Portland school watchdogs aren’t the only ones taking a critical look at the Common Core State Standards, which are being rolled out in Oregon and 44 other states with the aim of creating a national baseline for education (Critics blast education's new 'core,' Oct. 24).

Federal Education Secretary Arne Duncan created an uproar this week with an offhand remark he made about the Common Core. According to media reports (and not disputed by his department), he told a gathering of school superintendents last week:

“It’s fascinating to me that some of the pushback is coming from, sort of, white suburban moms who — all of a sudden — their child isn’t as brilliant as they thought they were and their school isn’t quite as good as they thought they were, and that’s pretty scary.”

On Nov. 18, Duncan responded to the outrage on social media with a post on his department’s website. He wrote: “I used some clumsy phrasing that I regret — particularly because it distracted from an important conversation about how to better prepare all of America’s students for success,” he wrote. “I want to encourage a difficult conversation and challenge the underlying assumption that when we talk about the need to improve our nation’s schools, we are talking only about poor minority students in inner cities. This is simply not true. Research demonstrates that as a country, every demographic group has room for improvement.”

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