standards are designed to ensure that students graduating from high school are prepared to enter credit bearing entry courses in two or four-year college programs or enter the workforce. The standards are clear and concise to ensure that parents, teachers, and students have a clear understanding of the expectations in reading, writing, speaking and listening, language and mathematics in school.”

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CAP founder John Podesta and President Barack Obama. Podesta currently is an adviser to Obama. (AP)

But critics such as Lindsey Burke, a Will Skillman Fellow in Education Policy at The Heritage Foundation who has studied the standards, said the initiative is about federal funding and centralizing education rules.

“Common Core was developed by two national organizations, it’s adoption incentivized with billions in federal funding and waivers from the onerous provisions of No Child Left Behind, and the national tests funded with federal grants,” Burke said.

“These are not the hallmarks of a ‘state-led’ process,” she said. “Moreover, these are not high standards.”

“They are, to reference the work of Stanford Professor of Mathematics Emeritus James Milgram, standards that prepare students for ‘non-selective community colleges,’” Burke said. “The English Language Arts standards de-emphasize the reading of fiction and classic literature in favor of informational texts.”

“But most concerning, Common Core removes the ability of parents and teachers to direct academic content and will have a homogenizing effect on the educational choices available to families,” Burke said.

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Jennifer Davis, co-founder and president of the National Center on Time and Learning, was the moderator of a panel discussion at the Center for American Progress on Jan. 31, 2014. (CNSNews.com/Penny Starr)

The Washington Post published a commentary on Jan. 20 by Marion Brady, a retired teacher and author, who explained why Common Core has been criticized by people of all political stripes.

“Few oppose standards, but a significant number oppose the Common Core State Standards,” Brady wrote. “Those on the political right don’t like the fact that—notwithstanding the word ‘State’ in the title—it was really the feds who helped to railroad the standards into place.”

“Resisters on the political left cite a range of reasons for opposing the standards—that they were shoved into place without research or pilot programs, that they’re a setup for national testing, that the real winners are manufacturers of tests and teaching materials because they can crank out the same stuff for everybody—just to begin a considerably longer list,” Brady wrote.

But Jennifer Davis, co-founder and president of the National Center on Time and Learning who moderated the panel at CAP, told CNSNews.com that teachers are “truly embracing” Common Core.

“On the teacher side, I mean, all of the work were doing all over the country we’re finding teachers truly embracing and knowing that Common Core is important for their children and for their future in their schools,” Davis said, adding at one point, “It takes a village” to get this kind of education reform accomplished.