U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan gave a speech to the American Society of News Editors on Tuesday. The thrust of the speech was telling them how they should report on the Common Core. He then gave them questions to ask of people like us.
As you know, good journalism is more than just claim and counter-claim. It’s investigating what’s true and false, what’s a responsible statement and what’s not. Many of you have done fine work on that front.
You understand the truth about the role of the federal government with respect to common core standards: We didn’t write them, we don’t mandate them and we don’t regulate them.
That’s why leaders on the left and the right—Randi Weingarten and Mitch Daniels; Dennis van Roekel; and Jeb Bush—and so many others—support the Common Core standards, even if they disagree on many other issues.
You also understand that the federal government has nothing to do with curriculum. In fact, we’re prohibited by law from creating or mandating curricula.
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.
Ask if they can identify any textbook that the federal government created, endorsed, or required for any school, teacher, or district in their state.
Ask them to identify any element, phrase, or a single word of the Common Core standards that was developed or required by the federal government.
If they tell you that any of these things are happening—challenge them to name names. Challenge them to produce evidence—because they won’t find it. It simply doesn’t exist.
For starters. We at Truth in American Education have never made any of the claims listed above. It’s amazing though for somebody who wasn’t involved in it’s development Arne Duncan sure doesn’t mind spending federal money defending the Common Core and attacking those who criticize it. I find it ironic that at the end of his speech he says, “Because the power of democracy depends upon an informed electorate—and a free press.”
That’s great it would have been nice for the electorate to have been informed before the Common Core was implemented. For somebody who wants a free press why is he telling them how to report on the Common Core.
Yes both sides should be represented. I’ll admit that there has been some misinformation coming from some new Common Core critics. I’ve worked mainly behind the scenes to try to correct that. I’ve encouraged others to be measured in their criticism and not to overstate their case.
Has Arne Duncan done that? Nope. He touts this as a state-led effort when it was really a special interest group-led effort. He didn’t mention that Congress never approved stimulus money to be spent on Race to the Top grants (it was an executive earmark) or for assessments. He failed to mention not a single state legislature voted on this measure. There was no mention that the validation process has been found wanting and relatively few people were involved in actually writing the standards. Valarie Strauss points out some other omissions in his speech:
Duncan, in his speech to the newspaper editors, said the federal government didn’t start or write the standards, and that is true. He said that it wasn’t mandated either, though critics argue that it was coerced. He was also right when he said the Core is not a curriculum (even though the Core authors released a book of criteria to education publishers about what should be in Core curriculum).
But he didn’t mention the rushed implementation, nor the hundreds of millions of dollars the federal government has plowed into the testing creation effort. He has said for years that the Core-aligned tests would be “game changers” and be able to assess students much more broadly, but he didn’t say Tuesday that that isn’t true. It turns out there wasn’t enough time or money to create those kinds of tests.
On Tuesday, Duncan said he doesn’t think the Common Core State Standards initiative is “going to be derailed.” But the thrust of his speech shows that he is plenty worried.
So journalists please do your job. Report the truth and not just talking points given to you by Secretary Duncan.