The Difference Between the Iowa Core and the Common Core

What’s the difference between the Iowa Core and the Common Core?  I have gotten that question numerous times.  I even heard in an Iowa House Education Committee that some of the members were confused.  These are the folks that should be setting education policy.  It reminds me of the adage “a mist in the pulpit makes for a fog in the pews.”  If our legislators don’t get it, it’s not hard to understand why your average Iowan would not know the difference.

The Iowa Core (formerly known as the Iowa Core Curriculum) begun to be developed in 2005 and was passed by the Iowa Legislature in 2007 and signed into law by former Governor Chet Culver.  It consists of standards for literacy, math, science, social studies, and 21st Century skills (employability skills, financial literacy, health literacy, technology literacy, and civic literacy).

I’m not a fan of the Iowa Core and American Principles Project released a pretty compelling white paper that demonstrated problems within the standards.  The Fordham Institute gave Iowa’s History standards an F.

As much as I don’t care for the standards, at least these were passed by the Iowa Legislature and there was public debate.

Not so with the Common Core State Standards.

In 2010 the Iowa State Board of Education approved the Common Core Math Standards and Common Core ELA Standards to then have the align with the Iowa Core.  Yes you read that correctly they substituted standards approved by the Legislature that were open to public debate for standards written by a handful of people and approved by an unelected board.  The worst part is that the Iowa Legislature gave them the authority to do just that.

I wrote last week at Truth In American Education that these standards are special-interest led not state-led like the advocates of the Common Core explain.

The process was initiated by the National Governors Association’s Center for Best Practices and the Council of Chief State School Officers.  They then delegated the drafting of the standards to Achieve, Inc. who was created by the NGA.  This process was managed by six state Governors who were chosen by a non-democratic process).  The oversight also included the CEOs of Battelle Memorial Institute, Intel Corporation, Prudential Financial, Achieve, Inc. and State Farm Insurance.

This was all financed by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, The Boeing Company, Carnegie Corporation of New York, the GE Foundation, IBM Corporation, Intel Foundation, Nationwide, the Prudential Foundation, the State Farm Insurance Company, Washington Mutual Foundation, and the William and Flora Hewett Foundation.

To top it off the NGA-recognized “reviews” of the standards commissioned by Achieve were funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, an interest group who were pushing the standards to begin with.  No conflict of interest there!  Since January of 2008 the Gates Foundation has awarded the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers over $35 Million (this is a dated amount, it most certainly has increased by now).

This is what we call state-led?  No, if advocates of the Common Core were honest they would say it is special-interest written and funded.  However it was Federally-pushed getting other states on board.  That’s where Race to the Top grants come in.  Through the 2009 stimulus package $4.35 billion in discretionary money was given to the U.S. Department of Education and in order to qualify for these grants states had to adopt the Common Core.

Voila the difference.  Right now they’re working on the Next Generation Science Standards and drafting the Common Core Social Studies which the Iowa Board of Education will have to approve without our consent or our legislators’ input.

That is something we should not allow to stand.

About Shane Vander Hart

Shane Vander Hart founded Iowans for Local Control in 2012 which later merged with Iowa RestorEd. Shane also is the founder and editor-in-chief of Caffeinated Thoughts and the founder and president of 4:15 Communications, LLC, a social media & communications consulting/management firm.  You can connect with Shane on Facebook or follow him on Twitter and Google +.


  1. I appreciate the fact that you choose to explore complex curriculum issues — I get pretty geeked up by this stuff. Love or hate common standards, I can say with certainty that I appreciate them for many reasons.

    Just want to add a couple of clarifying points for your readers.

    1). The State Board’s decision to adopt the Common Core State Standards was informed by a group of teachers and other folks with content or curriculum expertise who engaged in a thorough review of the CCSS in comparison to the Iowa Core. I know this because I was one of those teachers. Iowa’s adoption process was so thorough that we even added things to the CCSS to round out what we believed was truly important to Iowa’s context.

    2). RTTT didn’t require states to adopt CCSS — grant applicants were required to show they had adopted college and career ready standards, which could be demonstrated through a variety of avenues — one of which was CCSS adoption. I think it’s also important to note that RTTT grants were never a topic of discussion during my team’s decision to recommend adoption of CCSS in Iowa.

    • Bridgette, it’s nice that a group of teachers got to review CCSS before the state adopted it. What was not addressed, though, was the constitutionality of having the federal government oversee and micromanage common core testing. What was not addressed either was the fact that there would never be any voice for local control in the future as CCSS have no amendment process. The CCSSO meetings are closed-door meetings so any future changes to Common Core will be handed down as mandates from people we cannot even un-elect. This is a freedom issue, a much larger issue than whether or not classic literature should be minimized in favor of informational text. Look at what surrounds Common Core, not just the academic issues.

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