Paper: Federal Officials Should Detail Their Common-Core Work

By Catherine Gewertz — September 11, 2013 2 min read
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A new paper calls on the federal government to release information about how much time and money it has spent on the initiative.

That recommendation, and others, are in a new paper released this week by the Pioneer Institute, “A Republic of Republics: How Common Core Undermines State and Local Autonomy over K12 Education.” The Boston-based advocacy group has been one of the most outspoken opponents of the Common Core State Standards, which have been adopted by all but four states. The paper is co-sponsored by several organizations that have also been highly critical of the standards: the American Principles Project, the Pacific Research Institute, and the Civitas Institute.

In the paper, former Texas Commissioner of Education Robert Scott recaps the laws that forbid the U.S. Department of Education from mandating curriculum. (Another Pioneer Institute paper, by Kent Talbert and Robert Eitel, laid this out in detail last year.)

Scott reprises familiar arguments that the common standards represent an overreach of federal authority over local education decisions because federal officials used Race to the Top funding and offers of waivers from No Child Left Behind to prod states into embracing the common-core agenda.

In closing, Scott calls on the federal government to disclose more details about its involvement in promoting the standards and their accompanying tests, including “the amount of employee time and federal money that has been and continues to be allocated to support development and implementation of common core and national testing consortia work,” and correspondence between federal officials and organizations that spearheaded the initiative, such as the National Governors Association, the Council of Chief State School Officers, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. He also urges Congress to call on the Government Accountability Office to probe those matters.

The paper recommends that in the future, federal funding should not be “conditioned on” or used “to incentivize” state adoption of the standards.

I’ve sent the recommendations of the paper to officials at U.S. Ed and the NGA and CCSSO. I’ll update you know if they have comments to share.

UPDATE: A spokesman for the U.S. Department of Education said that the department has no plans to supply the information specified in the Pioneer report. “It would be difficult for the department to quantify its reason for being, which is essentially to help prepare students for college and careers,” said Cameron French.

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