Live from Summit 2014: Winning the Fight for Higher Standards

April 30, 2014

Patrick McCarthy of the ExxonMobil foundation introduced our Summit 2014 session on educational standards. As a taxpayer and an employer, ExxonMobil advocates for improving educational standards in their communities. ExxonMobil’s interest in educational standards reflects the high stakes for everyone — businesses included — in the fight for the Common Core standards.

Andy Plattner, of Plattner Communications, moderated the session on higher standards. Plattner kicked off the conversation by sharing a video of Glen Beck talking about the Common Core. Beck spins a conspiratorial tale about the implementation of the Common Core standards. According to Beck, the Common Core standards are a sinister collusion of government agencies and major corporations. Although Beck’s perspective seems far-fetched, Plattner points out that many people think he has a credible perspective on the Core. 

Here is some of what the panelists at the session had to say:

Jessica Hammonds from Alabama GRIT shared her experience as an educator in the South, where opposition to the Common Core is strong. Hammonds sees the fight for the Common Core as struggle for the hearts and minds of ordinary people, who will likely hear conflicting narratives about the Core. Hammonds emphasizes arguments centered on the needs of local businesses and military families as strategies for increasing support for the Common Core.

Jamilah Prince-Stewart from ConnCAN has a different perspective on the Common Core informed by a different context. Connecticut has the largest achievement gap among the fifty states, even thought the best public schools in Connecticut are some of the highest achieving in the country.  In Connecticut, support for the Common Core has been precarious but the movement for high standards has won out. For Prince-Stewart, the Common Core standards are a crucial part of the solution to the achievement gap in Connecticut.

Lesley Dahlkemper, a Board of Education member in Colorado and a team member at the Colorado Education Initiative, shared her experience of the fight for higher standards in the Southwest. Dahlkemper has similar experiences to some of the other panelists: Some education leaders in her state accept conspiratorial theories about the Core. Currently, the major fight in Dahlkemper’s home county is over the assessments tied to standards.

Our final panelist, Gavin Payne, shared his perspective as a leader in the national movement for the Common Core (Payne is a Director at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, one of the major players in Beck’s conspiracy theory). Payne noted that fifty percent of America don’t even know what the Common Core is. When people learn the facts about the Common Core, they tend to be supportive. Unfortunately, many people are learning about the Common Core for the first time through sources like Beck. 

The panelists reminded us of the importance of raising educational standards with the Common Core, despite the opposition to reform.