Here’s a (mostly pictorial) history of Common Core.  We will use Colorado as an example but chances are this story will seem very familiar (even 95% similar) to folks in every state.


Colorado is currently reviewing its Common Core aligned Math and ELA standards, which the state adopted in August 2010.  Folks in Colorado have been told, repeatedly, that FIRST Colorado updated its academic standards on its own and THEN Common Core Standards showed up in 2010 and happened to be 95% aligned with Colorado’s newly revised Academic Standards.  (If you haven’t seen the  CC standards in Math and ELA,  they are VERY specific; it is remarkable how Colorado, and nearly every other state,  just happened to achieve nearly identical standards to the Common Core standards, just by chance.)


Meet Achieve Inc. created in 1996 by Governors and concerned CEOs.   Let that sink in.        (If you are thinking  NGA and Business Round Table…and Goals 2000 and Marc Tucker  …you would not be alone.)


Achieve Inc., the reform group whose mission is dedicated to help states with their standards, assessments and accountability systems,  is heavily funded (over $50 million) by Bill Gates.


In 2002 Achieve Inc. interviewed these business people to determine necessary workforce skills and benchmarks for high school students:

Page 124 achieve-inc-2002-business-inteviews

In 2004 Achieve Inc. had already set benchmarks for common standards and suggested curriculum 

In 2006, at a meeting in San Jose, where they discussed college and career initiatives across the states,  Achieve Inc. (Governors and CEOs)  also created the ADP- American Diploma Project :



Remember, Achieve Inc’s mission, [from 2006–years before states adopted Common Core, and way before states (in nearly lock-step) began to revise their own state standards],  is to help states with their standards,  assessments, and accountability systems.



If you turn to page 14 of this 2006 San Jose intro to ADP, they outline their mission and also what they believe the Math and ELA standards should look like.



In 2008, Achieve Inc, CCSSO, NGA issued this Benchmarking for Success report: with the goal for states to upgrade and adopt common core standards, ensure aligned curriculum, aligned assessments, recruit and retrain teachers and hold them accountable, to ensure that schools use the standards.


If we visit this May 2009 ARRA grant application where Colorado finally “won” its federal grant (after failing previously), we see that Colorado received help from Achieve Inc., using the 2009  Achieve Inc. report as a template.

achieve-in-2009-arraHere is the Achieve Inc 2009 report used to help Colorado win the ARRA grant:



And finally, the Colorado standards sub-committee that was tasked with reviewing and revising Colorado’s academic standards acknowledge that Achieve informed their work.



In other words,  Gates funded Achieve Inc., along with CEOs, and many other Gates funded nonprofit organizations (Education Trust, NGA, CCSSO, DQC) FIRST created the standards, THEN advised and helped Colorado, (and other states), to write their standards and  grants.   Colorado THEN adopted these Common Core State Standards (CCSS) in August 2010, despite receiving 600 letters, like this one,  opposing their adoption.

According to the official Common Core  State Standards website, the “state-led” Common Core timeline starts in 2007.

However, if you look at actual documents, you see national standards, assessments, accountability, (all hinging on data collection),  were created by Achieve Inc.  Common Core was not state-led and was coerced, or to use their own words: forced.


Joanne Weiss, former US DoE Chief of RttT, details how they accomplished the $4 billion US education reform effort of Common Core, aptly entitled Competing Principles.  She writes,

“First, we forced alignment among the top three education leaders in each participating state—the governor, the chief state school officer, and the president of the state board of education—by requiring each of them to sign their state’s Race to the Top application.” 

This document  from USDoE’s RttT chief is a must read.

For further documentation on the history of Common Core,  see this timeline of Common Core from Heartland  and here.  Another documented history of Common Core comes from Mercedes Schneider, More on the Common Core: Achieve, Inc., and Then Some .  See yet another review of Common Core by Diane Ravitch.  See another very well documented  timeline here – put together by a researcher in WA state.   Or listen to this fascinating Audio  timeline interview – about the history of Common Core ed reform- with David Hornbeck, Senior Consultant to National Business Roundtable and Co-Director of National Alliance for Restructuring Education. Listen to this audio. He lists dates and names of  nearly everyone  associated.

No matter what side of the political fence you are on, you can see Common Core is not state-led and was planned many years prior to its  nation-wide adoption in 2010.


More on Common Core:

Common Core is not “just standards”. “Common Core is so important to the open data movement, because it’s the glue that actually ties everything together.”  Common Core is a way to create standardized data on every child, create a database in each state to collect, store, share that personally identifiable data across states.  Read the 2005 Bill Gates, US Department of Education’s press release about the launch of the Data Quality Campaign and its 10 original partners (you will see overlap with Gates, DQC,  Achieve Inc.,  America Diploma Project) and you can see the 2005 DQC mission to collect and share common data here.   Also read this 2014 Washington Post interview with Bill Gates, entitled,  How Bill Gates Pulled off the Swift Common Core Revolution, (in this piece he explains how he was approached by David Coleman -now the head of College Board /SAT- who asked Gates to fund an education reform idea…).

We urge you to read the original documents, look at the timelines. When presented with facts, it is difficult to see how anyone could argue or believe that Common Core standards were written (without influence, or suggestions, or templates from Achieve Inc. or other reform groups) by local teachers.

It is also important to note:

Common Core’s next phase as mentioned in ESSA:

  •  Competency Based Education, (“personalized” online, all-the-time data collecting and embedded formative assessments and curriculum) is mentioned in ESSA, and these earned skills or competencies will be tracked via 21st century data badges, starting in kindergarten or younger. Competency-Based Ed is  being promoted by Achieve Inc.  Gates’  Data Quality Campaign is also promoting CBE.
  • Social Emotional Learning Standards are being developed to measure and rank children based on their emotions. WHY?  Because these 21st soft-skills are what business CEOs think are the best predictors of future success.  What a child learns is not important (hence the standards not being made by teachers, not relying on content or knowledge based tests). It is HOW a child thinks, his or her Grit, her personality, his behavior–starting in preschool– that these reformers want to measure and rank. 

More on the Common Core timeline:

1988 The NGA created The Corporate Fellows Program, which promotes the exchange of information between the private sector and governors

1990 NCEE published The Report of the Commission on the Skills of the American Workforce. (This codified the principles of outcomes-based education reform, which FAILED, and later became standards-based education reform.)

1992 Marc Tucker, of NCEE, wrote the “Dear Hillary Letter” outlining education reforms

1996 Achieve Inc  created by Governors and CEOs, Corporations at the National Education Summit

2002 American Diploma Project created by Achieve Inc. at National Education Summit

2004 American Diploma Project Ready or Not Report- Sets Standards and Assessments Benchmarks for Math and ELA College or Career Success (includes Math and ELA standards and suggested reading lists)

2004  UNESCO signs 26-page “Cooperation Agreement with Microsoft Corporation to develop a master curriculum (Syllabus)” for teacher training in information technologies based on standards, guidelines, benchmarks, and assessment techniques. The Agreement states that . . . “UNESCO will explore how to facilitate content development.” The partnership recognizes “need for enabling competency driven platforms”. The agreement also references Microsoft’s “Digital Pipeline Pilot Project“…to “develop corresponding ICT and vocational skills” and to share information with UNESCO.

Microsoft “Cooperation Agreement”: UNITED NATIONS EDUCATIONAL, SCIENTIFIC AND CULTURAL ORGANIZATION Address by Mr Koïchiro Matsuura Director-General of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO):

2005 American Diploma Project Preview, video Creating a High School Diploma That Counts

2005 Achieve Inc created Action Network13 states joined to implement standards, assessments, accountability (based on benchmarks set in 2004 Ready or Not Report)

2005 Data Quality Campaign created by 10 organizations (including NGA, CCSSO) goal to create SLDS in every state,  to create tagged data standards, data sharing across states. DQC is funded by Gates. DQC’s parent nonprofit is The Education Trust.

2006 American Diploma Project Report: Cross-State Initiatives to Prepare Students for College and Work

2006 American Diploma Project Report: Closing the Expectations Gap 2006

2007 American Diploma Project Report: Closing the Expectations Gap 2007

2008 American Diploma Project Report: Closing the Expectations Gap 2008

2008 American Diploma Project Report:  Algebra II End-Of-Course Exam ADP Algebra II exam, testing consortia of 14 states

2008 Benchmarking for Success: Ensuring U.S.Students Receive aWorld-Class Education
A report by the National Governors Association, the Council of Chief State School Officers, and Achieve,Inc.


2009 American Diploma Project Report: Closing the Expectations Gap 2009

2009 Data Quality Campaign report urging Governors to double down on DQC’s mission

  • Dramatically accelerate the work to embed all 10 elements of the Data Quality Campaign into the state’s data system, including linking teacher data to student performance data. 
  • Link K–12 systems with early learning and postsecondary systems. 
  • Align data definitions and design specifications with national standards. 
  • Ensure educators, policymakers, and parents are using the data to drive key decisions.

2010 American Diploma Project Report: Closing the Expectations Gap 2010

2010 Transforming American Education : Powered by Technology, US Department of Education, National Educational technology Plan 2010.  Contributors and participants include SRI, USDOE, Achieve, NGA, CCSSO, more.

2010 Achieve becomes Project Manager for the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC)

2011 American Diploma Project Report: Closing the Expectations Gap 2011

2011 Joint data gathering project created by US Dept of Education and US Dept of Defense:
The Federal Learning Registry

2012 American Diploma Project Report: Closing the Expectations Gap 2012

2013 American Diploma Project Report: Closing the Expectations Gap 2013

2013 IMS Global, Pearson, DRC, ACT, McGraw-Hill, others create Common Education Data Standards (CEDS) for tagging student data, using Federal RttT funds

2014 American Diploma Project Report: Closing the Expectations Gap 2014


Just like NCLB, states do NOT have to adopt the mandates in ESSA.  Urge your state to do a cost analysis of how much federal money they receive for education (see this table, it is often less than 10% of the total education budget).  Ask for a fiscal accounting of how much money is currently spent to meet federal mandates on assessment, accountability and compare this cost to ESSA mandates.  Then, see if there would be a savings to the state to define their own education needs, not jump through federal ESSA hoops. At the very least, states should develop their OWN challenging standards and assessments, and according to ESSA, they don’t have to be common.





Cheri Kiesecker

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