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Common Standards, Assessment Leader to Head CCSSO

Chris Minnich, the senior membership director at the Council of Chief State School Officers, the umbrella group for state superintendents and one of the two organizations that developed the Common Core State Standards, has been named CCSSO's executive director, the group announced Nov. 14.

Prior to working as the membership director, Minnich "led the standards and assessment work" at CCSSO, which is helping states implement the common standards, according to a brief biography on the group's website. He also previously worked at Pearson Assessment as the director of the Assessment Academy Project, which shares assessment practices from around the world.

Minnich, who was selected after a search process led by CCSSO's board of directors, will take over for Gene Wilhoit, who announced in June that he would step down. (Wilhoit suffered a heart attack on Dec. 24 last year.) Wilhoit has served as CCSSO's executive director since November 2006, and previously served as the state education chief in Arkansas and Kentucky. Minnich plans to take over as executive director sometime in mid-January.

Minnich commented briefly for a story I did about state superintendent elections earlier this year. He's also talked about states' waivers from No Child Left Behind, as well as splits in the GOP over the common core.

The state chiefs' decision to have Minnich lead CCSSO appears to be a strong indication that the group will put a big emphasis on states' preparations for the common standards, as well as the tougher assessments tied to those standards, over the next few years, given his background both inside and outside the organization. When I wrote about the results from Kentucky's new K-PREP tests, the first to be explicitly tied to the common standards, Wilhoit said states watched Kentucky very closely for the results and saw the big drops in proficiency rates as a warning sign of things to come, in terms of both the preparation and the management of public expectations that would be required for the new assessments. Minnich will be helping those states take the next steps as the common assessments are finalized and then come online in 2014-15.

In an interview Nov. 14, Minnich, who also worked at the Oregon Department of Education and has been at CCSSO for four years, said, "I also think that part of preparing states for the new standards and new assessments is working with teachers, and making sure that teachers are prepared to teach to these new, higher expectations."

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