Some States Reconsider Common Core Involvement

Published May 17, 2012

A handful of states are reconsidering their commitment to the Common Core education standards adopted recently by 45 states under heavy federal incentives.

In the summer of 2010, 45 states committed to adopting the Common Core standards and related tests in math and English language arts. The standards comprise grade-by-grade lists of what students should know in each subject. With little public discussion, state boards of education agreed to adopt them, in large part due to incentives created by the Obama administration.

More than $4 billion in competitive Race to the Top grants were partly conditioned on states adopting the standards and tests. More recently, the U.S. Department of Education conditioned No Child Left Behind waivers on states adopting standards only the Core met.

Given this federal involvement and recent revelations about the costs of overhauling state tests and textbooks and retraining teachers, some state leaders are reconsidering their commitment.

Utah plans to revise its involvement with Common Core tests and will likely downgrade from a “governing” member to an “advisory” member in a consortium working to create the tests. This will mean the state is no longer fully committed to using the tests by 2014-2015. The Colorado Board of Education voted in April against joining the same consortium.

The Alabama Senate passed a resolution in May to “encourage the State Board of Education to take all steps it deems appropriate, including revocation of the adoption of the [Common Core] standards if necessary, to retain complete control over Alabama’s academic standards, curriculum, instruction, and testing system.”

Growing Public Awareness
“There is a little more light being shed on the federal coercion behind Common Core adoption than there was when Race to the Top was in full effect. Unfortunately, it has come too late to stop most states from adopting the de facto federal standards,” stated Neal McCluskey, associate director of the Cato Institute’s Center for Educational Freedom. “Recent efforts by some states to ratchet down their commitment probably reflect moderately growing public awareness of the standards and the federal power behind them.”

More states may reconsider their involvement when further implementation takes place, he said.

“I don’t think there will be enough public awareness of the standards until states start putting the new tests in place. Then the public will notice, and the train will likely come off the tracks because states won’t rigorously apply the standards, or Washington will punish schools based on Common Core test scores,” McCluskey said.

The Colorado and Utah moves away from Common Core tests signal larger discontent with centralizing education, said Lance Izumi, director of education studies at the Pacific Research Institute.

“These state leaders are finding out that the Common Core is the catalyst for nationalizing education through national testing and a national curriculum, all of which will disempower governors, legislatures, local school boards, the taxpaying public generally, and parents specifically,” Izumi said.


Image by Iowa Department of Education.