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Democratic Platform Hails Common Core, Praises Teachers

Charlotte, N.C.

The Democratic Party has released its official platform for 2012, and there's at least one section that might raise eyebrows among education observers.

The platform put out Monday states that President Barack Obama and Democrats in general are intent on providing states and communities with the "flexibility and resources" to improve K-12 education. It then goes on to say:

"To that end, the President challenged and encouraged states to raise their standards so students graduate ready for college or career and can succeed in a dynamic global economy. Forty-six states responded, leading groundbreaking reforms that will deliver better education to millions of American students."

This is a clear reference to the Common Core State Standards in English and math, which were the work of the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers and adopted by states on an individual basis. The Obama administration has not insisted on the common core specifically for states adopting new content standards, saying only that such standards must prepare students for college and careers. But in this platform, it appears Obama and the Democrats want to take a certain kind of credit for the common core, although this claim isn't as strongly worded as it could be. (By contrast, Race to the Top, the administration's most prominent education initiative, is not mentioned by name.)

Campaign 2012

Compare this to the Republican National Convention in Tampa last week, where the common core got no mention in the party platform or in any speeches or official events. As my colleague Alyson Klein reported, there was grumbling among some attendees that the common core is turning into "Obama Core" and is being used by the president to take over the nation's educational system. Will this section of the Democratic platform just inflame them, and others, further?

In the Democrats platform, teachers get significant recognition and glowing words. The party notes that Obama has acted to "save" more than 400,000 educator jobs, and that he wants to prevent even more layoffs while also "rewarding great teachers." This is an apparent reference to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (known as the stimulus) as well as the Education Jobs Fund.

On the subject of evaluations, it tip-toes around sensitive issues (read: low-performing teachers who get fired) with the following language: "We also believe in carefully crafted evaluation systems that give struggling teachers a chance to succeed and protect due process if another teacher has to be put in the classroom." So evaluations' controversial role in getting rid of low-performing teachers is not directly mentioned.

College affordability also gets a few lines, with the Democrats highlighting their work to overhaul the student loan system and their work to double Pell Grants for low-income students, as well as the creation of a tax credit to provide up to $10,000 over four years of college. The platform also highlights Obama's pledge to punish colleges that don't maintain affordable costs by reducing their federal aid, and double the number of work-study jobs available to students.

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