Blog: Latino Ed Beat

Hispanic Education Leader Uses Bible to Defend Common Core

Carlos Campo/ Source: LinkedIn

The chair of the Alliance for Hispanic Education dedicated more than 1,000 words to an op-ed Monday explaining why he, as an educator and Christian, supports the Common Core State Standards.

In the op-ed published in The Christian Post, Carlos Campo quoted Proverbs 20:10, which states, “Unequal weights and unequal measures are both alike an abomination to the Lord.” Campo was the first Hispanic president of a private Christian university in Virginia and also leads education initiatives for the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, which endorsed the Common Core last spring for “biblical justice and equity.”

Campo was correlating the verse to high-school standards that inadequately prepared students for the rigors of college academics, which he saw first hand as an English 101 college professor. He writes: 

The stakes were and are high: If you do not pass, you cannot move forward in your degree plan. The scholastic domino effect is as predictable as it is inexorable, and I watched in helpless frustration as many students failed my course because they were ill-prepared for the rigors of college work. Many tumbled out of higher education, the door to success slamming on some forever.

…I watched as some of our [area's] best high school students won scholarships to prestigious universities, but when they arrived, they realized that a 4.0 GPA in and of itself was no guarantee of collegiate success. They realized that high schools that were truly “preparatory” relied on high academic standards that were tested for their efficacy to ensure student success. It was clear educational outcomes varied dramatically from state to state and even within individual states and districts.

In the early 2000s, Campo joined the efforts of the American Diploma Project, which sought to have state leaders work with business executives and education professionals to align high-school standards, graduation requirements, and assessment and accountability systems with the demands of college and careers. But the project did not catch on, and Campo remembers returning to the classroom, seeing no improvements in student preparation.

Then he heard about the Common Core — which he described as “clearer, better researched, and more rigorous” standards than anything ADP had created. But with Common Core came cries of federal overreach and “Obamacore,” which, Campo argues, were in many ways led by people of faith. 

He’s not wrong. Many high-profile Christians and evangelical groups, including the Family Research Council think tank, have vehemently opposed the standards for a variety of reasons. Last July, NBC News published an article, “Meet America’s Most Hardcore Anti-Common Core Moms.” The women interviewed in Texas, where the Common Core has never been adopted, said the Common Core was “anti-Christian,” unconstitutional and posed a threat to their children’s morality.

Campo has been vocal about his support for Common Core in the past. In May, he took to blogging on the Huffington Post: “Note to Christian Education Activists: The Common Core is Not the Enemy, for Heaven’s Sake.” In it, he cites a verse from Proverbs 19: “Listen to advice and accept instruction, that you may gain wisdom in the future.”

“In truth, ‘listening’ can be remarkably difficult amid the blaring dissonance of (even the most well-intentioned) contention,” the blog states. 

Regardless of the reasons people choose to support or oppose the Common Core, the contentious national debate surrounding the standards does, in fact, appear to be hurting people’s opinions of those guidelines. At a recent EWA seminar, “Covering Standards and Testing in the Common Core Era,” panelists discussed polls about the Common Core, which suggest that much opposition to the standards is not grounded in a clear understanding of their purpose or where they originated. 

For example, according to a recent Education Next poll, most people think the federal government initiated the Common Core standards and requires states to use them, EWA Deputy Director Erik Robelen shared at the seminar in December at The George Washington University. Neither of those perceptions is accurate.

Among reasons respondents gave for opposing the standards are loss of local control and the belief that the Common Core limits teachers’ flexibility, neither of which is accurate. And, of course, there are those who believe the standards are single-handedly to blame for the complicated math problems circulating online, baffling students and their parents. But without the “brand name” – and its stigma – attached, the standards themselves fared much better in the same poll.

“Thankfully, other voices correctly pointed out creation of the Common Core standards was led at the state and local level and that the standards themselves were quite good,” Campo writes. “These advocates emphasized that a sixth grade math standard like, ‘Find the area of right triangles, other triangles, and special quadrilaterals,’ was not political in nature, but instead would help ensure students have the skills to step into the next grade with the skills to thrive.”

A 2013 post in Christianity Today also praises the Common Core from a faith perspective: Christians are “people of the book,” and the standards emphasize literacy and students’ ability to understand texts.

The author of the post, Liberty University professor Karen Swallow Prior, writes that despite her own skepticism toward the countless education reforms that have come through in the past 25 years, the Common Core reading standards “hearten me not only as an educator, but more so as a Christian who recognizes the centrality of words to our faith.”

Campo concludes his op-ed, “I am not one for New Year’s resolutions, but may 2015 be remembered as the year when our rancor subsided and we focused on real educational change for our students’ sake. We will surely need God’s strength and wisdom to accomplish this worthy goal.”