Songs in the Key of the Common Core…and More.


I’m an old doo-wop music aficionado, and have a fondness for a ‘50s hit called “Those Oldies But Goodies Remind Me of You,” by Little Caesar and the Romans.  I’m sure there are nary two of you who remember and enjoy that hit (but if you’re out there, let me know).  The song also inspires me to ask friends and colleagues in the education space to name a song that describes various educational innovations.  With that as a backdrop, let’s think about the songs that educators associate with the implementation of Common Core. 

I shared some of these theme songs last month in “Common Core: What’s Your Song and Why.”

But my quest for song titles around the Common Core hasn’t stopped at just charter school leaders.  I also queried my friends in the philanthropic world on this topic.  Gina Dalma from the Silicon Valley Community Foundation offered an Oscar-nominated song performed by Frank Sinatra—and I wonder how many of you might offer “High Hopes” as your selection as well.  Not to be outdone, Susan Harvey from the S.D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation went immediately to Pharrell Williams’ “Happy,” and Kristi Kimball from the Charles and Helen Schwab Foundation rounded out this trio with her selection of “Coming in on a Wing and a Prayer.”

Not satisfied yet, I moved on to teams of school districts from California.  My first stop was Garden Grove Unified School District Superintendent Gabriella Mafi and her colleagues, who after a lengthy discussion chose “The Middle” by Jimmy Eat World.  Tom Rooney and his team from the Lindsay Unified School District all but sang the Scorpions’ “Winds of Change” as I asked for their selection.  And lastly, the Vallecitos School District, a small, high-performing school system near the border of Mexico, proudly responded with “Land of Confusion” by Genesis.  So there you have it: songs by optimistic educators—each song chosen with tongue in cheek and a smile.

But on to other topics and other songs.  What songs do superintendents use to describe their work?  Having served as a superintendent for more than a decade, I find the match of role to music both interesting and revealing, and these songs certainly provide both.  I’ll begin with my good friend and colleague John Deasy, the superintendent of the Los Angeles Unified School District.  Without hesitation, John rolled the clock back to the ‘70s and picked a Three Dog Night hit called “One is the Loneliest Number.”  Jim McIntyre, superintendent of the Knox County Schools in Tennessee, went with the more modern “You Gotta Be” by Des’ree, and Chris Steinhauser of the Long Beach Unified School District, chose Survivor’s “Eye of the Tiger.”  By her own admission, Syracuse City School District Superintendent Sharon Contreras had too many choices.  But when asked to pick just one, she went right to “If You Think You’re Lonely Now,” by the soulful (and recently departed) Bobby Womack. Once again, all of these were chosen with both a sense of humor and more than a tinge of reality.

Do you have a song that describes your role, or better yet, an aspect of education?  If you do, please bring it on. To describe how we ought to think about the way we can serve youth, I lean toward Curtis Mayfield’s “Keep On Pushing.”  So, “keep on pushing” your nominations back to me.