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When Will State Boards of Education Review Their Standards?

Much of the talk about the fate of the Common Core State Standards is focused on state legislatures and whether or not they will repeal the standards. But it's important to remember that in nearly every state, it was state boards of education that adopted the standards in the first place. And standards, once they're adopted, are typically reviewed, revised, and renewed periodically by these state boards.

So what's the timeline for such reviews, and what could it mean for the common core, and other content standards, in the future?

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The National Association of State Boards of Education has attempted to provide some answers, but the overall picture is pretty murky. According to a report from NASBE, 19 states specify how often state boards review, revise, or take some kind of action regarding their content standards. Florida's board reviews them every six years, NASBE reports, but there's no policy stating that it must do so; the District of Columbia reviews standards "periodically." (Florida tweaked its English/language arts and math standards last year, in fact, but it is still a common-core state.)

The most infrequent review NASBE could find is in Minnesota, where standards are revised or renewed every ten years, although in the North Star State, it's the education commissioner who takes such action (Minnesota doesn't have a state school board, and it adopted only the English/language arts standards from the common core). Boards in Kansas, Oregon, and Virginia review standards every seven years, while there's a six-year timeline in Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Tennessee. Other states with specified timelines include Idaho (every five years) and Louisiana (every seven years). Montana has a policy for annual reviews of standards, NASBE reports.

As for the remaining states, NASBE couldn't find information about how often they have to revisit standards, or else there's no specific timeline for how often they review standards. 

Since states adopted the common core in 2010 or 2011, several states are at least slated to review the common core in the coming years, if not this year. But it's not clear that even in the states that have such timelines, common-core opponents can count on help. Perhaps the most telling point is that over the last half decade, no state board has dumped the common core by a vote of its members unless the legislature forced the state to reconsider the standards. 

More specifically, several state boards with specified timelines are in states that have felt little to no forceful pushback to the standards, such as Delaware, Montana, and Oregon. Two other states with specific review timelines, Nebraska and Virginia, never adopted the common core. And Oklahoma has already repealed the common core—lawmakers have taken the final say over the replacement standards out of the state board's hands.

And of course, these disparate timelines for when states review and renew standards didn't stop dozens of state boards from adopting the common core in 2010 and 2011. 

On the other hand, state legislatures in Indiana, South Dakota, Texas, and elsewhere have recently curtailed the power of state boards over standards adoption in some way, as my colleague Catherine Gewertz reported last year. 

For observers of common-core politics, here's a relevant tidbit: New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a potential GOP presidential candidate and one-time common-core proponent, has expressed grave doubts about the common core in the last few months—but his administration trumpeted the state board's readoption of the common core only last July. The New Jersey state board reviews and renews standards every five years, according to NASBE, so the state board re-adopted the common core ahead of that schedule (the board first adopted the common core in 2010).

A 50-state overview of when state boards review and revise standards from NASBE is below:

  States' Timelines for Reviewing Standards by Andrew Ujifusa

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