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Talking “Common Core” with Emmett McGroarty

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HH: As you know, all week I’ve been covering the Common Core controversy and I’ve done so trying to match one voice in favor with one voice against. In the first hour today, you heard Patricia Levesque talking up the Common Core. I’m so pleased to welcome Emmett McGroarty with the American Principles Project who is a critic of the Common Core State Standards. Emmett thanks for joining me. I very much appreciate your doing so.


EM: Hugh, it’s an honor. Common Core is a bad idea that just keeps getting worse.


HH: Well that’s, I want you to lay out, you know, Patricia last hour said exactly the opposite and good conservatives are on both issues of this issue so I am betwixed in between. Lay out the case out against ‘em.


EM: Well, first of all, the proponents and the developers of the Common Core say that this is a state led process and that’s not true. This is a process that was engineered and funded by private interests, most notably the Gates Foundation, and it’s something that was developed and pushed by private trade associations, particularly the National Governor’s Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers. Those sound like state entities, but they’re not. They are privately incorporated and they receive private money to push certain agenda. They don’t have a grant of authority from any state legislature. Governor’s participating them as individuals, um, so they own the Common Core.


HH:  Okay so—


EM: Copyright on it.


HH: Okay. And so that makes it bad, why?


EM: Well, because the states in agreeing to entering the Common Core System, they’ve pledged to implement the Common Core 100%. They can’t change the standards at all. They can add 15% but they can’t change any of it. Uh, and then tied to the Common Core are federally funded and really federally managed or overseen high stakes standardized tests. So, in entering the system the states have given up large swaths of education policy decision making.


HH: Are the Core Standards any good?


EM: No. The Common Core is highly defective. In short, with English Language Arts what you have is a greater emphasis on dry informational text in place of classic literature. In math it ushers in fuzzy math which delays the learning progression, causes the Common Core to jettison important concepts like prime factorization and conversions among fractions, decimals and percents. It delays the learning progression so that by 8th grade, according to Professor James Milgram of Stanford, Common Core students would be about 2 years behind their piers in high performing countries. He says it only gets worst after that


HH: Now, Emmett McGroarty, I’m on the board


EM: almost a joke.


HH: of the Great Hearts Academies in Phoenix, Arizona, private – a public charter system, very, very successful, traditional, classical learning. There isn’t any one on the country, there isn’t a conservative or liberal who could quarrel with the results of our Academy so that I have no doubt that our thousands of students can meet and match any Common Core anywhere. But I know there are lots of school systems cause I covered the Los Angles Unified School District for 10 years for PBS out in LA that are absolutely shattered in large part. There will be some great performing schools in any district, but for the most part, just absolutely shattered. Does the Common Core help the devastated district? Are we at a situation where what we’re really talking about here is what you see depends on where you stand and if you’re looking at a devastated district this helps them rebuild but if you’re looking at a good district it brings you down?


EM: No, no. It’s a dumb down curriculum. This is not a matter of where do we set the bar here or there. This is a radical shift in curriculum and I would say, we have in America, we have kind of the gold standard on educational achievement and that gold standard is really Massachusetts. And Massachusetts in 1993 formed a bipartisan committee—


HH: I’ve got to sit down, Emmett [laughing]. You just told me something good came out of Massachusetts? Tell me about it.


EM: Well, it was a bipartisan commission. They sat down and decided what do we need to do to have a high achieving school system and the decision was that we need to go back to putting a heavy emphasis on classic literature and direct instruction math and, then after that the AST rose, the last 4 renditions of the National Assessment of Educational Progress, Massachusetts scored at the top in every category. They entered the International Tim’s competition as if they were a separate country and scored up at the top with the likes of Singapore.


HH: Now, would it be – what would your reaction be if a state “A” came along and said we’re adopting the Massachusetts standards, not the Common Core Standards. What would Emmett McGroarty say?


EM: I would say look, first of all, when we say “we” I hope that it’s something that respects the input of the people, unlike how the Common Core was foisted on the states. You know, the people and the legislators have notice as to what’s happening and an opportunity to be heard and a full briefing on the issue, but I would say that this is what the Founders intended is kind of a competition between the states. We don’t need a monopoly of, a monopoly of mediocre of standards. We need, we need states to say, heh, this is working in Massachusetts we’re going to look at that and we’re going to implement standards like that, and maybe we’ll try to make them better than Massachusetts.


HH: Okay. Okay, that’s a good federalism argument, but there’s also the counter-argument. If the Core is, in fact, a floor and not a ceiling, and I hear you saying one of the problems is that it might be a ceiling, but if it’s a floor, and the states did actually adopt that floor of their own volition, a federalist couldn’t argue with the state’s adopting the best experiment out of the laboratory, right? Emmett, we have another segment coming up, so you have 30 second until the break.


EM: Okay, yes the federalist could be because the states are giving up control.


HH: Okay. When we come back you’re gong to have to explain that because if the state legislature, and I might agree or disagree with that, but as a federalist if the state legislature embraced the Common Core and, they did so without coercing from the federal government, I don’t know how the federalists argue with it.  I’ll be right back, America. It’s the Hugh Hewitt Show.




HH: Welcome back, America. It’s Hugh Hewitt with Emmett McGroarty with the American Principle Project. Last hour you heard me giving me Patricia Levesque a hard time over the Common Core and now I’m giving Emmett a hard time over opposition of the Common Core because in opposition and dialectic there is progress. So, Emmett, if the states actually adopted this, and if local districts adopted the Common Core Standard, we might want to try and persuade them that there is a better option, like the Massachusetts option, but it’s not anti-federalist who have exercised the choice power is it?


EM:  Well, the issue depends on who has control. It depends on where does accountability flow? So does accountability flow into the people to the citizens to the parents? Um, or is it like in the Common Core System all the states have pledged to adopt the, the Common Core 100% and not to change it? And they’ve entered into these federally funded testing consortia so they’ve given up the control.


HH: But a legislature can always revoke, a legislature can’t bind a future legislature it’s –


EM: They have to reclaim their resovernigity in say that from here on out, we’re going to exercise complete control over the standards. We’re going to change what we don’t want and we’re not going to participate in this federal testing consortia.


HH: Well I would support any, no state should ever give up the right to control its own destiny on education. You and I both know that is a core principle of constitutional.


EM: Governor Haley of South Carolina said about the Common Core, she said just as we should not – we should relinquish control of education to the federal government, neither should we cede it to the consciences of other states. So, that’s what you have with the Common Core. You have, first of all you have the 2 associations of privately funded associations that own the Common Core. Then you have all the states that are all participating in it—pledged to implement it 100%, then you have the federal government.


HH: And that’s the big – and we got that and as Bill Bennett said as Jeb Bush said if they take over, then all bets are off. Let me close make sure I get in – where’s the best source of information, in your opinion, Emmett McGroarty, on the Common Core and opposition around it?


EM: Well, you can look at our website




EM: Yeah. There is an aggregator site that’s a participant run called


HH: Okay, and appproject@ –




HH: Emmett McGroarty, thank you, I’ll check back with you. This is just getting started isn’t it?


EM: This is just getting started. This is foisted on the states so it’s in reverse. Now the debate is occurring not on the front end.


HH: Emmett, thank you. We look forward to having you back America. Stay tuned. Follow me @HughHewittontwitter. Go for all of these transcripts, all of them are posted on the transcripts page from the whole Common Core series of conversations this week on the Hugh Hewitt Show and more today and tomorrow. They are all available at the transcripts page as soon as Lynne the magnificent get’s them typed up.


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