On Tuesday, U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan chastised education journalists for coverage of the Common Core State Standards. Speaking to the American Society of News Editors conference in Washington, DC, Duncan labeled critics of the standards “misinformed” and “fringe.”
So do the reporting. Ask the Common Core critics: Please identify a single lesson plan that the federal government created, or requires of any school, teacher, or district.
Duncan’s attempt to school journalists begins with a clarification entitled, “The Common Core: Not a Federal Project.”
“When the Obama administration came into office in 2009, the Common Core standards were in development, and gaining momentum,” Duncan claimed, adding that the standards are voluntary not mandated. Education reporters from a wide range of publications reacted with undisguised mirth.
Journalists Respond to Duncan’s “Clarifications”
Several immediately analyses tackled the voluntary nature of a requirement for competitive federal funds. (check back for more links). And Education Week alone published multiple responses.
One of the more restrained notes that it was not until spring of 2009 that the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers first met to discuss developing the standards. (Here’s a 2009 report.) Rick Hess adds, in his “Straight Up” blog of June 26, that if Duncan was going to claim the standards are “not a federal project” –
“It might not have been the greatest idea for the 2012 Democratic National Platform to credit Obama for the Common Core, or for the President to take credit for Common Core adoption in this year in this year’s State of the Union.”
He told the editors to challenge skeptics to show federally created curricula or textbooks (knowing they can’t find such examples), but said nothing about looking into federal funding for the testing consortia (which will devise the tests that will drive instruction and curriculum) or whether all the experts agree that the Common Core is as rigorous and generally awesome as he asserted.
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The Root Cause?
It’s clear that the political system in the US isn’t working for many. If you had to pick one root cause underlying our broken politics, what would it be and why?
This is the question posed to high school and college students by the 150-year-old periodical, The Nation. The Nation‘s annual writing contest began eight years ago. It is intended to “identify, support and reward some of the numerous smart, progressive student journalists writing, reporting and blogging today.” The deadline for entries (extended) this year is midnight eastern standard time on Sunday, July 7, 2013.
Student writers and other followers of the Education Town Hall might want to explore the relationship between public education and private tutoring arrangements, sometimes called “supplemental educational services.” A Denver Post report last week notes that parents are spending $5-7 billion annually for private tutoring. The article attributes the rise to increased competition for college entrance.
Private Tutoring, a Multi-billion-dollar Industry
Earlier this year, the Tampa Bay Tribune reported on lobbying efforts designed to keep millions of Florida dollars going into the unregulated private tutoring industry. See also this Miami Herald report.
From the Education Industry Association website:
Education is rapidly becoming a $1 trillion industry, representing 10% of America’s GNP and second in size only to the health care industry. Federal and State expenditures on education exceed $750 billion. Education companies, with over $80 billion in annual revenues, already constitute a large sector in the education arena.