Education secretary: Don't 'dumb down' standards for politics
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Secretary of Education Arne DuncanArne Starkey DuncanWhat the next Education secretary must do How Democrats learned to stop worrying and love teachers Obama Education Secretary: US education system is 'top 10 in nothing' MORE is dismissing the controversy over Common Core education standards that is emerging in the Republican presidential primary race.

“We think having high expectations for every single young person — again, rich, poor, black, white — we have to do that,” Duncan said Monday on MSNBC’s “Andrea Mitchell Reports.”

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“When you dumb down expectations to make politicians look good, that's one of the most insidious things that happens.”

Duncan’s comments came as the Department of Education is touting new data showing that the high school graduation gap between minority and white students is closing. Graduation rates for black and Hispanic students jumped 4 percentage points from 2011 to 2013. 

The National Governors Association initially developed the Common Core State Standards Initiative to help give states a framework for student expectations. It has currently been adopted in 43 states and Washington, D.C., but there is increasing backlash as many Republican politicians are framing the standards as a symbol of federal overreach. 

Fifty-two percent of GOP voters held less favorable opinions about candidates who supported Common Core, according to a poll last week by NBC News/Wall Street Journal. Much of that disagreement has been targeted at former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who has been a vocal proponent of Common Core as he considers a presidential bid.

While a number of other potential candidates have bashed Bush and his link to Common Core, he recently doubled down on his support during an event in New Hampshire last Friday. He said that while the government shouldn’t be tying federal money to the standards, “that doesn’t mean the standards are wrong.” 

“You don’t abandon your core beliefs, you go try to persuade people as I’m doing now,” Bush said. “I think you need to be genuine. I think you need to have a backbone."