Election 2012: What Message for Common Standards?

By Catherine Gewertz — November 07, 2012 2 min read
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As we’ve reported to you, the common standards got their highest-ever national profile in the presidential election, with Barack Obama as their advocate-in-chief. So it’s an intriguing exercise to figure out how far the ripples of his re-election reach when it comes to the standards.

On the one hand, it means that the U.S. Department of Education will keep on keepin’ on as a national champion of the common standards. It could also erase a few jitters—or rankle nerves, depending on your political outlook—about continued federal support of initiatives like the common assessments being designed for the standards with $360 million in Race to the Top money.

What it means at the state level is somewhat less clear, however. The support of new governors and education chiefs will have to be re-enlisted in the two state assessment consortia, and shifts in state legislatures could have a profound impact on the standards as lawmakers get an up-close-and-personal look at what they’re being asked to pay for. In California, on the other hand, legislators will have a new influx of money—from a tax hike to support K-12 education—that could ease budgetary concerns about implementing the common core.

In some education commissioners’ offices, little has changed; North Carolina, for instance, kept its chief. In North Dakota, a new Republican chief takes office and has expressed support for the standards.

But in Indiana, one of their biggest national champions—Republican Tony Bennett—was sent down to defeat, and new chief Glenda Ritz is open to reconsidering the common core. The state has a new Republican governor, Mike Pence, whose education platform talks about higher standards, but makes no mention of the common ones his state adopted. So that puts Indiana in play on the common-standards work in a couple of pivotal places. (Indianapolis
reporter Scott Elliott explores the common-core turf in a pre-election analysis here, and reports on the broader education implications of Bennett’s defeat here.)

Bennett, you might recall, found himself battling hostility in some quarters of Indiana over his support of the common standards. He told EdWeek’s state policy reporter, Andrew Ujifusa, this morning that Ritz was able to appeal to a broader constituency by expressing doubts about them. Bennett also has made Indiana a major player in PARCC, one of the assessment consortia, and he expressed some concern about what role the state will play in that work now under his successor.

Nine of the 11 governor’s offices in play in this election are in states that are members of the other consortium, Smarter Balanced. In at least a half-dozen, incumbents held their seats. But in the others, time will tell if changes affect the state’s participation in that consortium.

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Curriculum Matters blog.