Arne Duncan spoke to the American Society of News Editors yesterday, where he strongly defendedthe Common Core and caricatured its critics as extremists and fringe groups from the far-right.

An article about his speech on the Huffington Post says:

Duncan will give a full-throated defense of the Core in his ASNE speech. The Obama administration has been sensitive about the Core because its perceived closeness to the initiative can be seen as dampening Republican support. But Duncan is expected to relate what he calls the “powerful” Core to America’s future prosperity.

“Today, for the first time in American history a child in Mississippi will face the same expectations as a child in Massachusetts,” Duncan’s speech says.

This is an odd defense. There is already a common measure for children in Mississippi and Massachusetts. It is called the National Assessment of Educational Progress. NAEP shows that children in Mississippi are far behind children in Massachusetts.

His insistence that the federal government had no role in the Common Core is less than honest. He didn’t mention that his Race to the Top told states that they had to adopt something that looked just like the Common Core if they wanted to be eligible to win a share of the $5 billion prize. But since it is illegal for the federal government to attempt to influence curriculum and instruction in the nation’s schools, Duncan must stick with his fiction about non-interference and having no role at all. The gentleman doth protest too much.

Other than treating critics of the Common Core as an assortment of rightwing nut-jobs, Duncan never explains how adoption of a common set of standards and tests will assure America’s future prosperity. How does he know? What is his evidence? Or is it only extremists who demand evidence before spending billions of dollars and leaping into new practices?