Business executives from a variety of fields continued a high-profile push to support the Common Core State Standards at an event in Washington today hosted by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in Washington, stressing the importance of the standards to students' ability to transition from school to the labor market and to improving the country's standing in the global economy.
Officials from Cisco Systems, ExxonMobil, and Intel, as well as former U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings, also discussed opposition to the standards and how they are attempting to buttress support for the common core. Carlos Contreras, U.S. education director for Intel, for example, told the Chamber at its Sept. 17 "Connecting the Dots: Education, Policy, Workforce" event that when Intel has surveyed its employees, half of them have said they don't know what the standards are. And Cisco's Renee Patton, its education director and a former high school teacher, said that it is encouraging its employees to get "engaged" at the local level to support the standards.
"I think they make a ton of sense," she said of the standards during the session, which was streamed online. "They're absolutely practical in terms of what we want students to be able to do."
As my colleague Sean Cavanagh wrote yesterday, this is one of two business-centered, pro-common-core events taking place in Washington this week—on Wednesday, the Business Roundtable is hosting an event that includes a discussion of common core with U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.
At this point, the arguments from the business community about the standards have been rolling along for some time. Duncan gave a pep-rally speech to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce back in April, saying they had to do more to support the standards for their own good and the country's future. The key question is whether these arguments have been effective in chipping away at the public's lack of awareness about the common core, which has been highlighted both by supporters like Contreras and common-core skeptics, and whether that will turn to support or distaste. Contreras himself acknowledged that 15-20 percent of people will remain dead set against the standards no matter what, a figure that might apply to many public policy questions and initiatives.
Spellings acknowledged that there has been some political pushback in states and asserted that this fear can be put down to uncertainty as to whether students can ultimately meet these new standards. (Some would say the fear is actually based more about the standards' quality and their broader effects on schools.) But she urged the business community not to be deterred.
"We must confront these fears, holding ourselves and teachers accountable to meeting these high standards," she said. "Even the progress we have made is not enough, and it is not fast enough, and it is time to hit the gas pedal."