According to Gene Wilhoit, the executive director of the Council of Chief State School Officers, there will be an easy way to test whether or not the Department of Education is really pressuring states to specifically take up the Common Core: Virginia.
Wilhoit says he's looked closely at Virginia's standards. They are good, Wilhoit says, and they have been vetted by the higher education community. But Virginia's education board has said it is against adopting the Common Core. "Is Virginia going to be eligible [for a waiver]?" Wilhoit says the question will be. "And if they say no, then I think there's a real question mark."
And it appears the administration may pass that test. Over the weekend, the Washington Post reported that Duncan assured Virginia's education department their refusal to adopt the Common Core wouldn't disqualify the state.
Even so, the buzz that standards may be tied to waivers has some of the groups who support the Common Core, like the right-leaning Fordham Institute, nervous states may feel pressured. "To now say if you want relief from No Child Left Behind, you have to sign onto these standards or other college- and career-ready standards—wink wink," says Michael Petrilli, Fordham's executive vice president, "creates this dynamic that resonates on the right, where people say, 'See, this is another example of the Obama administration usurping states rights and putting us under the yoke of Uncle Sam.'"
Petrilli is worried that any more pushing or incentivizing from Washington could spur conservative states to feel trapped in the program or to simply back out. And he questions the need, with nearly 90 percent of states already saying they are on board. "I just can't understand why the administration doesn't walk away from this and declare victory," he says.