Fact Checking Salon’s Claims about Common Core

A Salon article written by Nikhil Goyal states, “In 2011, King was named the education commissioner of New York state. He oversaw the rocky implementation of the Common Core standards. The standards, which are currently adopted by 43 states (and falling by the day), dictate what children must know and be able to do in each grade level from kindergarten through 12th grade.” He continues, “States were then bribed by the Obama administration with Race to the Top initiative monies to enact them, dovetailing with a time when school budgets were being heavily slashed due to the economic recession.”

Goyal’s claims are patently false. Let’s be clear about the facts:

  • CLAIM #1: John King oversaw the “rocky” implementation of the Common Core standards

Did John King oversee implementation of New York’s Common Core Standards? Yes. Was the implementation perfect? No. But the issues with implementation in New York were no different than issues other states faced. Despite a less than perfect implementation process, states are committed to keeping standards high and ensuring that students are prepared for college or the workforce.

  • CLAIM #2: The standards are currently adopted in 43 states and that number is falling by the day

43 states are currently using the Common Core State Standards. What Goyal is misconstruing is the number of states that have reviewed and updated their state standards, building upon the foundation of the Common Core. These standards review processes are regular practice in states and have helped states customize the standards, exactly as was intended when the Common Core was developed. As states are modifying the standards to fit their needs, Mike Petrilli explains that states are overwhelmingly sticking with the Common Core because the standards “represent a good-faith effort to incorporate the current evidence of what students need to know and do to succeed” in college and careers.

  • CLAIM #3: States were bribed by the Obama administration with Race to the Top funds to enact these standards

There is certainly much debate about whether the Federal government overstepped in their distribution of Race to the Top funds as it relates to academic standards. However, one thing is clear: None of the money awarded through Race to the Top was for Common Core specifically. In their Race to the Top applications – which were voluntarily filed by state Governors – states were asked to develop ambitious plans for implementing education reforms, including the adoption of college and career ready standards and aligned assessments. Only 10 of the 500 possible points that states received were for “implementation of common standards,” not specifically Common Core.

More importantly, the recently-passed Every Student Succeeds Act put this debate to rest once and for all. As Karen Nussle notes, “it’s particularly encouraging to supporters of the Common Core State Standards because it forever ends what has long been an Achilles Heel of Common Core: federal entanglement through Race to the Top.”