Is Common Core the Obamacare of Education?

This has become a top-down approach, just like Obamacare. We were told you can keep your doctor, you can keep your health plan. We were told this would be locally-driven, local curriculum. That's not what it is. This is a one-size-fits-all approach from D.C.. We have never allowed the federal government to make curriculum decisions in our local schools and we will continue to fight against this.

That was Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal explaining to Chris Wallace, host of Fox News Sunday, the reason he changed his mind about supporting the Common Core State Standards. Jindal initially agreed that his state would submit to the standards, a list of what children should know in each grade from kindergarten to graduation in English language arts and mathematics, but later changed his mind, citing concerns about increased federal control over state and local education decisions.

Like many other governors across the country, Jindal was lured into agreeing to the standards with the promise of federal dollars from grants through a program called Race to the Top, part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. Cash-strapped states were encouraged to compete for grants by submitting applications that would be judged, in part, on whether or not they agreed to adopt the Common Core standards. States were told that their applications would be more competitive if they agreed to adopt the new standards.

Forty states applied for the first phase of funding, many of them enthusiastically agreeing to adopt the common standards that would eventually come to be called the Common Core State Standards.

States that didn't get on board with Common Core during the Race to the Top competition found that the federal government had another incentive -- or perhaps threat is a better word. The No Child Left Behind Act had an absurd 100% proficiency requirement that was looming in 2014. No state was on schedule to achieve 100% proficiency and states faced federally mandated sanctions in 2014 if that unrealistic benchmark wasn't met.  The Obama administration offered states waivers that would allow them to avoid the consequences of NCLB -- as long as they agreed to jump on the Common Core bandwagon.

The idea of national standards wasn't invented in President Obama's Department of Education. The 1983 "A Nation at Risk" report (which some experts considered to be rhetorically too pessimistic and not evidenced-based) urged schools to adopt standards that were "more rigorous and measurable." President George H.W. Bush embraced a "defined set of national education goals" at a 1989 summit and in 1996 the National Governors Association created Achieve, Inc., a non-profit group devoted to higher education standards. Funded by groups like the Business Roundtable, the Chamber of Commerce, and the National Alliance of Business, Achieve, Inc. was an effort to "set tough academic standards that apply to every student in every school."