U.S. Secretary Of Education: States (Like Tennessee) Need ‘Courage’ To Implement Common Core

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan spoke on a panel at Brick Church Middle School, which is transitioning to become a charter school. Credit: Emily Siner / WPLN

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan spoke on a panel at Brick Church Middle School, which is transitioning to become a charter school. Credit: Emily Siner / WPLN

During a visit to Nashville, the U.S. Secretary of Education praised Tennessee for setting higher standards in schools but said the state is focusing on the wrong battles.

Tennessee won half a billion dollars for education reform in 2010, and the state is now arguing over how to implement the Common Core, a set of education standards adopted by 44 states around the country. On one side, supporters say the higher standards will prepare students for a competitive workforce; on the other, conservative and liberal opponents say they still want high standards but take issue with the way they’re implemented.

On a visit to Brick Church Middle School in North Nashville, Secretary Arne Duncan said that he understands why there’s opposition.

“What Tennessee has done, very fundamentally, is challenge the status quo. Any time you challenge the status quo, there is going to be pushback,” he says.

Tennessee has heeded to some of the pushback: state lawmakers recently agreed to delay a new standardized test that would allow students to be compared to students any many other Common Core states.

Without mentioning Tennessee specifically, Duncan criticized states that have been hesitating to fully implement the new education standards. “We know what works for kids,” he says. “We know having high standards matter. … We know these things. Do we have the courage as adults to do the right thing for children?”

He says the real goal is not to implement a certain test but to create a well-educated work force in the future.

“There are different ways to get there,” Duncan says. “You have to work smart, and if it takes a little more time, I absolutely recognize that.”