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Robert Rothman: How We Got Here: The Emergence of the Common Core State Standards

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September 20, 2012 07:06 pm


One of the most prominent buzz words in education policy and news today is “Common Core.” In short, it is the set of learning standards that 46 states and three territories have adopted a set of goals for educational achievement in Mathematics and English language arts for all students. Proponents see it as an education reform tool that has the potential to ensure every student is college and career ready; critics wonder if it’s not simply another rigid set of criteria by which educators must teach.

With such a highly charged new paradigm for achievement, it’s easy to forget from where Common Core came. The Alliance’s own senior fellow, Robert Rothman, takes us through the history, challenges and necessity of Common Core in his article for the National Association of State Boards of Education (NASBE)’s State Education Standard, “How We Got Here: The Emergence of the Common Core State Standards.”

From the Administrations who fought and failed to implement common educational standards to two governors who succeeded (including the Alliance’s President, Gov. Bob Wise), the history and evolution of the Common Core provides context to any discussion about its merit.

Rothman looks at where Common Core stands today, as well. He outlines the three major reasons why states have been quick to adopt the standards:

  • “The Standards are clear and show a logical progression of student learning from grade to grade.
  • “Two state consortia are now developing assessments that are designed to measure student performance against the Standards,” meaning that assessments will provide incentives for schools to match their programs to the standards.
  • “The fact that nearly all the states have adopted the Standards gives national organizations, private firms, and colleges and universities the incentive to develop or revamp curriculum materials, professional development, and teacher preparation around the Standards.”

He also notes challenges Common Core faces:

  • Political: the Common Core state standards were adopted before the major shift in leadership occurred in Congress in 2010. With new leaders, support may wane.
  • Economic: Budgetary constraints may make it difficult for states to fully embrace the standards and keep momentum going.

“With the adoption of the Common Core State Standards, nearly all the states have… defined what students should learn based on evidence of what they need to know to go on to college and the workplace and what the highest-performing nations expect of their students,” Rothman says. “The promise of such a step is too great to let it slip through our fingers.”

Read the entire paper at


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