Big Business Speaks out for the Common Core: The Standards Are Taking Fire from a Variety of Groups, but They Have Some Staunch Supporters in Corporate America

By Trotter, Andrew | T H E Journal (Technological Horizons In Education), January 2014 | Go to article overview

Big Business Speaks out for the Common Core: The Standards Are Taking Fire from a Variety of Groups, but They Have Some Staunch Supporters in Corporate America


Trotter, Andrew, T H E Journal (Technological Horizons In Education)


Any businessman worth his salt will tell you that even the best idea or product can fail in the marketplace if it's not backed by B an effective ad campaign. Taking this truism to heart, two leading business groups are strongly backing the Common Core State Standards (CCSS)--an education reform they argue is vital for the United States to compete in the global economy.

In October, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Business Roundtable, both based in Washington, DC, announced their intention to launch nationwide advertising to promote CCSS. Both groups have long backed the standards, which are currently being phased in by 45 states and the District of Columbia. The new academic goals are replacing state-crafted standards that many experts say have varied widely in rigor and quality.

"We know what is not working: to have standards so low, [and] to be graduating kids that can't read," said Cheryl Oldham, the vice president for education policy at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which represents thousands of businesses across the country. In some states, students who excelled on state tests have had dismal results on the more rigorous National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). "Everybody in this mobile world should have same set of high standards--whether you're in Mississippi or Massachusetts," Oldham added.

She said that another sign of the need for more rigor in high school is that, according to a 2012 study by the nonprofit Complete College America, half of all undergraduates at four-year colleges and 70 percent of community college students must take remedial courses. In addition, many college students who take remedial courses fail to graduate.

Meanwhile, the Common Core has been endorsed by the National Education Association, the American Federation of Teachers, many editorial boards across the country and the U.S. Department of Education. Education Secretary Arne Duncan said recently that in the eight states with Common Core standards in place in time for this year's NAEP, reading and math scores were higher than they had been in 2009.

Common Core in the Crossfire

The initiative's more rigorous academic goals have an obvious appeal to the business community, Oldham said, because they contribute to economic and workforce development. The Chamber's support for the Common Core was low-key until 2013, however, when business members at the state level saw an upswing in local resistance to the standards and urged the national umbrella organization to ramp up its policy statements and lobbying on the issue. The struggle has continued in recent months, as the Common Core has been under attack from both the left and the right of American politics.

That resistance worries Marc Tucker, the president and CEO of the National Center on Education and the Economy, in Washington, DC. Tucker, who has studied education standards in the U.S. and abroad since the 1980s, had no role in the development of the Common Core but says he is a "cheerleader" for the initiative.

"I don't think it's a tempest in the teapot," said Tucker. "I do think the Tea Party has decided this is a horse they can ride." He said that a significant portion of Americans is afraid that their way of life is threatened, and they are very angry about that. "Folks on the far conservative right and many libertarians have managed to use the Common Core and everything that comes with it to persuade those Americans, in particular, that there is a vital threat to their liberties, coming from a quarter they didn't expect."

"We're in a crossfire," said John Engler, the president of the Business Roundtable, a business group whose members include many of the nation's largest corporations. Speaking before a roomful of education journalists in Washington last fall, Engler, a Republican and former Michigan governor, noted that the Tea Party movement portrays the Common Core as a pet project of President Obama's, which he said is "way off base. …

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