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Misconceptions abound in Common Core criticism – Letter to the New Hampshire Business Review

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Here is my letter as it appeared in the January 10 issue of the New Hampshire Business Review, with links added.
The December 13th letter from the lobbying organization, Heartland Institute, in NHBR is so error-filled that it requires a response.
The first assertion is that there is no evidence that the Common Core will lead to better educated students.  But the opposite is the case.  The new standards are closely modeled on the best standards in the country, including those of Massachusetts, who’s schools are the highest performing in the country.  Any, now, Massachusetts has adopted the Common Core.  Beyond that, there is extensive international research and benchmarking that drew from the best education systems all over the world. (here)
Heartland‘s second charge, that the Common Core is about factory-style training, could not be further from the truth.  The goal of the new standards is to enable American students to read and think critically and apply their math skills to problems they have never seen before.
Look at how challenging the sample problem is for the 11th grade math test at the Smarter Balanced web site.  And look at the equivalent for reading. (here)  Just imagine how your competitive position would be enhanced if an increasing proportion of the applicants for positions in your company were proficient in solving those kinds of problems.
Heartland misses the mark yet again in its third criticism  – that the Common Core does not teach students the soft skills like speaking coherently.  That’s actually a key goal of the new standards.  Students learn to express themselves about how they arrived at the answer in math or about what a text says and why they think that.  And they learn to discuss all this with their classmates in a productive manner.
[Not in the NHBR: You can seen what New Hampshire teachers say about all that here.  Or even better, ask any New Hampshire teacher who has begun to use the Common Core standards in her classroom.  That will be easy because virtually all New Hampshire districts are down the road in implementing the Common Core.
The Heartland education policy is to privatize public education by closing public schools and replacing them with charters, vouchers and home schools.  The Common Core does just the opposite.  It strengthens public education by enabling teachers to set higher expectations for their students.
You can expect Heartland to invest heavily in opposing higher standards for public education, even at the expense of New Hampshire business.
Bill Duncan
Advancing New Hampshire Public Education

Misconceptions abound in Common Core criticism – New Hampshire Business Review – January 10 2014.


  1. Jack Blodgett says:

    Though I believe you slough through a few points about the evidence for the CCSS approach, international benchmarking, and teachers’ implicit 100% embrace of the standards – begging questions that deserve greater depth of analysis – I agree that the Heartland Institute’s argument is specious on all counts. But I also believe the organization’s reasoning will appeal mainly to those who are already committed to its underlying agenda, so it’s probably there that the battles of greatest import will be waged.

    However, when you broad-brush a description of that agenda with the following:

    “The Heartland education policy is to privatize public education by closing public schools and replacing them with charters, vouchers and home schools. The Common Core does just the opposite. It strengthens public education by enabling teachers to set higher expectations for their students.”

    — you go off the reservation, especially with the implication that charter schools are not public schools, categorically represent the movement toward privatization, and are perhaps guided by lower student expectations. Such an insinuation in view of the actual mission of most charter schools in the nation – especially in New Hampshire – appears to sound like the same kind of argument you scold the Heartland Institute for employing. If you believe this point deserves clarification of your actual intention with the above statement, I hope you would do so just as explicitly and publicly as in your original letter to the New Hampshire Business Review.

    • Bill Duncan says:

      It’s true that I don’t give charters their due in this short letter, Jack. I would just refer to our previous exchanges on this and say that, while there are many, many local charters started by folks committed to nothing more than what’s best for the children of their communities, they become (possibly) unwitting footsoldiers in a larger battle over the future of public education. The fundamental push to replace district schools with charters has not up to now become a serious factor in NH, and that’s a good thing, but we are at a juncture where that could change.

      Let me ask you this: What percent of NH children would you say should be attending charter schools 10 years from now?

      • Jack Blodgett says:

        Maybe I’ll just settle for your promise to be less categorical in the future about the role of charter schools in the scheme of things. And now I must add less patronizing. Most of the charter schools I know are anything but “unwitting” and should not feel obligated to join what some portray as a larger, more critical battle in view of the greater good…which also begs the question big time. When it comes to the question of the future of charter and mainstream schools in terms of relative percentages, we’re probably talking about a future that will make the question irrelevant.

    • Bill Duncan says:

      re: categorical…not a promise.

      re: patronizing. My statement is not at all patronizing. Disagree with the privatizing framework if you want but I say it’s undeniable and that few if any NH charter school parents would agree that they are part of that movement. Maybe replace “unwitting” with “unitentional,” but it amounts to the same thing.

      I don’t think you should be cute about my question re: percentages, Jack. How about fessing up to what you would see as the answer? Then go on to tell readers why it’s irrelevant. I’m not following.

      • Jack Blodgett says:

        So “categorical” and “unwitting” pretty much stay. Okay, so be it. Re: “cute”: you might check out KnowledgeWorks’ resources for forecasting what learning may look like in 2025, and you will understand why pointing to an ideal proportion of charters to “mainstream” public schools is the sort of myopic speculation that Jonathan Swift would have fun ridiculing. See:

  2. Jack Blodgett says:

    I’m not going to change my answer. I simply would not presume to speculate proportions or even if public education would be recognizable by way of today’s options for “delivery.” Even the term “delivery” is too presumptive for me. Again – – the KnowledgeWorks resources….

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