Janet Napolitano, who was the 2006-07 chair of the National Governors Association and now leads the University of California system, says Dane Linn, a vice president of the Business Roundtable who oversees its Education and Workforce Committee.
According to Linn, who at the time was serving as director of the NGA's Educational Policy Division, Napolitano's initiative had a strong focus on improving math and science education, as well as the workforce.
[READ: Who Is Fighting For Common Core?]
"The more she
thought about it, she
came to the conclusion that America couldn't lead the world in innovation and remain being competitive if we didn't have an internationally competitive education system," Linn
created a task force - composed of commissioners of education, governors, corporate chief executive officers and recognized experts in higher education - which in December 2008 released a report that Linn
says would eventually serve as the building blocks of what became known as the Common Core State Standards, now adopted by 45 states and the District of Columbia.
It was decided that "the key to advancing any of these recommendations was to start with the standards," Linn
Then came the arduous task of deciding what exactly should be included in the English Language Arts and mathematics standards.
The entire purpose of the standards, Linn
says, was to determine what students need to know and demonstrate the ability to do in order to be prepared for an entry-level college course.
For some states, that task would prove more difficult than others because academic standards varied widely from state to state.
For Massachusetts, which historically has had very high academic standards, Linn
says, it was important that the Common Core was equal to or greater than the current state standards.
But in other states, like Tennessee, standards were much lower.
"What's more important?
"To tell the truth to parents about where their kids are really performing?
Or to continue to make them believe they're doing really well, only until they get into the workforce or they go to college and they're finding out they need to be put in a remedial English class?"
While the effort was spearheaded by the NGA
and Achieve, representatives from other national organizations were also enlisted for their input, such as the International Reading Association
, the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics
and members of both the American Federation of Teachers
and the National Education Association
- the two largest teachers' unions in the country.
says one moment that stands out in his
memory is of the way in which mathematics teachers from the AFT
gave their feedback on the standards.
"I walked in on a Monday morning and the math teachers had literally cut up all the standards," Linn
says those who wrote the standards used the best evidence and research that was available at the time, and also looked to states that either had very high standards, as determined by their performance on international assessments, or had gone through a similar process as the Common Core in recent years.
Minnesota and Massachusetts were two high-performing states Linn
named, while Georgia and Colorado served as examples of states that had recently developed internationally benchmarked standards.
And each draft of the standards was posted online for the public to view.
After the final draft was published, Linn
says, the organizations allowed "anyone and everyone" to submit comments, questions and concerns.
They received more than 10,000 responses.
"Every one of them was reviewed and helped inform our revision of the standards," Linn
"Historically, we should have been forewarned about the debates of the past," Linn