Standardized Op-Ed In The Star Advocates For Standardized Testing

Maybe the Star got conned, I don't know. If so, it shouldn't have. Even a sleepy-eyed editor should have seen through the deception. When I gave today's "Special to the Arizona Daily Star" op-ed in defense of the Common Core a sleepy-eyed reading this morning, I could tell a few paragraphs in it was a widely distributed column. It took me two minutes of googling to find it in five other papers, most of them dating from October, 2013.

The column was written by the Fordham Institute. To be fair, the versions aren't identical. In the Star, for instance, there's a phrase in the second paragraph, "including in Arizona." In other papers, it reads, "including in Indiana," "including in North Carolina," "including in Mississippi, "including in Florida" and "including in Georgia." Other direct references to the states have similar changes and, of course, there are minor differences in editing.

When the Fordham Institute wrote the op-ed and distributed it to papers across the country, it made an unusual admission in the copy. It identified the Institute as a "conservative think tank where we examine policy issues and promote reforms in K-12 education." It's rare for a group like this to identify its political leanings, but there's a reason in this case. The column is openly trying to woo conservatives to support the Common Core by warning them against joining with Common Core opponents on the left.

We have been puzzled recently by the small but vocal minority of conservatives who have joined forces with some on the far left to oppose the Common Core. It’s appropriate, of course, to worry about threats like federal intervention into schools, ideological indoctrination of students and poor-quality instruction. But the Common Core doesn’t promote any of those things.

The Fordham folks are correct. Glenn Beck on the right, to give one example, has been campaigning hard against the Common Core, and so has Diane Ravitch on the left. The two sides disagree on the reasons for their opposition, but both sides want to see the nationally standardized set of standards and tests dramatically changed or dropped entirely. Meanwhile, our Governor Jan Brewer and Ed Supe John Huppenthal are the unlikely bedfellows of President Obama and his Ed Sec Arne Duncan in supporting Common Core.

The conservative supporters of the standards know if they can rein in their right wing, they'll be fine. The left lacks the media presence or the financial clout to win this fight on its own, but with right wing megaphones like Beck and money from groups like the Heritage Foundation battling against Common Core, the standards are in serious trouble.

If the Star wants to publish the Fordham Institute's column, that's perfectly fine. But please, don't call it "Special to the Arizona Daily Star." A more accurate statement would have been, "Other versions of this column have been published in papers across the country." That would have alerted readers that this is part of a nationwide push, not a column written specifically for Arizona or for Tucson.