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Every Student Succeeds Act

Two Words That Barely Appear in State ESSA Plans: ‘Common Core’

By Alyson Klein — June 27, 2017 2 min read
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The Common Core State Standards are alive and well and on the books in thirty-six states and the District of Columbia. But you’d basically never know it from reading states’ new plans to implement the Every Student Succeeds Act,

There’s barely a whisper about the standards in the seventeen ESSA plans that have been turned in so far, an Education Week review found. That’s true even though all but two of the states who have turned in their plans are using the standards.

Of the states still using the common core, eight—Arizona, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, and North Dakota—only mention the standards once in their applications, or not at all. And Michigan’s application has the words “common core” three times, but only to talk about all the negative comments it has received about the standards. So that doesn’t really count.

And even the states that do talk about the common core don’t do it at great length. Common core comes up most often in the District of Columbia’s application, which mentions the standards just six times.

That’s a big contrast from the last round of state accountability plans—applications for the Obama administration’s waivers from the No Child Left Behind Act—which were chock full of common core references.

To be sure, states weren’t asked to go into detail about their standards in their ESSA applications. The new law requires states to set standards that get kids ready for college and/or the workforce, but the feds don’t have any say in what those standards are.

After the Obama administration boosted the common core in a couple of ways, \the lawmakers who wrote ESSA tried to prevent that from happening again. The law prohibits the secretary from linking the adoption of a particular set of standards to money or flexibility.

Common core “draws attention whether it’s the left or the right,” said Robert Scott, Texas’ former state chief and a common-core skeptic. “It’s not going to be something that goes away anytime soon. The moms out there are not giving up this issue.”

When regional centers in the Lone Star State used the words “common core” it “drew scrutiny” he said, even though Texas had banned the standards.

Terry Holliday, the former state chief in Kentucky, had a different take.

“States weren’t required to provide the Department with specific information about their standards in their consolidated state plans. For states that didn’t, this was a missed opportunity to share information with their communities,” Holliday said in an email. “In the last few years, a number of states have gone through normal reviews of their standards and, in many cases, revised and rebranded them. However, all of the states that submitted plans have college- and career-ready standards that are either identical to or aligned with the Common Core State Standards, regardless of what they are called.”


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