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Advocates Plan Common Core Counteroffensive

Proponents of Common Core are launching an ambitious new plan to defend the multi-state education standards, educational leaders announced Tuesday morning.

Higher education leaders are forming a new group, Higher Ed for Higher Standards, that seeks to promote “college and career ready” standards, in particular Common Core.

The new group was announced by Nancy Zimpher, chancellor of the State University of New York (SUNY), and John Morgan, chancellor of the Tennessee Board of Regents, which manages all the public universities in the state except for the University of Tennessee system.

The group already has backing from over 200 higher education figures in 31 states, from University of South Dakota president James Abbott to California State University, Chico president Paul Zingg.

Also affiliated are multi-college organizations such as the Association of American Universities, which represents 62 of the nation’s top research universities, including MIT and seven of the eight Ivy League schools. With the group’s public announcement, Higher Ed for Higher Standards hopes to draw in more leaders from additional states.

The group’s formation follows what has been an ugly spring for proponents of national standards. While an initial wave of support led to Common Core being accepted in almost every state of the country, a recent political backlash has sent the standards into retreat. Indiana chose to disassociate with Common Core in the spring, while South Carolina and Oklahoma have passed bills in the last two weeks intending to pull their states out as well.

Zimpher and Morgan said they thought their group could help turn the tide by showcasing why so many figures in higher education are big backers of the standards.

Zimpher said Common Core was created in response to a crippling lack of readiness on the part of incoming college students. Fifty percent of students seeking two-year degrees and 20 percent of those seeking four-year degrees, she said, required remedial classes upon matriculating, forcing colleges to “teach twice” to ensure a skill base that should have been created in high school. Students who require remedial courses, she said, had very low odds of completing their degrees within a reasonable timeframe.

While Common Core applies only to K-12 students, they were actually built around what colleges want to see in students, and then “reverse-engineered” to determine what needed to be learned in grade school to prepare, Morgan said.

“National polls suggest that the public understands the idea of high school graduates who are ready is what we need to be doing,” Morgan told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “Once people understand the purpose, they like it.”

The two also said the group could work to counteract myths they say have emerged regarding the nature of Common Core. Zimpher decried the widespread belief that Common Core was an attempted federal takeover of education, saying it was an accepted constitutional principle that control of education rests with the states. Common Core, she said, was a collaborative multi-state effort free of federal control.

Morgan took pains to emphasize that while Common Core sets standards, it does not set any kind of national curriculum. That decision remains entirely in state and local hands, he said.

“It’s now about how to teach, it’s about what students need to know,” he said. Morgan also warned against “bizarre” concerns that have spread about Common Core, such as the belief it will facilitate the collection of student biometric information into a federal database. This belief, which grew out of increasing state efforts to track academic performance longitudinally, only distracts from the actual principles involved with Common Core, Morgan said.

Zimpher emphasized that the group saw the stakes as exceptionally high, which drove them to action.

“If we let these standards go, it will be decades before we can rally 45 states” for a similar endeavor, she said.

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