For many months after the Common Core State Standards Initiative (CCSSI) was launched in early 2009, the identities of the people drafting the “college- and career-readiness standards” were unknown to the public. CCSSI eventually (in July 2009) revealed the names of the 29 members of the “Standards Development Work Group” … in response to complaints from parents and others about the CCSSI’s lack of transparency.

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What did the ELA Work Group look like? Its make-up was quite astonishing: It included no English professors or high-school English teachers. How could legitimate ELA standards be created without the very two groups of educators who know the most about what students should and could be learning in secondary English/reading classes?

CCSSI also released in July 2009 the names of individuals in a larger “Feedback Group.” This group included one English professor and one high-school English teacher. But it was made clear that these people would have only an advisory role – final decisions would be made for ELA by the English teacher-bereft ELA Work Group. Indeed, Feedback Group members’ suggestions were frequently ignored, according to the one English professor on this group, without explanation. Because both Work Groups labored in secret, without open meetings, sunshine-law minutes of meetings, or accessible public comment, their reasons for making the decisions they did are lost to history.

The two lead writers for the grade-level ELA standards were David Coleman and Susan Pimentel, neither of whom had experience teaching English either in K-12 or at the college level. Nor had either of them ever published serious work on K-12 curriculum and instruction. Neither had a reputation for scholarship or research; they were virtually unknown to the field of English language arts. But they had been chosen to transform ELA education in the U.S. Who recommended them and why, we still do not know. Interestingly, no one in the media commented on their lack of credentials for the task they had been assigned. Indeed, no one in the media showed the slightest interest in the qualifications of the standards writers.

Common Core’s Invalid Validation Committee
Sandra Stotsky
Professor Emerita, University of Arkansas
Paper given at a conference at University of Notre Dame
September 9, 2013