I am not exactly sure what “Intelligence Squared” is, but it sponsored an interesting debate about Common Core. Here is the transcript. Here is the video.


Speaking for Common Core was Mike Petrilli, president of the conservative Thomas B. Fordham Institute, and Carmel Martin, formerly assistant secretary for civil rights in the U.S. Department of Education and a strong enthusiast for Race to the Top as well as the Common Core.


Speaking in opposition to the proposition of embracing the Common Core was Carol Burris, principal of South Side High School in Rockville Center in New York, and Rick Hess of the conservative American Enterprise Institute.


I found Burris and Hess far more persuasive than Petrilli and Martin.


Petrilli assured us that we need high standards, and that the Common Core standards are the best standards around. Martin offered an anecdote about a student she met who thought she was well-prepared but learned she was not when she got to college. Both said they had talked to teachers. They also insisted that the Common Core was not top-down, but was bottom up. They claimed that the standards could be changed, apparently unaware that they are copyrighted and allegedly cannot be changed, only added to.

Petrilli and Martin had the talking points one would use to persuade legislators. But it was clear that neither know much about the mismatch between the cognitive demands of the CCSS and the developmental readiness of children. They seemed to believe that school can never be “too hard,” that notated how high you set the bar, all children will reach it. This, if you push fourth grad material down to first grade or even kindergarten, kids will learn it.

Burris, the only real workaday educator among the group, said she initially supported the Common Core but turned against them as she realized that so many of them were just age-inappropriate and wrong. She had facts and experience. She gave examples from the standards, and the audience laughed. She spoke knowledgably about the math standards. She is an educator.


Hess expressed his doubts about the value of having a single way of teaching reading and math to 50 million students. I was impressed by his reasonable conservatism. He doesn’t hate the Common Core. He just thinks that too many people are embracing them without any real evidence that they will do what they claim to do.


From what I heard and read, this was a big win for Burris and Hess. They were right on the facts, right on the concerns, right on the cautions. Burris was especially informed, because she speaks from real-life experience as a working principal.


The studio audience voted for Petrilli and Martin. The online voters supporters Burris and Hess. Watch, read, cast your ballot.