The idea that the Common Core standards are nationally-imposed is a conspiracy theory in search of a conspiracy. The Common Core academic standards were both developed and adopted by the states, and they have widespread bipartisan support. GOP leaders like Jeb Bush and governors Mitch Daniels, Chris Christie, and Bill Haslam have supported the Common Core standards because they realize states must stop dummying down academic standards and lying about the performance of children and schools. In fact, South Carolina lowered the bar for proficiency in English and mathematics faster than any state in the country from 2005 to 2009, according to research by the National Center for Education Statistics. That’s not good for children, parents, or teachers.

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, rightly chastising the Palmetto State’s legislature for pushing an effort to abandon implementing Common Core reading and math standards. If only Duncan and President Barack Obama showed greater commitment to systemic reform by abandoning the counterproductive No Child waiver gambit.

Wouldn’t you want your plumber to be able to quote Shakespeare?” I posed the question to our veteran math teacher, thirty years in the trenches, and he said, succinctly and without hesitation, “No.” At first, I was taken aback, but, as we chatted, I realized that he saw it as a zero-sum question. He had nothing against Shakespeare; he simply wanted his plumber to be a good plumber and considered the Bard a distraction. I understand. We want our auto mechanics to know the difference between a brake line and a muffler, our carpenters to appreciate the importance of a plumb line and the use of a hammer—oops, nail gun. But it is not a zero-sum game. And knowing the foibles of Macbeth does not mean you must be useless with a soldering gun.

Thomas B. Fordham Institute’s Peter Meyer, explaining the importance of every child getting strong, comprehensive college-preparatory curricula, a subject of this week’s Dropout Nation Podcast.

To understand why the release of this data makes sense, you must step back and see the intense, broader battle underway throughout the nation. The fight is between those who want to improve the schools and those who like the system as it exists today. Those who want to preserve the status quo have historically had the upper hand. For generations, they have been able to control policy change by focusing attention on the adults in the schools through the contract bargaining process, through labor laws in the legislature and through a supportive media environment. This political balance has, however, taken a sudden turn. Within the last few years, a surprising number of states have revisited the idea of teacher tenure based solely on a couple of years on the job and not on any true evaluation of the teacher’s contribution to students’ learning. There has also been valuable movement to finally begin to base personnel decisions, including both rewards and dismissals, on the basis of real measures of teacher quality.

Hoover Institution scholar Eric Hanushek, joining Dropout Nation in challenging Bill Gates’ opposition to publishing teacher performance data.

Among advanced degrees in engineering awarded at U.S. universities during the 2007-08 academic year, 28 percent went to whites; 2 percent went to blacks; 2 percent went to Hispanics; and 61 percent went to foreigners. Of the advanced degrees in mathematics, 40 percent went to whites; 2 percent went to blacks; 5 percent went to Hispanics; and 50 percent went to foreigners. For advanced degrees in education, 65 percent went to whites; 17 percent went to blacks; 5 percent went to Hispanics; and 8 percent went to foreigners. The pattern is apparent. The more rigorous a subject area the higher the percentage of foreigners — and the lower the percentage of Americans — earning advanced degrees. In subject areas such as education, which have little or no rigor, Americans are likelier — and foreigners are less likely — to earn advanced degrees.

Economist and columnist Walter Williams, breaking down the high cost of innumeracy, a symptom of the nation’s education and dropout crisis.