Dr. John King became the United States’ acting Secretary of Education on January 1, 2016. During his one-year tenure, King is expected to face a number of challenges including overseeing the peer review of state assessment systems now that the Common Core standards are no longer mandatory.

Dr. King’s appointment has generated some controversy due to his strong support of the Common Core learning standards which aimed to establish consistent academic benchmarks in K-12 programs across each state. Under Dr. King’s tenure as the state Education Commissioner In 2011, New York implemented tests to align with the Common Core standards resulting in a 30% decrease in K-12 proficiency statewide. The backlash prompted the New York State United Teachers union to demand Dr. King’s resignation.

On December 10, 2015 the Every Child Succeeds Act (ECSA) was signed into legislation, replacing the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLBA). The ECSA legislation limits the federal Education Department’s influence, returning a significant amount of K-12 authority to the states. Through the ECSA act, each state is responsible for developing and administering their own assessment systems that meet the federal benchmark. States may continue to adopt the Common Core standards but are not mandated to as they were through the NCLBA; as a result, it is expected few states will continue with the Common Core standards.

The ECSA requires the federal Education Department to remain neutral in the states’ decision to adopt academic standards. One of Dr. King’s largest challenges as secretary may be to encourage the states to transition to higher academic standards despite no longer having the authority to “influence, incentivize, or coerce State adoption of the Common Core Standards”.

It will be interesting to see how Dr. King oversees the peer review of state assessment systems, given the controversy of the federal Common Core standards and the newly limited authority of the federal Department of Education. It is possible that under Dr. King’s tenure the Common Core standards may disappear from K-12 education in the United States.

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About the Author: Dustin is a senior account manager with DesignedUX, providing communications and strategy to organizations in education and technology. Dustin is also board member of the Canadian Public Relations Society and contributes as a communications researcher with McMaster University.