We now have two presidential debates under our belt and still no appreciable discussion of education by either candidate. So far so good because the last thing we want is a President who thinks education is his or her top priority to control from Washington. The only mentions that were made were about making sure we have “the best education system” or that it is a “disaster” in our inner cities. When it comes to Common Core both candidates have expressed opinions, but not necessarily in public. Trump has been pretty open about his dislike of the CCSSI. Clinton has been quieter in public, but in private speeches she has been more frank with her opinion.

In July 2014 she addressed an audience at Knewton, a global company with a presence on every continent except Antarctica, which provides an adaptive learning platform (i.e. digital content) for K-12 learners and humbly seeks to “personalize learning for the world.”  Any question why Hillary would be addressing this company two years before an election?

Wikileaks provided this excerpt of her speech at Knewton about what she thinks politicians should do about education.

“I think there have been a number of politicians in the last 35 years, going back to A Nation at Risk, who have been very engaged in and outspoken about education. But unless you’re a governor or maybe a mayor who has authority over your schools, there’s not really very much that most politicians can do because of the way our system of education is governed.  Obviously, local school boards, colleges and universities, they have separate governance.  And we don’t want politicians interfering too much in the independence of the governance of education.  What we want is for politicians to be more knowledgeable about what actually works in education and support that, as opposed to seizing on past ideas and just driving those without regard to evidence.

Keeping in mind that Clinton is a lawyer, it is important to pay close attention to her choice of words, especially when they are in a prepared speech. She doesn’t want “politicians” having too much say in education. It is doubtful anyone would disagree with that desire. It does, however, leave the door open for a host of self proclaimed experts, private interests and bureaucrats to interfere. Those parties are supposed to make politicians more “knowledgeable about what works in education” so the politicians can support it. How? By naming it in law or providing money to incentivize its use no doubt.

It’s too bad that her own desires were not followed when Common Core was being considered. If they were, the U.S. Department of Education’s What Works Clearinghouse,  developed seven years before Common Core, would have been a major foundation for the standards instead of a negotiation among bi-partisan govern, as she said later in the speech. Unfortunately, there was little regard for incorporating what works into the CCSSI. In fact, when it comes to the math standards, what has been proven not to work was resurrected and forced down everyone’s throats.

What did Clinton specifically say about Common Core in this speech?

“The common core is a perfect example.  I mean, the common core was negotiated by a bipartisan group of governors.  And maybe they thought — I mean, I think this was a political failure because they negotiated something and they had no real agreed-upon program for explaining it and selling it to people so that they left an opening for those who were always in the education debate, who don’t think anybody should be told anything about what to study, even if it’s the multiplication tables.  You know, that that should all be left to local control. And then you get into more complicated areas, as we all know, that that’s just totally off limits.  And then using common core results for teacher evaluation when everybody knew that it was going to be complicated to implement.”

Clinton clearly has no respect for local control. According to her, there are people who just should not be given a foot in the door to address what should be taught. It is ironic that she thinks politicians should be more knowledgeable about education when she herself has no idea what the difference between pedagogy and content is. Otherwise she would know that multiplication tables are a “how” to teach, not a “what.”

She also has little knowledge about how the standards were rolled out and resorts to the tired line that it was an implementation problem that could have been solved with a better marketing campaign. That’s like saying the Samsung Note 7 exploding batteries problem could have been addressed with better marketing about the phone’s hand-warming feature.

Her statement that Common Core “had no real agreed-upon program for explaining it and selling it to people” completely ignores the two years of  hype that school administrators and teachers heard about Common Core prior to its roll-out somewhere between 2012-2014.  I wrote about this in 2013. There was not much they could say about the standards at that time because they were completely untested. Instead they seized on past ideas and just drove those without regard to evidence. Ironic huh?

Calling it a political failure in 2014 is not completely unreasonable. Most districts had only two years of actual experience with the standards  and there had been no SBAC or PARCC tests other than pilots at that point. Holding to that excuse at this point, when two years of SBAC, PARCC and now NAEP scores show a downward trend, would strain credulity more than believing that the Kroenke wanted to keep the Rams in the St. Louis because he loved this town that much.

tuckerComing from the woman who was the recipient of the now infamous “Dear Hillary Letter,” these comments shouldn’t be such a surprise. Her views of education were formed in 1993 when Marc Tucker wrote to her about his vision for American public education. Gretchen wrote in 2011 about that letter and the ominous statement in the preface.



The advent of the Clinton admin. creates a unique opportunity for the country to develop a truly national system for the development of its human resources, second to none on the globe.”

Is there any doubt that a new Clinton administration would continue to work on this goal?

Anne Gassel

Anne has been writing on MEW since 2012 and has been a citizen lobbyist on Common Core since 2013. Some day she would like to see a national Hippocratic oath for educators “I will remember that there is an art to teaching as well as science, and that warmth, sympathy and understanding are sometimes more important than policy or what the data say. My first priority is to do no harm to the children entrusted to my temporary care.”

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