Common Core: Where Did It Come From?

| July 5 2013
Sheila K. Muehling

As Common Core is rolled out in the 2013-14 school year, many people in the public are asking questions as to what the program is and where it came from. Parents, grandparents and conservative activists are calling for public forums with their state superintendents. Questions are being posed as to who developed this program and who wrote the standards the schools will be mandated to follow. Many are asking questions but few are getting answers.

In my previous post I referenced a letter written by Marc Tucker to Hillary Clinton.   In that letter it was clear that many powerful people in the government, business and private sector believed that the federal government should be heavily involved in the education system in the United States. Many felt the states were not doing an adequate job and it was their mission to change it.

“The Tenth Amendment states the Constitution’s principal of federalism by providing that powers not granted to the federal government by the Constitution, nor prohibited to the States, are reserved to the States or the people.” This means States would shoulder the duties to administer the roads, education, public safety, justice and more, as decided by voters, state lawmakers and the state constitution. The Constitution did not grant any right by the federal government to control the education of our children leaving that entirely to the states and the people in each state.

During the mid 1990’s a bill was introduced to stop the establishment of a set of standards to be used in the United States public schools. The bill was H.RES.348.IH and the purpose was to ask Congress to block a move by the California based National Center for History in the Schools, which was attempting to set standards in the public schools for teaching history. When H.RES.348.IH was introduced to the Congress there was a public swell of support and the bill was passed overwhelmingly. Politicians both Republican and Democrats came together as one unified voice for the people. The government would not allow standards to be set in history for the public schools in America.

It is here that I wish that I could have been a fly on the wall to hear the disbelief as  the Clinton’s and Marc Tucker realized that setting standards in the public schools was not going to be accepted by the voters. This first step in taking over America’s public schools was not going to be easy and now they knew they would have to make a new plan.

During the balance of the Clinton years many programs were passed through in Washington attempting to control more of what was happening at the schools. Those included:

  1. SCANS – 1992 Secretary’s Commission on Achieving Necessary Skills – Labor Secretary Lynn Martin
  2. Improving America’s Schools Act, 1994 – A bill that imposes state content and performance standards tied to state assessments as a condition of funding eligibility.
  3. School-To-Work Opportunities Act, 1994 – Address the failure of America’s primary, secondary and vocational education systems to graduate young adults with marketable knowledge and skills.
  4. Workforce investment Act and Education Standards, 1998 – An act to reform and restructure 60 federal job training programs into state block grants and provide a framework for a national workforce preparation and employment system to meet the needs of business and workers.

The Department of Education under Richard Riley was very busy trying to figure out how to push schools into better workforce training. However without real control over the schools and and what was being taught nothing was making a difference.

Of course there is nothing that I have found openly on the Internet that can prove what was in the minds of those that worked at the DE in Washington during the Clinton years. However if you know the facts common sense starts to kick in. It was obvious in reading many of the papers published during that time they knew they had to come up with a way to do three things to get into the schools.

  1. In order to introduce school standards they had to start with subjects that did not create an emotional and deeply protected American tradition. History was too close to the hearts of the American public and would not be easily controlled. They had learned that lesson with H.RES.348.IH. The plan had to include working with less emotional subjects such as math and English Language Arts.
  2. They knew they couldn’t call any program they put in place national or federal. They had to have everything tied to the states.
  3. They knew they had to implement the new program for standards quickly and quietly.

When George Bush was elected President he wanted to focus his Presidency on education. Unfortunately circumstances did not let that happen and with 9/11 his focus moved to national security leaving little time to really address the issues of education in the United States.

However, the folks at the Department of Education marched on. They pushed a massive program called “No Child Left Behind”, 2001 “NCLB”, through the Congress. This program was a re-authorization of the 1965 program “The Elementary and Secondary Education Act“, ESEA . This act was passed under President Johnson as part of his “War on Poverty”. It was the most far-reaching legislation affecting education ever passed by Congress. The act provides federal funds for primary and secondary education and forbids the establishment of a national curriculum. It established equal access to education as well as set high standards and accountability by individual states. This act guaranteed all children to fair and equal opportunities.

ESEA may sound like a dream for those Americans who want everything to be equal for all but it presented the largest financial ties ever between the Federal Department of Education and the individual State Departments of Education. The schools wanted and needed money and now they had to follow rules set up by the federal government or loose the funds offered.  Most of you will recall a similar issue when federal highway funds were tied to speed limits; either states adhered to the 55 mile per hour speed limit or face loosing much need funds to repair and build roads and highways. It worked with the roads and now they needed to apply the same pressure to the schools.

NCLB included Title 1, the government’s flagship aid program for disadvantaged students. NCLB supports standards-based education reform based on the premise that setting high standards and establishing measurable goals can improve individual outcomes in education. In order to monitor all of the requirements of NCLB the State Departments of Education across the nation had to hire additional support staff to process all the paperwork. In Arizona there are almost 500 employees at the DOE and per Superintendent Huppental over half of those employees are there because of the federal government’s requirements for the NCLB and to gain access to federal funds. Can you imagine if we could take 250 salaries paid to people processing nothing but paper and give it to the principals for their teacher salaries what kind of teachers we could hire. What a windfall that would be. To me better teacher salaries, means better more qualified teachers, means a better education. Sounds pretty simple.

Other than NCLB little happened for schools during the Bush years. However, there is not a teacher, principal or administrator working in the system today who will not tell you that NCLB was a terrible program and has created massive costs to local schools. Teachers were forced to teach kids to the test in order to raise the test scores and meet requirements set by the federal government for NCLB funds.

When Obama was elected President, Arnie Duncan was appointed the Secretary of Education. Duncan was a well-known player in Illinois and was appointed by Mayor Richard Daley as Chief Executive Officer of the Chicago Public Schools. As an Illinois resident living in the Chicago area for 25 years and raising two sons,  I can assure you that Mr.Duncan’s reputation was well known. The Chicago public schools were a mess then and they are a mess now;  Duncan did nothing during his years as CEO that any of us were impressed with. He was just another Chicago politician who made a great deal of money without a great deal of results. You can learn more about Arne Duncan while enjoying a bit of light reading.

Secretary Duncan’s key initiative shortly after Obama was sworn in was a $4 billion dollar program called “Race To The Top” RTTT.  As fast as this was introduced into Obama’s first few days, leaves me to believe that it was planned over many years and a large part of a bigger plan. Here again the schools were being tied tightly to the money the federal government was waiving in their face.

Under the RTTT initiative states were pushed into expanding charter schools and public school teachers were judged on how well their students did on standardized tests such as the AIMS test. This was the beginning of the introduction of the Common Core program, the standards currently being introduced to K-5th grade classes and the required computer based testing system being readied to put into each state’s school system by 2014-2015.

I have given you a great deal to think about and research for yourself. My next post will tie Achieve Inc., the National Governors Association and the Chief State School Officers Association, Arnie Duncan and the Obama administration to the development and implementation of the Common Core Standards. I will explain the agreement signed onto by the individual states in 2009, the massive data collection program and the lead creator of the standards, David Coleman. The money trail and the requirements that each state agreed to were part of a big plan for a federal takeover of the schools.

I encourage you to please feel free to post your questions and comments about what is in each Common Core post. We must open the dialogue about this program and the concerns that surround it. I would also like to encourage you to send to all of your relatives and friends who have children in the public and private school system a link to these conversations. Western Free Press has given us a platform to talk and share information. Let’s take advantage of this forum that allows us the freedom to speak out in an intelligent, civil manner.



Thank you for your comment. However, I am going to challenge you a little here. CCSS issues are often misunderstood by most people both for and against Common Core. EJ Montini posted a piece last week stating,

“Actually, the Common Core standards were hashed out by top educators who then turned the process over to states like Arizona, where local experts developed a curriculum called the "College and Career Ready Standards," which were adopted by the Arizona State Board of Education in 2010 after much public input. Republican Gov. Jan Brewer supports them.”

After months of arguing with teachers, politicians, parents and administrators, finally the media is starting to get the picture of who exactly created the standards called Common Core. The CCSS standards were not written by state school officials and educators. Montini is right, Common Core standards were developed by a Washington based group of business and high-level academia. The problem with most of the people who created the standards was few if any, ever taught in the classroom.Given the issues the schools have faced for years, that may or may not be a good thing.

However, I am posting this response to rebut your reference to John Boehner as the architect of NCLB.The NCLB act was simply the continuation of the “Elementary and Secondary School Act” signed by President Johnson as part of the New Deal. The ESSA was established to give inner city schools an equal shot at an education by funding low-income schools. The act was noble and needed in schools where parents did not have the money to fund a quality education. However through the years this piece of legislation became a web of federal mandates requiring states to spend thousands of dollars to keep records required by the government. In the State of Arizona at one point SOS Huppenthal told me that over half of his staff of 472 was employed just to keep records required by the federal government.

NCLB was President Bush’s hope to require schools to meet certain standards in order to receive federal dollars. It wasn’t a new law or act it was the ESSA renamed NCLB. The idea of keeping schools responsible for the use of federal funds was again noble, but instead of improving the quality of education it created even more paperwork, more reports and more cost to the State and local school systems. It was hated by teachers and administrators alike.John Boehner had little to do with the creation of NCLB, he was simply the man who was the Speaker of the House when it was passed by the Congress.

The federal government used NCLB issues to entice State officials to sign onto a program that had not even been completed or tested. Requiring a 4th grader to read at 4th grade level is not the issue. I am 100% for raising the standards for all grades as high as possible. However you can raise the standards all you want but if you do not raise the quality of the teachers, children will only learn as much as the teacher is qualified to teach. Fixing the issues at the schools begins by raising the standard of teachers and raising the compensation to fit the standards.


I really love the part where the evil Clinton sympathizers in the DoE ''pushed through"  No Child Left Behind...HR1.. (introduced by none other than Boehner himself --- March of 2001) while the rest of the country was distracted by terror events that do not take place for yet another 5.5 months --------------- well done piece of journalism