WASHINGTON, D.C. – Thanks to the Common Core backlash, standardized test makers are currently about as popular as used car salesmen and ambulance-chasing lawyers.

But standardized test makers can bear that burden because they have one very important friend: President Barack Obama.

This week, Obama announced that Michael Nettles will serve on the “President’s Advisory Commission on Educational Excellence for African Americans.”

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Nettles is a top official with Educational Testing Service (ETS), a company that – according to its website – “develops, administers and scores more than 50 million tests annually.”

Nettles’ testing company is best known for the GRE exam – which many college students take before attending graduate school – and the Praxis tests which are given to aspiring teachers. It doesn’t appear that Nettles has any role in creating the standardized assessments that will be used in conjunction with the new Common Core learning standards.

Nettles will join a group of education professionals that is tasked with finding ways to boost academic achievement among African American students. The group will identify “evidence-based practices that improve student achievement” and develop “a national network that shares these best practices.”

Nettles’ inclusion in the group should raise questions about the role student data will play in the group’s work.

It’s well-known that Obama and U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan are deep believers in making data-driven policy decisions. That’s one of the reasons both men are supporting the Common Core experiment.

Therefore, it’s reasonable to wonder if Nettles’ expertise in testing and data is the reason he was asked to serve on the president’s commission. The press release announcing Nettles’ selection doesn’t offer any answers.

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But it’s certainly an intriguing possibility, and it makes this seemingly innocuous presidential commission worth keeping an eye on.

WFLX reports other appointments include:

Peggy L. Brookins – Co-founder, Director and Mathematics Instructor for the Engineering and Manufacturing Institute of Technology at Forest High School in Ocala, Florida

Dr. Kent McGuire – President of the Southern Education Foundation (SEF)

Dr. Evelynn M. Hammonds – Barbara Gutmann Rosenkrantz Professor of the History of Science and Professor of African and African American Studies at Harvard University

Spencer Overton – Professor of Law at George Washington University Law School (GWU)

Becky Pringle – Secretary-Treasurer of the National Education Association (NEA)

John Rice – Founder and CEO of Management Leadership for Tomorrow (MLT)