Common Core is neither internationally benchmarked nor state-led

Share on Facebook
Share on Twitter
Share on


I have nothing against IHOP.  I eat there if there is nothing else better around.  But I wouldn’t take my kids there on a regular basis. The food may have the moniker of “international” but I don’t think that anyone actually believes that.  (It’s not even close to mom’s cooking.)

Alas, the syrupy Common Core website dishes all kinds of nonsense about the national standards.  I’m glad to see that it wiped the website clean of its claim that Common Core was “internationally benchmarked.”   Many other proponents, such as the Foundation for Excellence in Education, say similar things (“benchmarked to top performing schools around the world”).  Interestingly, if you look at Common Core’s website today, their claim has been watered down to say that the national standards:

Are informed by other top performing countries, so that all students are prepared to succeed in our global economy and society. [my underline]

Internationally benchmarking would mean that the writing team had conducted extensive research and direct comparative analysis on the academic expectations of other leading countries.  As Sandy Stotsky has noted:

As a member of Common Core’s Validation Committee from September 2009 to August 2010, among the criteria I was asked to sign off on in May 2010 was whether Common Core’s standards were “comparable to the expectations of other leading nations.”  Despite making regular requests since September 2009 for evidence of international benchmarking, I received no material on the academic expectations of other leading nations in mathematics or language and literature.  I was one of the five members of the 23-member committee who declined to sign off after examining the final version of the standards.

I had also done my own research on the matter.  Two English-speaking regions (British Columbia and Ireland) indicate far more demanding requirements for the literary knowledge students need in order to pass a high school exit test or matriculation exam than appear in Common Core’s high school standards.

A more consistent (and equally misleading) claim of Core proponents is that

The Common Core State Standards Initiative is a state-led effort coordinated by the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices (NGA Center) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO).

Again, that is directly from the Common Core website.  There are lots of thoughtful people who also want to make a demonstration of how thoughtful they are by conceding some aspect of the debate to the proponents of Common Core.  Some have suggested that at the start Common Core was in fact state-led, and that it was hijacked by an Obama administration hell-bent on centralization.

I don’t buy either argument.  The claims of state leadership or perhaps initial state leadership of the Common Core development process misunderstand the kind of transparency, effort  and public deliberation associated with the development of academic standards by states.

In Massachusetts, public consideration of our state standards in the late 1990s and early 2000s included drafts developed after extensive parent, teacher, scholarly and business input; extensive public comment periods; public hearings; extensive revisions, which were again put out for public comment.  Throughout the entire process, the state’s Board of Education provided oversight and input on the process; it was discussed at public Board meetings.  Throughout the process the state’s Department of Education provided technical support and direction.

The development of standards and tests was on the front pages of our newspapers for years.  As a result, parents and teachers had an opportunity to follow and participate in the debate; they saw the controversies; and they could ultimately feel ownership of some very difficult and far-reaching reforms.

No such settlement is possible in the case of the Common Core standards.  Why?  No remotely comparable process was employed during the development of the national standards.

A “state-led” process does not mean that a few state education bureaucrats attended meetings in Washington, D.C, perhaps to the offices of one of the two nonprofits holding the copyright on Common Core.

It is well-known that those developing Common Core standards did so without broad public involvement, or meaningful public comment.  There were no public hearings as the drafts moved along – Indiana parents, teachers, and scholars were absent from the proceedings.  A highly telescoped schedule ensured that few people (or frankly even legislators) knew Common Core existed in 2010.

If that is proponents’ idea of a state-led process, they do not understand or value public processes and the public trust, which are cornerstones of representative democracy. The vision of Common Core proponents is a top-down, technocratic one, wherein parents, teachers, and local business and community leaders play little role in the important decisions affecting children of a state.

The message is: We’ve got this.  Keep out and trust the technocrats.

Given how important parents, teachers, local scholars, and businesses are to the implementation of Common Core, it is no wonder why the effort to create national standards is experiencing reversals.  More to come.

Follow me on twitter at @jimstergios, visit Pioneer’s website, or check out our education posts at the Rock The Schoolhouse blog.