Academic journal article English Journal

The Common Core Memorandum of Understanding: What a Story

Academic journal article English Journal

The Common Core Memorandum of Understanding: What a Story

Article excerpt

The question of who, exactly, is truly responsible for writing the Com- I mon Core State Standards (CCSS) is a matter for debate. The CCSS website describes CCSS development in the following way:

Building on the excellent foundation of standards states have laid, the Common Core State Standards are the first step in providing our young people with a high-quality education. It should be clear to every student, parent, and teacher what the standards of success are in every school.

Teachers, parents and community leaders have all weighed in to help create the Common Core State Standards.

Such a description is problematic. First, if the "states" have "laid an excellent foundation of standards," then why does the United States need CCSS? The first statement can be relegated as flat- tery meant to disguise the lack of details regard- ing CCSS origin on the CCSS website. Then there is the second statement, "Teachers, parents, and community leaders . . . weighed in"-this seems to be another dodge. A more promising document for discerning the truth behind CCSS creation is the memorandum of understanding (MOU) that states used to enter into with the US Department of Education for states applying for Race to the Top (RTTT) funding with the federal government.

Let us closely examine a CCSS MOU. Accord- ing to Investopedia an MOU is "a legal document outlining the terms and details of an agreement between parties, including each parties [sic] requirements and responsibilities." This leads us to the State of Delaware's RTTT Application for Initial Funding. The CCSS MOU is located on pages 128-30. The copyrighted "owners" of CCSS are named in the title of the MOU:

The Council of Chief State School Officers and the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices Common Core Standards Memorandum of Agreement

CCSS MOU Purpose

The first statement of the CCSS MOU is problem- atic because CCSS continues to be advertised as an idea coming from the states and not involving the federal government. However, it is clear from this CCSS MOU statement below that by using the CCSS MOU as part of the RTTT application pro- cess, the federal government is "demanding" that states "agree" to be "state-led":

Purpose: This document commits states to a state- led process . . . that will lead to the development and adoption of a common core of state standards.

If the process is "state-led," why is the state using the CCSS MOU to enter into a legal arrange- ment with the federal government to "ensure" that the state "leads" itself? If the state is "leading itself," how can the "standards" be "common" to other states? The simple answer is that this MOU tells the states how they are to "lead them- selves" in matters of CCSS.

Let us look at the precise wording of the entire "pur- pose" paragraph:

Purpose: This document commits states to a state-led process that will draw on evidence and lead to development and adoption of a common core of state standards (common core) in Eng- lish language arts and mathematics for grades K-12. These standards will be aligned with college and work expectations, include rigor- ous content and skills, and be internationally benchmarked. The intent is that these stan- dards will be aligned to state assessment and classroom practice. The second phase of this initiative will be the development of common assessments aligned to the core standards devel- oped through this process.

Not only was the product, CCSS, never tested; in signing this MOU, states agreed to an as-of-yet undeveloped "second phase" of "common assess- ments." This sounds like the states signing these MOUs are "following," not "leading."

The Background of the CCSS MOU

The context of the CCSS MOU is also interesting. The section titled "Background" includes infor- mation on previous efforts to develop "common" standards and assessments, including the Ameri- can Diploma Project (ADP) and the New England Common Assessment Program (NECAP). …

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