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Duncan: States Don’t Need to Join Common Core for Waiver

By Alyson Klein — August 18, 2011 1 min read

So, if you were worried that the administration’s plan to offer No Child Left Behind waivers to states who adopt college-and-career ready standards would somehow doom the Common Core State Initiative, you can rest easy.

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, unequivocally and in no uncertain terms, said today that states absolutely do not have to participate in Common Core in order to qualify for one of the department’s to-be-determined NCLB waivers.

“I like common [standards], but what is most important to me is high standards,” Duncan said during a taping of C-SPAN’s Newsmakers program. If states that choose not to join Common Core can “verify for us that they have high standards, we’re happy to work with them,” he said. States could show that they have high standards by having their postsecondary institutions approve them.

This may sound like it’s only a big deal for the small, small handful of states that have said thanks, but no thanks to Common Core (The holdouts are: Texas, Alaska, Virginia, Nebraska, Montana.)

But it’s bigger than that. Some folks had speculated that, if the feds told states they had to be a part of Common Core in order to get a waiver, it would put a federal stamp on the standards, and doom the entire initiative. Duncan is obviously wise to the potential political pitfalls of requiring states to adopt common standards, and he isn’t gonna go there.

Duncan also said he’s reached out to members of the deficit reduction “supercommitee”, explaining what he thinks needs to be done for kids.

And, just hours after slamming Gov. Rick Perry’s K-12 leadership in Texas, Duncan painted himself as above the political frey and out to do the right things for kids.

“I would love everyone going to the voting both with education near the top of the list, if not at the top of the list” of issues they’re considering, he said.