State-level education officials have been setting academic standards for students in their own states since the late 1980s. As a result, education policy observers say, wide disparities between different state standards developed, making comparison of national performance data difficult.
In part to address this issue, and in part “to provide a clear and consistent framework to prepare our children for college and the workforce,” the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers led an effort to draw up a new set of academic standards that could be implemented on a national scale.
In June 2010, the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers announced they had completed their work drawing up the Common Core State Standards, which have now been adopted — in whole or in part — by 45 states and the District of Columbia
Although the National Governors Association stresses adoption of the Common Core is voluntary for states, and the U.S. Department of Education has skirted formal endorsement of the initiative, some education policy observers regard the new standards as de facto national standards.
That’s led to some backlash in Indiana, which adopted the Common Core in August 2010. Sen. Scott Schneider, R-Indianapolis, has filed a bill to withdraw from the state standards. Opponents of the Common Core say the new academic standards aren’t as strong as what they’re replacing, and some conservatives feel they’re too closely aligned with the Obama administration’s Race to the Top program.
Indiana began phasing the Common Core at the beginning of the 2011-12 school year:
- In 2012-13: Grades K-1 will be taught using only the Common Core in English language arts and math.
- In 2013-14: Grades K-2 will be taught using only the Common Core standards.
- In 2014-15: Grades K-12 will be taught using only the Common Core standards.
The Common Core could have broad impact on Indiana schools. The standards will bring new — and, former schools chief Tony Bennett says, more rigorous — statewide tests to Indiana by 2015, meaning the Common Core could affect everything from the state’s letter grading system for schools to its teacher evaluation program.
Common Core Timeline
Special thanks to Molly Bloom of StateImpact Ohio.
1983 A commission established by President Reagan publishes A Nation at Risk. The report calls for setting standards for what students should know and be able to do and marks the starting point of “standards-based” education reform. The movement also calls for monitoring whether students are learning through standardized tests. In the following years, states move to adopt standards, pushed along by federal legislation. Teachers groups also publish model standards of their own.
1994 — A series of Clinton administration-backed laws (Goals 2000: Educate America Act and the Improving America’s Schools Act) require states to set standards and corresponding tests.
1996 — At the 1996 National Education Summit, governors and business leaders pledge to work together to raise standards and achievement in public schools. Achieve, a non-profit, non-partisan group which will become instrumental in the creation of the Common Core, is founded.
2001 — President Bush signs the No Child Left Behind Act, which strengthens requirements for the kinds of standards states must set and requires states to test students in specific grades and subjects. However, states are still free to set their own standards and create their own tests.
2008 — The National Governors Association, state education commissioners and other groups begin organizing development of common standards in math and English language arts for grades K-12.
2009 — Governors and state education commissioners from 48 states plus the District of Columbia commit to developing the Common Core standards. Only Alaska and Texas do not join the effort.
February, 2010 — Kentucky becomes the first state to adopt the Common Core, before they’ve been publicly released.
March 10, 2010 — The first draft of the Common Core standards is released to the public for comment.
June 2, 2010 — Final Common Core standards released for states to adopt or reject.
August 2, 2010 — California adopts Common Core standards on the day federal officials set as the deadline for states to apply for federal funds through the Race to the Top program. In the competition, states get extra points for having adopted the common core standards.
November 4, 2011 — Montana becomes the 46th (and final) state to adopt the Common Core standards. Alaska, Nebraska, Texas and Virginia are the four that did not; Minnesota did not adopt the math standards but did adopt the English language arts standards.
2011-12 school year — Development of new standardized tests tied to the Common Core standards begins. The effort is led by two consortia of states, PARCC and Smarter Balanced. The groups will share $360 million in federal grants to develop the new tests. Ohio is a member of PARCC.
2012-13 school year — PARCC and Smarter Balanced begin pilot testing of new standardized tests.
2013-14 school year — Field testing to continue for new standardized tests.
2014-15 school year — All participating states to begin using new standardized tests for math and English language arts. The new tests replace tests that had previously been used in each state.