Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Rubber meeting road (on common core)?

Members of state boards of education in other states are now wrestling with whether they can really stick to earlier promises to adopt the common core standards for college and career readiness. EdWeek reports from their national meeting in Las Vegas:
Nearly all the state board representatives said they worry that they lack the time and money to develop all the elements necessary to implement the standards in a meaningful way.
In Washington state, officials are distributing information about the common standards and soliciting feedback, said Sheila Fox, a board member there. But even if adoption garners broad support, she said, other “planets need to be aligned”: good curriculum, assessments, and professional development.
State board members also expressed many concerns about how the common standards interact with the competition for federal Race to the Top money. Under U.S. Department of Education criteria, states have a better chance of winning such grants if they support common standards.
One member asked what would happen if a state won that economic-stimulus aid and later decided against the common standards. Another asked what would happen if a state won Race to the Top money but couldn’t adopt the standards by the Aug. 2 deadline specified by the federal government.
Kentucky leaders are not going through that kind of struggle. Senate Bill 1 knocked down our past standards and set an aggressive standard for launching new ones. Our own state choices back in 2009 cleared the decks for us to join this new effort.
In fact, we'll firmly sign on next week. On February 10, the Kentucky Board of Education, the Council on Postsecondary Education, and the Education Professional Standards Board will hold their first-ever joint meeting to endorse the common core English/language arts and mathematics approach as Kentucky's way forward.


  1. Like the post, Susan. I do think there are remaining issues that states have yet to grapple with and issues the federal government has not resolved. The issue you cite of a state pulling out of the Common Core after being awarded Race to the Top money is a great example. Certainly I would have to wonder what the federal government's options were at that point because if they were to pull the funding, it would almost be seen as an explicit endorsement of the "national" (not federal) standards - one that I don't think the Courts would like all that much because certainly that line between national and federal would really start to blur. Because we have not worked this out on the front side and lots of states like Kentucky are pushing forward rapidly, I do see a lot of room here for subsequent lawsuits. Acting quickly is probably worth that risk, but I do hope states and especially the Federal Department of Education are aware of what's likely down the road with this.

  2. Justin,

    There's definitely a snowball effect here. The common core started out as about fifteen states and some foundation money. Then the stimulus money showed up, and just about all the other states came running after it. My guess is that the later a state signed on, the weaker its real commitment.

    Legally, I think the feds have a good defense in any lawsuit. States didn't have to apply and didn't have to take the money. If USED cancels a grant, it will do so because the state broke its signed commitments from the application. A state suit won't work any better than the attempts to sue over NCLB intrusions.

    Politically, though, the administration can only aggravate so many senators before things come unglued. I think that's why Secretary Duncan and others aren't saying "we'll definitely take the money back." They're saying they "might" take it back, and hoping that keeps states in line.

    I almost wish a bunch of states would announce their buyers' remorse right now, because it would strengthen Kentucky's bid for the RTTT dollars. We signed on early, with eyes wide open, and with the political stars already aligned to make it easy to hold up our end of the deal.


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