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On the left, advocates such as Diane Ravitch, a former George W. Bush education official who is now a leading figure in opposition of the so-called education reform movement say that the Core could lead to more assessment when kids are already overburdened by excessive testing.
“The conservative right is using it as an example of government control, a break with states’ rights — but it’s voluntary,” said Sherman, who now works as a special assistant to Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers. “People like Ravitch are saying it has all of the testing and blah blah blah. I don’t go along with that either.”
Coleman said that he thinks when people like Paul read the standards, they will support them. It’s the substance, he said, that’s brought Republicans such as Mike Huckabee and Jeb Bush on board. “Whatever missteps were made in the past with the administration and Race to the Top, the secretary has made very clear, this is and remains state led,” Coleman said. “And any state can withdraw at any time, which is being demonstrated.”
But if more states drop out, the effort could lose momentum. “If it’s adopted by a tiny number of states it ceases to have the meaning it once had,” said Tim Daly, president of the teacher placement firm TNTP.
As the fight over the Core plays out in the states, Coleman now has a broader view on education. Last summer, the College Board announced they would hire Coleman to lead the organization. Since then, he has engaged the organization’s members in creating a redesigned SAT, which will be unveiled in 2015.
He’s heard from members of the College Board that they want the SAT to test things that are relevant to college success. They’ve told him that students should be able to read and write clearly, and also master a core set of mathematical concepts. “The core aspiration is to build an exam that much more clearly focuses on the skills that matter most,” he said. Instead of obscure vocabulary words, students would be expected to show deep understanding of academic terms such as “synthesis” and “transform.” Overall, Coleman hopes to make the exam more relevant to high school learning. “It has to engage teachers more deeply,” he said.
As students go back to school and stress over college applications this year, they probably don’t know about the man with the funny socks in the Columbus Circle office who, in a sense, influences their future. “He’s in this position to tie what kids are learning to what colleges are expecting,” Smarick said. “Very few people in America today are having a bigger influence on what kids are learning than David Coleman.”
Joy Resmovits is The Huffington Post’s education reporter. After graduating from Barnard College in 2010, she wrote for the Wall Street Journal and then worked for the Forward as a news fellow. She has also contributed to the New York Daily News, Education Update and the St. Louis Beacon.