Political context explains shaky support for Common Core

One of the great mysteries of education politics is the way the near-universal support for the Common Core State Standards has come under siege, primarily from the tea-party right but also from the left. Jeremy Anderson, president of the Education Commission of the States, made some sense of it this week in a policy chat sponsored by the Center for Evaluation and Education Policy at Indiana University.

Anderson pointed out that most of the governors and chief state school officers who were behind the Common Core movement are no longer in office. They’ve been replaced by newbies who don’t have ownership of the standards and, in some cases, are worried about political blowback. And state legislators, who weren’t much involved in the Common Core push to begin with, have had their heads spun by the dizzying storm of claims and counterclaims about the standards.

More than half the states elected new governors in 2002, Anderson said; and 25 of those governors were re-elected in 2006. Others, like Indiana’s Mitch Daniels, were elected in 2004 and re-elected in 2008. Those governors and their chief state school officers were the constituency for Common Core. Under the No Child Left Behind law, they watched their states try to measure progress against a mish-mash of standards, some rigorous and some not. They decided a national effort was in order.

The National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers announced plans for Common Core in 2009, and 46 states almost immediately signed on. But it would take several years to create the standards, and several more to phase them in. They wouldn’t take effect until 2014.

“That’s the reality of what we deal with in education,” Anderson said. “These things take time. It’s a culture change.” Continue reading