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Common Standards Get Spotlight in Presidential Debate

In case you haven't heard, education got a nice little slice of the spotlight in last night's presidential debate. I'll leave it to Michele McNeil, one of our intrepid federal beat reporters, to explain it all for you in her blog post from last night and her story about how a Romney presidency could change the education landscape.

As we've noted here before, the presidential contest is raising the profile of academic standards. That trend continued last night; when the president of the United States says the word "standards" before a massive national audience, you know something's up.

As immersed as I am in the common-standards beat, it's clear that few people outside the education world even know what standards are, let alone the new set of common ones. I can't say I'm filled with optimism that presidential mentions will inspire people to hit the books and find out; but maybe I'll be surprised. With so much at stake, now that nearly every state has adopted them, an informed public would be a very good thing, indeed.

The flip side of President Obama's mention of the standards, however, is that it risks consolidating opposition to them among people who view the administration's support of the standards—and tests to measure mastery of them—as an inappropriate use of federal power.

The Heritage Foundation's Lindsey Burke, for instance, found it quite notable that Obama brought up—though not by name—the common core on such a large, national stage.

"I think we saw President Obama really holding common core up as one of his education achievements, which says a lot about this administration's overreach," Burke told Michele this morning.

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