Study: Common Core and 2 Testing Consortia Violate Federal Laws, Are Unlikely to enhance Academic Achievement

“Competitive federalism” doesn't run afoul of federal law, would produce better results

BOSTON – In the wake from the U.S. House and Senate's passage of bills that would reauthorize the government No Child Left out law, a brand new Pioneer Institute research paper finds that national English and mathematics standards, referred to as Common Core, violate three federal laws that prohibit the federal government from exercising any direction, supervision or treatments for curricula or even the program of instruction in the states.

Dr. Williamson M. Evers, author of “Federal Overreach and Common Core,” proposes a much better approach.


“Competitive federalism, to which states study from and aim to enhance each others' standards and tests, is both legal and would produce better results than monolithic national standards and tests,” says Dr. Evers. “Monopolies are hardly the best way to produce either academic quality or value for taxpayers.”

Prohibitions on federal treatments for curriculum and instruction are available in the Education and Secondary Education Act of 1965, the General Education Provisions Act of 1970, and the 1979 Department of Education Organization Act, which established the U.S. Department of Education. But the Federal government has, nonetheless, pursued a national policy on curriculum standards and directly funded two national testing consortia.

Common Core was created with a group of Washington, D.C. education trade organizations and pushed to america by the federal government with the Obama administration's Race to the Top (RttT) initiative, which gave out more than $4 billion in federal grants.

Adherence to Common Core was one of the criteria which state funding applications were judged. Massachusetts' application for that first round of RttT grants was ranked 13th from 16 states. Within the second round, the commonwealth made clear it would adhere to Common Core within an otherwise largely identical application and handle first.

The federal government is forbidden by federal law from favoring a particular group of curriculum-content standards over others.

RttT also drove the agenda for state adherence to Common Core. Applicants for the first round of grants needed to agree to adhere to the standards before these were even published. Throughout the second round, states had just 8 weeks to examine the standards. States generally take about 2 yrs to build up and adopt academic standards. RttT was how nearly every state followed Common Core.

The federal government has additionally spent a lot more than $360 million to finance two consortia that have developed national Common Core-based assessments.

In addition to tying it to RttT grants, the U.S. Department of Education made adherence to Common Core a condition for states seeking waivers in the accountability provisions of No Child Left out, although the secretary of education doesn't have statutory authority to place conditions on such waivers. Secretary Duncan's additional NCLB waiver conditions were never authorized by Congress.

Dr. Evers also describes the unusual way in which a majority of states adhered to Common Core. It had been in nearly every case followed via processes that bypassed state legislatures and other elected bodies. There have been no bills, hearings or public debates in Congress concerning the U.S. Department of Education directing, incentivizing or funding the adoption of national standards or tests.

Federal law requires that state standards and testing be aligned. Dr. Evers argues, by controlling nationalized curriculum-content standards and assessments, the federal government gains de facto treatments for public school curricula.

Dr. Evers points out that Common Core dictates what is taught, if this will discover, and how. For example, it prescribes that Algebra I ought to learn in ninth and tenth grades, what technique should be accustomed to teach geometry, and also the split between fiction and informational texts (non-fiction) in English.

“Bill Evers’ scholarship is impressive in its scope and detail,” said Jim Stergios, executive director of Pioneer Institute. “He supplies a good reputation for the government government’s attempts first to establish and then to deepen a directive role in K-12 public education. Along the way he underscores the pedigree of Common Core and also the national testing consortia -and why they are poorly conceived education policy.”

The exhaustively researched, 60-page study features a sweeping history of the federal role in K-12 public education.

For example, President Carter's secretary of health, education and welfare, Joseph Califano, said “the pressures of local politics, near to the parents of the children in school, are far preferable to those of nation-wide politics.” Califano thought a national K-12 test would encourage “rigid uniformity” which whoever had control of what went into the nation's test would unavoidably must much power. Ultimately, Califano believed that “national control of curriculum” is “a type of national charge of ideas.”

No Child Left out, passed in 2001 under President George W. Bush, required students to be tested in English and math each year from grade three through eight, but left it to states to build up curriculum-content standards and tests.

Williamson M. Evers is really a research fellow at Stanford University's Hoover Institution, where he focuses on research on K-12 education policy especially as it pertains to curriculum, teaching, testing, accountability, school finance, and the good reputation for African-American education. Evers was the U.S. assistant secretary of education for planning, evaluation, and policy development from 2007 to 2009. He would be a senior adviser to U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings during 2007. From July to December 2003, Evers served in Iraq like a senior adviser for education to Administrator L. Paul Bremer from the Coalition Provisional Authority.

“Federal Overreach and Common Core” is the latest installment in Pioneer Institute's ongoing overview of the educational quality, legality and cost of Common Core. Pioneer may be the national leader in independent research on the subject.