Who will make decisions in the future?
I was on a three-way talk show on WEKU 88.9 Radio last week when the subject of who created the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) came up. A highly placed official in our public education sector challenged me when I pointed out that not one person from Kentucky served on any of the groups that had the actual authority to decide what would go into the Common Core State Standards.
When even key Kentucky education leaders don’t know the facts, it’s time for a blog that lays out the evidence for you. The facts about Common Core are that Kentuckians could only make suggestions to be accepted or rejected by others under a “confidential” process. So far as anyone can tell from news releases from the two organizations that claim they are the sole developers and owners of the Common Core State Standards, no person from Kentucky had any official decision-making power over what went into the Common Core State Standards.
If you don’t believe that, continue reading.
On July 1, 2009, the National Governors Association (NGA) sent out a news release titled “Common Core State Standards Development Work Group and Feedback Group Announced.” This news release specifically outlines the “Process to develop common English-language arts and mathematics standards.” Keep in mind, the NGA along with the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) are the two Washington, DC trade and lobbying groups that own the copyright to the standards and proclaim they solely developed them.
The NGA news release talks about the creation of a “Standards Development Work Group” that would actually write the Common Core. Some key points in the news release include:
• “The Standards Development Work Group is currently engaged in determining and writing the college and career readiness standards in English-language arts and mathematics.”
• “The Work Group’s deliberations will be confidential throughout the process.”
And, perhaps most importantly:
• “Final decisions regarding the common core standards document will be made by the Standards Development Work Group.”
The Standards Development Work Group was later divided into two subgroups to separately concentrate on the CCSS in Math and the CCSS in English Language Arts; however, final decision-making authority remained with these two groups during the standards writing process.
There also was an oversight group officially called the “Common Core State Standards Validation Committee.” The news release discusses this final group’s authority, as well:
• “The final step in the development of these standards is the creation of an expert Validation Committee comprised of national and international experts on standards. This group will review the process and substance of the common core state standards to ensure they are research and evidence-based and will validate state adoption on the common core standards.”
Some of the members of the Standards Work Groups were identified in the July 1, 2009 news release. Eventually, a much larger listing of the membership on the CCSS-Math and CCSS-ELA committees was released by the NGA and the CCSSO. This expanded membership listing also includes the names for people on two supporting committees, called “Feedback Work Groups.” The July 1, 2009 NGA news release mentioned above says:
• “The Feedback Group will play an advisory role, not a decision-making role in the process.”
In total, 135 people are listed in the various Work Groups in the second news release. Not one of them, as far as I can determine, is from Kentucky. Among this group, 51 are listed as members of the Math Standards Work Group and 50 are on the English Language Arts Standards Work Group. Those two Standards Work Groups held the actual CCSS decision-making power as discussed in the initial NGA news release. While simple math indicates Kentucky might be expected to provide on average two of those decision makers – perhaps one per team – in fact none came from Kentucky.
A total of 29 people served on the Common Core State Standards Validation Committee, the last team with control over the Common Core State Standards. That 29-member team is listed in another NGA news release dated September 24, 2009. It is titled “Common Core State Standards Initiative Validation Committee Announced.”
Again, as far as I can determine, no member of this final Common Core decision-making body came from Kentucky.
To review, none of the 130 total people on the two decision-making Standards Work Groups and on the decision-making Validation Committee came from Kentucky. According to the NGA/CCSSO’s own publications, only residents of other states – even a few from foreign countries – reportedly exerted final control over what became Kentucky’s current standards in math and the English language arts subjects of reading and writing.
By the way, there are claims that the real creation power for the Common Core was even more restricted, controlled by just a handful of individuals. However, thanks to the “confidential” operation of the Work Group process (no open meetings, no open records, etc.), there is almost no paper trail to back those claims up. To avoid any contentions with this blog, I relied on documents attributable directly to the Common Core’s leadership organizations, the NGA and the CCSSO.
In particular, those copyright rules say:
• “NGA Center/CCSSO shall be acknowledged as the sole owners and developers of the Common Core State Standards, and no claims to the contrary shall be made.”
That’s pretty explicit. So, if anyone from Kentucky or any other state claims they led the development of Common Core – the sort of comments I have heard more than once – could that be a copyright violation?
To sum up, the “sole owners and developers of the Common Core” didn’t include a single Kentuckian on their Standards Work Groups or on the Validation Committee that actually had control over what went into Common Core. That’s what the NGA and the CCSSO themselves say.
One last point: Thanks to that copyright, no state – including Kentucky – has any control over Common Core. That could pose a big problem for the “Kentucky Core Academic Standards Challenge” comment and revision process recently announced by the Kentucky Department of Education.
The legal facts of life could be that Kentuckians can propose all the changes to Common Core we want, but in the end the Kentucky Department of Education is going to have to ask “Mother, may I” to the copyright owners for permission to make those changes. Our continued permission to use the Common Core would be at the discretion of the NGA and the CCSSO, not our state leaders.
It seems to me this process compromises Kentucky’s sovereignty over its education system, giving away important powers to two private Washington DC lobbying organizations. I think that is a very big problem. The Common Core shouldn’t be copyrighted and controlled by private groups; it should be in the public domain. Until that copyright change happens, I think a lot of people are going to be concerned about these standards regardless of their possible value or who actually created them.