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History of National Standards and Common Core


  • First standards written by NCTM. No federal monies used. 14


  • Secretary of Education William J Bennett released “James Madison High School. A Curriculum for American Students.“ This reports describes “mastery of a common core of worthwhile knowledge, important skills, and sound ideals. “45


  • Secretary of Education William J Bennett released, “James Madison Elementary School: A Curriculum for American Students.” This report is the elementary school version of the 1987 High School report discussing a “Core Curriculum.”46


  • September
    • “‘The first essential step is to establish national performance goals,’ said George J. Mitchell of Maine, the Senate majority leader who initiated the project,”15 at a press conference prior to the Charlottesville, Virginia education summit. The press conference aim was to weaken President George H.W. Bush’s effort to co-opt “what has traditionally been a Democratic issue.”15 The summit was intended as a bipartisan effort but statements like these and others inserted politics into the proceedings and future Bush legislative efforts.
    • Education Summit in Charlottesville, Virginia
      • Attendees included President George H.W. Bush, representatives of NGA, business leaders, and education groups. Congress was excluded from the event. “There was clear agreement that these are national, not federal goals; that the goals should be performance – or outcome-oriented.”18 National goals are goals set at the national level, but not set by the federal government.
      • “The White House has agreed to work with the governors to develop a set of national performance goals, for the first time in history.”18
      • Key summit participants: President George H.W. Bush, Gov. Bill Clinton (D-AR), NGA Director of Education Policy Michael Cohen, Assistant to the President for Economic and Domestic Policy Roger Porter, Gov. Roy Romer (D-CO), and Gov. Terry Branstad (R-IA).16
      • The summit was cloaked in secrecy. The concluding summit document states the following: “The quick and often secret deliberations that led to Charlottesville, as well as the closed sessions at the summit itself, may have been necessary to bring the governors and the White House together. But they also limited the ability of each side to explore carefully or to explain fully their strategy not only to the general public but also to their own members and to other interested parties. As a result, while public support for the idea of the summit and the proposed national education goals was widespread, many people did not fully realize what all of this might mean in practice.”18
      • Education Week reported on the secretive dealings as well, noting, “Arguably, however, the real action took place in a room at the Boar’s Head Inn, where three governors and a White House official, accompanied by their aides, hammered out an agreement on the document that was to be the summit’s only tangible product.”21
  • Commission on Standards for School Mathematics releases a set of math standards relying heavily on calculators.14


  • April – “America 2000” education reform plan released by President George H.W. Bush. Two of the plan’s main goals are “development of new standards for student performance”14 and “establishment of skill standards for the workforce.”14 The proposal did not make it out of Congress. The national standards it proposed would have been voluntary. Democrats were leery of national standards and testing at this time.
  • “June 27, 1991, the Education Council Act passed … [and it] charged [NCEST] with examining ‘the desirability and feasibility of establishing national standards and testing in education.’”14
  • NEGP’s first report “advocated strongly for national standards.” 14


  • January - NCEST “endorses the adoption of high national standards and the development of a system of assessments to measure attainment of those standards.” 14


  • March
    • Goals 2000: Educate America Act becomes law.
      •  “[C]reates [NESIC] to develop model national standards.”17
      • Shifted control of the standards-setting process away from governors to Congress and the executive branch.19
      • Created NSSB “to facilitate development of rigorous occupational standards.”20
      • “Title III of the act has played a significant role in many jurisdictions in helping education leaders move forward with the standards agenda.”19
    • Federally funded art standards released by the of NAEA.14
  • November – Federally funded civics and government standards released by the Center for Civic Education.14
  • ESEA reauthorization forced states to have their reform plans approved by the secretary of education or NESIC before they receive any K–12 federal funding.


  • May – Non-federally funded standards for health education released by the Joint Committee on National Health Education Standards.14
  • June – Non-federally funded standards for physical education released by the National Association for Sport and Physical Education.14
  • November – Federally funded science standards released by the National Research Council of the National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, and Institute of Medicine.14
  • NEA provided two principles for standards: “[R]igorous national standards should not be restricted to one set of standards per subject area”14 and “standards should embody a coherent, professionally defensible conception of how a field can be framed for purposes of instruction.”14
  • NCEST reiterated, “[S]tandards must be national, not federal. … [and they] must be voluntary, not mandated by the federal government.”14


  • January - Federally funded foreign language standards released by the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages and disciplinary associations14
  • March – Federally funded English language arts standards released by NCTE and the International Reading Association.14
  • April – NESIC dissolved by Congress. Republicans opposed the “perceived over-involvement of the federal government in education” 14 with the “conservative base [believing] the standards-based reform model remained a Trojan horse, a potentially nefarious ploy for the federalization of education.”14
  • Second National Education Summit was held in Palisades, New York
    • Included business leaders, sought a return to state and local written standards, but with a much bigger emphasis on “workplace readiness.” Further, the “close participation of business in standards development socialized job training costs into public education.”14
    • 6 Corporate CEOs and 6 Governors planned the summit with 40 Governors and 40 CEOs attending the summit. Several education organizations attended or submitted papers. The most notable education attendees included “Albert Shanker, president of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), Beverly H. Sgro, Virginia's secretary of education, and David Hornbeck, superintendent of Philadelphia Public Schools”.27
    • Attendees decided to create Achieve, Inc., an external private organization, to fill the void left by the end of NESIC. Achieve, Inc. was “designed to help states move toward a common standard.”19
    • Al Shanker, president of AFT, made two statements showing even though national standards were not mentioned at the summit, they were ever present
      • “[T]here ought to be some mechanism for cooperation among the states because basically kids ought to learn the same math in California that they do in Alabama.”27
      • “[E]ach district and even each teacher may have a different curriculum. Each teacher has a different set of standards. So there’s going to be a call for some form of standard assessment and some form of more common and universal curriculum. Otherwise, this stuff doesn’t mean anything.”27


  • January – Non-federally funded economic standards released by the National Council on Economic Education and disciplinary associations.14
  • McREL created a database to consolidate and compare the different state and local standards.


  • AFT, CBE, and the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation begin reviewing and grading state standards.19
  • “Achieve begins its Academic Standards and Assessments Benchmarking Pilot Project.”38
  • NEGP report included data on: 39
    • Children’s health
    • Immunizations
    • Family-child reading and storytelling
    • Early prenatal care
    • Birth weight


  • October – Gates Foundation grant of $1 million to Achieve, Inc. “To support comprehensive benchmarking and review of academic standards and assessments between states.”6
  • Achieve, Inc. funded an education summit of business leaders, governors, and educators.38


  • “The Council for Basic Education published ‘a book presenting condensed, edited and commonly-formatted versions of the national standards.’”14


  • April – McREL hosted the National Dialogue on Standards-Based Education for continuation of standards cooperation.14
  • September – Gates Foundation donated $25,000 to Achieve, Inc. to “support the National Education Summit in Palisades, NY on October 9–10, 2001.”28


  • From 2002 to 2007, Gates Foundation donated $47.1 million to the CCSSO,5 with the largest donation amounts to be used for education data accessibility.
  • From 2002 to 2008, Gates Foundation donated $23.6 million to NGA.5


  • November – Gates Foundation joined Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R), the Michael and Susan Dell Foundation, and the Communities Foundation of Texas (CFT) in committing $130 million to form a PPP with THSP to “create new academically rigorous schools” 9 and “services designed to help them graduate ready for college.”9


  • ADP benchmarked its “common core of fundamental literacy and numeracy”41 on “empirical evidence of what the post-secondary world – employers and educators – actually requires of employees and students.” 41



  • Gates Foundation built a network called STAND UP, which it launched on the The Oprah Winfrey Show, to push for reform within the public school system with the purpose of making sure students are college- and career-ready.11


  • November – CCSSO discussed national common standards at its annual policy forum.1
  • “Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Eli Broad Foundation pledged $60 million to inject their education vision, including uniform ‘American standards,’ into the 2008 campaigns.”4
  • Achieve, Inc., also known as the Achieve Resource Center on Standards, Assessment, Accountability and Technology, built a coalition of governors and businesses leaders to establish a database of standards and assessment methodologies.14
  • Student Achievement Partners (SAP) is formed by David Coleman, Jason Zimba, and Sue Pimentel.34


  • January – Gates Foundation awarded $1,175,000 to the Ohio Department of Education “to support a project that will focus on key areas of the systemic education reform recommended by the 2006 policy study titled ‘Creating a World-Class Education System in Ohio,’42 conducted by Achieve, Inc.”12
  • May – Gates Foundation gave a $2.2 million grant to the Hunt Institute for Educational Leadership and Policy “to work with governors and other key stakeholders” on national education standards.4
  • June – Hunt Institute for Educational Leadership and Policy hosted an NGA conference on strategies to “promote the adoption of national standards.”4
  • December
  • David Coleman, founder of SAP and Gene Wilhot, director of CCSSO, met with Bill Gates asking for money to implement CCSS.44
  • Gates donated more than $200 million for writing of CCSS and putting into place a politically supportive infrastructure for adoption and implementation.44
  • Grant processing to start writing Common Core begun by NGA, CCSSO, and Achieve, Inc.1


  • February –RTTT is created by the Obama administration as part of ARRA. It provides grants to states adopting “rigorous standards.”17
  • April – “NGA and CCSSO convene governors’ education policy advisors and chief state school officers in Chicago to discuss creation of the Common Core State Standards Initiative.”22
  • May
    • Creation of Common Core begins.22
    • SAP is hired by CCSSO to write CCSS.34
    • “[F]unding was provided by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (another supporter of NPR), Carnegie and other foundations, as well as state membership dues from CCSSO and the NGA.”34
  • June – NGA and CCSSO have participation commitment of the governors and chief state school officers in 49 states and territories.22, 23
  • July – NGA and CCSSO announce the development and feedback teams.24 See list of members.
  • September – “NGA and CCSSO release for public comment a draft of college and career ready standards.”22
  • November – “First draft of the K–12 grade by grade college and career readiness standards is released for comment by chiefs and other state education agency staff (the states).”22
  • December – “Validation committee provides edits and feedback on draft of K–12 grade by grade college and career readiness standards.”22
  • Gates Foundation awarded grant of $550,844 to Common Core, Inc. “to develop K–10 ELA curriculum aligned to the Common Core standards under development by CCSSO.”29
  • RTTT application guidelines where only CCSS met the standards requirement.43

    Standards and Assessments (70 points)

    State Reform Conditions Criteria

    (B)(1) Developing and adopting common standards (40 points) The extent to which the State has demonstrated its commitment to adopting a common set of highquality standards, evidenced by (as set forth in Appendix B)—

    (i) The State’s participation in a consortium of States that— (20 points)

    (a) Is working toward jointly developing and adopting a common set of K-12 standards (as defined in this notice) that are supported by evidence that they are internationally benchmarked and build toward college and career readiness by the time of high school graduation; and

    (b) Includes a significant number of States; and

    (ii) (20 points)

    (a) For Phase 1 applications, the State’s high-quality plan demonstrating its commitment to and progress toward adopting a common set of K-12 standards (as defined in this notice) by August 2, 2010, or, at a minimum, by a later date in 2010 specified by the State, and to implementing the standards thereafter in a well-planned way; or

    (b) For Phase 2 applications, the State’s adoption of a common set of K-12 standards (as defined in this notice) by August 2, 2010, or, at a minimum, by a later date in 2010 specified by the State in a high quality plan toward which the State has made significant progress, and its commitment to implementing the standards thereafter in a well-planned way.”

  • Gates Foundation donated $31.9 million to CCSSO, mostly for CCSS support, CCSS aligned tests, and private data collection/studies between 2009 and 2013.5


  • January
    • RTTT Phase 1 deadline.1
    • Feedback requested from states by NGA and CCSSO.22
  • February – Standards revised and sent to states.22
  • March – Drafts of grade-by-grade standards released to the public for comments.22
  • April – RTTT Phase 2 application begins. States must adopt “a common set of K–12 standards by August 2, 2010.”1
  • May – ASCD endorses Common Core.2
  • June
    • Final CCSS released.22
    • Validation report released.2
  • August – RTTT Phase 2 revision deadline showing “implementation efforts.”1


  • March – ASCD receives $3 million from Gates Foundation to “support educators’ understanding and implementation” of CCSS.2
  • November – ASCD advocates for “whole child approach” saying, “The standards themselves are necessary but insufficient for real improvement for each child. Standards, no matter how high, do not actually increase student achievement.”Whole child education is the expansion of education beyond just learning reading, writing, and arithmetic to include student health, community engagement and social emotional learning (SEL). SEL focuses on feelings, emotions, and self-reflection which leads to the inclusions of social responsibility and social justice initiatives.


  • June – Gates Foundation awards SAP a $4,042,920 grant “to support teachers nationwide in understanding and implementing the Common Core State Standards.”37
  • August – CCSSO declares “accountability systems, teacher and principal preparation, educator licensure, professional development, and educator evaluation policies and practices must be aligned to and consistent with the Common Core State Standards in order to avoid conflicting messages to educators.”33
  • David Coleman hired as president of the College Board, maker of the SAT.35


  • February – Jason Zimba, writer of CCSSM, inadvertently admitted CCSSM was written without comparing it to international benchmarks. In an interview, Zimba stated, “I opened the document with some trepidation. After all that work, how had we really done? Did we actually succeed?”36 Zimba was speaking in reference to a 2012 report by William H. Schmidt and Richard T. Houang comparing CCSSM to high-performing countries.
  • August – ASCD received $250,000 from Gates Foundation for CCSS support.3
  • Kentucky became first state to adopt CCSS.2
  • Forty-five states adopted CCSS via the RTTT incentives by the end of 2013.
  • States not adopting CCSS: Alaska, Nebraska, Texas, and Virginia. Minnesota adopted only the English language arts standard.3


  • March – Indiana dropped CCSS.3
  • May – South Carolina dropped CCSS starting 2015–16 school year.3
  • June 
    • Oklahoma dropped CCSS.3
    • Gates Foundation called for a two-year moratorium on using CCSS-aligned testing to make “high-stakes decisions.”3 


  • Missouri and Tennessee joined South Carolina in writing their own standards, thereby replacing CCSS.26
  • Other states undertaking a review of CCSS: Arizona, Arkansas, Connecticut, Georgia, Iowa, Louisiana, Maine, New Jersey, and Utah.26


Organizations and Other Often Used Acronyms

ADPAmerican Diploma Project
AFTAmerican Federation of Teachers
ARRAAmerican Recovery and Reinvestment Act
ASCDAssociation for Supervision and Curriculum Development
CBECouncil for Basic Education
CCSSCommon Core State Standards
CCSSMCommon Core State Standards Mathematics
CCSSOCouncil of Chief State School Officers
ESEAElementary and Secondary Education Act
McRELMid-continent Research for Education and Learning
NAEANational Arts Education Associations
NCESTNational Council on Education Standards and Testing
NCTENational Council of Teachers of English
NCTMNational Council of Teachers of Mathematics
NEGPNational Education Goals Panel
NESICNational Education Standards and Improvement Council
NGANational Governors Association
NSSBNational Skill Standards Board
PPPPublic-Private Partnership
RTTTRace to the Top
THSPTexas High School Project
TSTEMTexas Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math



1. “Common Core Timeline,” Home School Legal Defense Association:

2. “ASCD and the Common Core Policy Timeline,” Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development:

3. “Common Core History and Timeline,” Hot Chalk Education Network, April 3, 2014:

4. Controlling Education From the Top, Pioneer Institute and American Principles Project, May 2012:

5. Mercedes Schneider, “A Brief Audit of Bill Gates’ Common Core Spending,” The Huffington Post, August 29, 2013:

6. “Grant Database,” Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, October 25, 1999:

7. “Grant Database,” Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, October 1, 2005:

8. “Leaders Call for Equity, Rigor in the American High School – Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation,” Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, February 2005:$42-Million-Initiative-Builds-on-High-School-Summit

9. “$130 Million Committed to Boost High School Graduation and College Attendance Rates Throughout Texas,” Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, November 2011:

10. “$71 Million Committed to Launch the Texas Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (TSTEM) Initiative,” Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, December 2005:

11. “National Campaign to Address America’s Education Crisis – Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation,” Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, April 2006:

12. “Ohio Department of Education,” Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, January 2008:

13. Benchmarking for Success: Ensuring U.S. Students Receive a World-Class Education, National Governors Association, Council of Chief State School Officers, and Achieve, Inc., December 2008:

14. Boyce Brown, Standards-Based Education Reform in the United States Since ‘A Nation at Risk,’ Curriculum Research and Development Group, University of Hawaii College of Education, June 1, 2009:

15. Julie A. Miller, “Democrats Stress Party’s Historic Role With Set of Six Key Goals for Schools,” Education Week, September 27, 1989:

16. Allison Klein, “Key Players of the 1989 Education Summit,” Education Week, September 23, 2014:

17. “Timeline: Fueling the Push for Education Standards,” Education Week, September 23, 2014:

18. The Road to Charlottesville: The 1989 Education Summit, National Education Goals Panel, September 1999:

19. Robert B. Schwartz and Marian A. Robinson, “Goals 2000 and the Standards Movement,” Brookings Papers on Education Policy, 2000:

20. “Summary of Goals 2000: Educate America Act,” North Central Regional Education Laboratory, 1994:

21. Julie A. Miller, “Small Group’s Inside Role in Goals-Setting Provides Clues to Education Policymaking,” Education Week, March 14, 1990:

22. “Development Process,” Common Core State Standards:

23. “Forty-Nine States and Territories Join Common Core Standards Initiative,” NGA Center and CCSSO, June 1, 2009:

24. “K–12 Standards Development Teams,” NGA Center and CCSSO, July 2009:

25. Reaching Higher: The Common Core State Standards Validation Committee, National Governors Association Center for Best Practices and Council of Chief State School Officers, June 2010:

26. “College & Career Readiness Standards Legislation,” National Conference of State Legislatures, July 2015:

27. Sybil Eakin, “A New Initiative in the Battle for Standards,” Technos Quarterly, Summer 1996:

28. “Achieve, Inc. Grant,” Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, September 2001:

29. “Common Core Inc. Grant,” Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, December 2009:

30. “National Center for Educational Achievement Grant,” Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, November 2005:

31. “Achieve, Inc. Grant,” Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, October 2005:

32. Gretchen Logue, “The Common Core Chuztpah of Bill Gates & CCSSO,” Missouri Education Watchdog, June 11, 2014:

33. “Implementing the Common Core State Standards State Spotlights,” Council of Chief State School Officers, August 2012:

34. Sarah Garland, “The Man Behind Common Core,” NPR, December 29, 2014:

35. “David Coleman,” College Board,

36. Frederick Hess, “Straight Up Conversation: Common Core Guru Jason Zimba,” Education Next, February 28, 2013:

37. “Student Achievement Partners Inc. Grant,” Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, June 2012:

38. “Our History,” Achieve, Inc.:

39. The National Education Goals Report, National Education Goals Panel, 1998:

40. The ADP Network, Achieve, Inc., 2005:

41. Creating a High School Diploma That Counts, The American Diploma Project, 2004:

42. Creating a World-Class Education System in Ohio, Achieve, Inc., 2006:

43. “Race to the Top Program Executive Summary,” U.S. Department of Education, November 2009:

44. Lindsey Layton, “How Bill Gates pulled off the swift Common Core revolution,” The Washington Post, June 7, 2014:

45. William J. Bennett, “James Madison High School. A Curriculum for American Students.” U.S. Department of Education, December 1987:

46. William J. Bennett, “James Madison Elementary School: A Curriculum for American Students.” U.S. Department of Education, August 1988: