I thought that I would start a series on common misconceptions related to the Common Core State Standards. I don’t know how frequently I’ll come back to this series, but as these misconceptions come up or as I hear them I want to address them. The first is one that I hear quite frequently and I was told was a misconception repeated in the Iowa House Education Committee meeting the other day when the Common Core was briefly discussed.
The Common Core is not state-led. To be fair, when I say that I’m not saying that the U.S. Department of Education wrote the Common Core. I’m not even saying it was their idea. It wasn’t. Advocates of the Common Core who say it is state-led typically are saying neither of these things happened.
On that we can agree.
It’s always important to get past lingo and clarify what we mean. When I say something is “state-led,” I mean it is initiated within state departments of education with the blessing of the state’s governor and then approved by the state legislature and then signed into law by the state’s Governor.
A scenario that could have happened with standards that could legitimately be called “state-led.” Say members within the say Texas Education Agency said “hey, we really like what Massachusetts is doing with their standards.” They then go on to study them, talk to experts who are knowledgeable with the process of developing those standards, get parental and teacher input, tweak the standards in a way that makes sense to Texas, send them to the Texas Legislature who then approves them, and then Governor Rick Perry signs it into law. Some Texas Legislators rub elbows with state legislators from other states saying… “this is what we did in Texas, and then state legislators from Massachusetts said, “hey yes you should look at what we’re doing.” Then other state legislators go back to their states and initiate that process. Perhaps this conversation could take place within the National Governor’s Association or Council of Chief State School Officers, but the point is they were standards written at the state level, approved in the legislative process and is then reciprocated by other states in a way that makes sense to them.
That would be a “state-led” initiative and a process I could applaud. States should look for what works. Why not look at Massachusetts standards, Indiana’s ELA standards, and say California’s math standards (prior to alignment to the Common Core). I’m for common sense, and that would be common sense.
That isn’t what happened however.
The process was initiated by the National Governors Association’s Center for Best Practices and the Council of Chief State School Officers. They then delegated the drafting of the standards to Achieve, Inc. who was created by the NGA. This process was managed by six state Governors who were chosen by a non-democratic process). The oversight also included the CEOs of Battelle Memorial Institute, Intel Corporation, Prudential Financial, Achieve, Inc. and State Farm Insurance.
This was all financed by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, The Boeing Company, Carnegie Corporation of New York, the GE Foundation, IBM Corporation, Intel Foundation, Nationwide, the Prudential Foundation, the State Farm Insurance Company, Washington Mutual Foundation, and the William and Flora Hewett Foundation.
To top it off the NGA-recognized “reviews” of the standards commissioned by Achieve were funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, an interest group who were pushing the standards to begin with. No conflict of interest there! Since January of 2008 the Gates Foundation has awarded the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers over $35 Million (this is a dated amount, it most certainly has increased by now).
This is what we call state-led? No, if advocates of the Common Core were honest they would say it is special-interest written and funded. However it was Federally-pushed getting other states on board. That’s where Race to the Top grants come in. Through the 2009 stimulus package $4.35 billion in discretionary money was given to the U.S. Department of Education and in order to qualify for these grants states had to adopt the Common Core.
This is state-led?
Education Secretary Arne Duncan went on to tell states that in order to receive a No Child Left Behind Waiver had to, for starters, adopt the Common Core and then adopt other “reforms” prescribed by the Department.
Even Tony Bennett, who was recently ousted as Indiana’s Superintendent of Public Instruction, bemoaned the standards being “federalized.”
No state has yet adopted these through their state legislature. That’s state-led?
Under the 10th Amendment of the Constitution, education is among the most important policy power not “delegated to the United States” and therefore is “reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.” Historically, U.S. Education policy-making has been a matter of local control, where parents have the most influence. That was not honored in this process.
So we can all the Common Core a whole plethora of things, but “state-led” can’t honestly be one of them.