Impact on Waivers, Grants Mulled in Common-Core Pushback

By Michele McNeil — May 14, 2013 4 min read

As several states debate whether to continue participation in the common core, a consideration for policymakers is that dropping out of the multistate academic-standards effort could jeopardize federal waivers and competitive grants.

Central to the No Child Left Behind Act waivers given by the U.S. Department of Education and to the federal Race to the Top grants is the requirement that states adopt and implement college- and career-readiness standards, and tie appropriate tests to them. Involvement in the common-core initiative and one of the federally funded consortia devising common-core-aligned tests is not required, but it’s the most direct route to satisfying the requirement—and the one most states are taking.

Adopting the Common Core State Standards and taking part in the upcoming common tests are what Indiana promised to do when it secured its waiver under the NCLB law, the current version of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.

Those waivers allow states to get out from under some requirements of the law, such as that 100 percent of students be proficient in reading and math by the end of the 2013-14 school year, in exchange for adopting certain education improvement ideas.

In Indiana, for example, it’s unclear what will happen now that the state legislature has voted to delay further implementation of the common standards for a year, pending hearings and a review by the state board of education. What’s more, state schools Superintendent Glenda Ritz, a Democrat and common-core skeptic who unseated Republican Tony Bennett last year, says the state also may drop out of the common-testing consortium known as PARCC, or Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers.

In an interview, however, Ms. Ritz said she’s committed to keeping Indiana’s NCLB waiver and has been in close contact with federal education officials about the issue.

“I love the flexibility,” Ms. Ritz said. “We are intent on keeping our waiver. That’s the goal.”

Review Process

A state that wants to change its waiver plans must go through a federal amendment process. At a minimum, any significant changes to common-core implementation would require a formal review by federal officials as part of that process.

As for Indiana, federal Education Department spokesman Daren Briscoe said federal officials generally do not comment on specific legislation. But “Indiana needs to fulfill its commitments under ESEA flexibility, including implementing college- and career-ready standards in 2013-14,” he said. “We’re in close contact with the state educational agency to provide them guidance and technical assistance.”

That federal amendment process will become closely watched if states back out of the common core. The Michigan legislature, for instance, is debating whether to defund common-core implementation. Michigan has a waiver.

See Also

If a state does not adopt the common core, the other acceptable way to prove its standards are college- and career-ready is to have its system of higher education deem them so.

And if a state doesn’t participate in a testing consortium, it must submit to the federal Education Department its plan for developing tests to align with those standards and furnish the tests to federal officials for review. So far, Virginia is the only state that hasn’t adopted the common core or common tests but has gotten a waiver.

Minnesota, which also won a waiver, has adopted the common standards in English/language arts, but not in the other subject, math, and it has not joined a testing consortia.

And while Utah has adopted the common standards in both subjects, it’s not participating in the common tests, but it also secured a waiver.

A review of those states’ waiver requests, peer-reviewer and federal feedback, and implementation guidance shows that the states met with little or no federal resistance in choosing the “Plan B” on standards and tests—and that federal officials seemed to easily accept the requests.

The federal department “praised Virginia during the process for implementing rigorous college- and career-ready standards and corresponding assessments,” said Virginia education department spokesman Charles Pyle. “We got almost no questions on this section.”

More waiver applications from non-common-core states are pending. Texas, like Virginia, hasn’t adopted any of the standards or tests and is awaiting a waiver decision. Alabama, which earlier this year dropped out of one of the testing consortia, also has a pending application.

Waivers aren’t the only thing at stake.

All 12 winning states in the original $4 billion Race to the Top grant competition are implementing the common core and are participating in a testing consortium. Yet there’s common-core discontent in some of those states—including Ohio, Tennessee, and Georgia—as well.

In Ohio, which won a $250 million Race to the Top grant in 2010 and a waiver last year, the opposition to the common core hasn’t reach the same pitch it has in Indiana and Michigan. But criticism is bubbling up, and last month legislators debated whether to pull some planned funding for technology to help with common-core implementation. As part of its Race to the Top grant, Ohio promised to implement the common core.

Opponents in Tennessee and Georgia, which each have a Race to the Top grant and a waiver, are mounting efforts to dial back the common core in those states, too.

This story has been updated from the print version that appears in the May 15, 2013 issue of Education Week.
A version of this article appeared in the May 15, 2013 edition of Education Week as Impact Mulled on Waivers, Grants


School & District Management Webinar What's Ahead for Hybrid Learning: Putting Best Practices in Motion
It’s safe to say hybrid learning—a mix of in-person and remote instruction that evolved quickly during the pandemic—is probably here to stay in K-12 education to some extent. That is the case even though increasing
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Mathematics Webinar
Building Equitable Systems: Moving Math From Gatekeeper to Opportunity Gateway
The importance of disrupting traditional American math practices and adopting high-quality math curriculum continues to be essential for changing the trajectory of historically under-resourced schools. Building systems around high-quality math curriculum also is necessary to
Content provided by Partnership for L.A. Schools
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Student Well-Being Webinar
Measuring & Supporting Student Well-Being: A Researcher and District Leader Roundtable
Students’ social-emotional well-being matters. The positive and negative emotions students feel are essential characteristics of their psychology, indicators of their well-being, and mediators of their success in school and life. Supportive relationships with peers, school
Content provided by Panorama Education

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Federal Miguel Cardona: Schools Must Work to Win Trust of Families of Color as They Reopen
As Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona announced new school reopening resources, he encouraged a focus on equity and student engagement.
4 min read
Education Secretary nominee Miguel Cardona testifies before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions committee during his confirmation hearing Feb. 3, 2021.
Now-U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona testifies before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions committee during his confirmation hearing in February.
Susan Walsh/AP
Federal CDC: Nearly 80 Percent of K-12, Child-Care Workers Have Had at Least One COVID-19 Shot
About four out of five teachers, school staffers, and child-care workers had first COVID-19 vaccine doses by the end of March, CDC says.
2 min read
John Battle High School teacher Jennifer Daniel receives her COVID-19 vaccine on Jan. 11, 2021. Teachers received their first vaccine during an all-day event at the Virginia Highlands Higher Education Center in Abingdon, Va.
John Battle High School teacher Jennifer Daniel receives her COVID-19 vaccine on Jan. 11at the Virginia Highlands Higher Education Center in Abingdon, Va.
David Crigger/Bristol Herald Courier via AP
Federal Ed. Dept. to Review Title IX Rules on Sexual Assault, Gender Equity, LGBTQ Rights
The review could reopen a Trump-era debate on sexual assault in schools, and it could spark legal discord over transgender student rights.
4 min read
Symbols of gender.
Federal Q&A EdWeek Q&A: Miguel Cardona Talks Summer Learning, Mental Health, and State Tests
In an interview after a school reopening summit, the education secretary also addressed teachers' union concerns about CDC guidance.
10 min read
Education Secretary Miguel Cardona speaks during a press briefing at the White House on March 17, 2021.
U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona speaks during a press briefing at the White House on March 17.
Andrew Harnik/AP