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November 12. 2013 9:34PM

Common Core: They're the faces of pro and con


Mark Tucker, left, president of the National Center on Education and the Economy, listens to a question from state Rep. Kermit Williams, D-Wilton, at a day-long information session for lawmakers on Common Core education standards. A Maine resident, Tucker is one of the leading advocates for the Common Core. (Dave Solomon / Union Leader)

CONCORD — They are two of the most well-established experts on educational policy in the country and in many ways have come to represent the pro and the con when it comes to Common Core State Standards.

Marc Tucker, president and founder of the National Center on Education and the Economy, argued for the educational standards in an appearance before a roomful of New Hampshire lawmakers on Oct. 29.

A week later, on Nov. 4, Sandra Stotsky posted a blog on the conservative Pioneer Institute website titled, "On Marc Tucker's Credibility," in which she wrote: "In October, members of the New Hampshire Legislature heard Marc Tucker tell them more fibs than Pinocchio ever dreamed up. How many legislators will prove to be gullible Geppettos is another matter."

Stotsky then went on to provide what she called, "An analysis of just a few paragraphs of his fib-filled comments." The six "math experts" that Tucker claims supported the standards were not really mathematicians but professional educators, she wrote, adding, "Tucker doesn't know a mathematician from a mathematics educator, raising the question whether he knows what he is talking about at all."

The battle of words has been underway for months. Stotsky, a resident of Massachusetts, has appeared at several forums hosted by Common Core opponents in New Hampshire, which was one reason the state's Board of Education felt compelled to work with the House Education Committee to invite Tucker, a resident of Maine, to the State House.

Tucker began his presentation in Concord by referring to allegations that he is a socialist, an advocate for federal control and, "perhaps worst of all," he said, "a friend of Hillary Clinton."

Both Tucker and Stotsky have impressive resumes and a lifetime of accomplishments that would take pages to detail. Tucker has been researching the policies and practices of countries with the best educational outcomes in the world since the 1970s, when he served as associate director of the National Institute of Education. He was appointed by President Clinton to the National Skills Standards Board and has written several books on education reform.

Stotsky was a researcher in the School of Education at Northeastern University and served as senior associate commissioner at the Massachusetts Department of Education when the Bay State developed some of the most widely applauded educational standards in the country.

A political divide

If Stotsky and Tucker represent the two schools of thought on Common Core, they also represent the political divide at the core of the debate.

Tucker, a registered Democrat, was an adviser to the Clinton Administration. His opponents have made much of the fact that the Common Core initiative and Tucker's organization have been funded by the left-leaning Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which has invested $160 million in Common Core and has pledged millions more for advocacy.

Stotsky served on the Common Core validation committee and refused to sign off on the standards. She is identified as a "non-staff member" on the website of the conservative Heritage Foundation and blogs regularly for the like-minded Pioneer Institute, which supports home-schooling and charter school initiatives.

Her work as endowed chair in teacher quality at the University of Arkansas has been supported by Walmart's Walton Family Foundation, which supports tax-funded vouchers for private schools, charter schools and increased teacher testing.

The author of "Losing Our Language: How Multicultural Classroom Instruction Is Undermining Our Children's Ability to Read, Write, and Reason," Stotsky was a prominent opponent of ethnic studies in the Tucson, Ariz., school district in 2011, when an administrative law judge ruled that the curriculum used in Tucson's Mexican American studies programs was biased against white people.dsolomon@unionleader.com


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