(This issue has moved a bit since I first drafted this post — watch for updates.)
Ain’t it the way?
46 of the 50 states agreed to work for common education standards through a project of the National Governors Association (NGA) and the Council of Chief State School Officers. Texas is one of four states not agreeing. News comes from a report in the venerable Education Week (and to me directly via e-mail from Steve Schafersman at Texas Citizens for Science).
National standards for education are prohibited in the U.S. by law and tradition. Education standards traditionally have been set by each of the more than 15,000 local school districts. After the 1957 Sputnik education cleanup, and after the 1983 report of the Excellence in Education Commission, the nation has seen a drive to get at least state-wide standards, though a jealous regard for federalism still prevents national standards.
Almost all other industrialized nations have a set of national standards set by the national government, against which progress may be measured. All the industrialized nations who score higher than U.S. students in international education comparisons, have standards mandated by a national group.
So if it’s an internationally recognized way of improving education, as part of their continuing war on education, and their war on science and evolution theory, the Texas State Board of Education takes the Neanderthal stance, avoiding cooperation with the 92% of the states working to improve American education.
You couldn’t make up villains like this.
Article below the fold.
46 States Commit to Common Standards Push
Forty-six states—representing 80 percent of the nation’s K-12 student population—have formally agreed to join forces to create common academic standards in math and English language arts through an effort led by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers.
The four states not on board, as of Friday, were Alaska, Missouri, South Carolina, and Texas.
“This is a giant step,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, who has been pushing states to adopt common, rigorous standards. “It would have unimaginable, this kind of thing, just a year or two ago.”
As for those states holding out, he said: “I’m not focused on politics, but there’s plenty of time” for them to sign on.
In each of the 46 states, both the governor and the chief education officer signed a memorandum of agreement committing to the process and development of voluntary, common standards—the tangible result of a daylong meeting in Chicago in April. The District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands have also agreed to take part.
“It’s going to take both the governor and the chief to get this work done,” said Dane Linn, the director of the education division of the Washington-based NGA’s Center for Best Practices. “This is really becoming an economic and a moral imperative. We can’t afford to keep operating in a vacuum.”
The groups plan to pursue their aggressive timeline of getting college- and career-readiness standards—those things students should know by the time they finish high school—in draft form for states and eventually the public to review in July. Grade-by-grade standards—which the organizers are also calling “learning progression standards”—are set to be done in December.
Working groups composed of representatives from the Washington-based group Achieve, the New York City-based College Board, and ACT Inc., the Iowa City, Iowa-based organization that administers the college-entrance test of that name, will develop the standards.
Both the NGA and the CCSSO plan to create a “validation” committee made up of independent national and international experts in content standards to review and comment on the drafts. The experts will be nominated by states and organizations, but ultimately chosen by those two organizations.
Once the standards are agreed to, it will be up to the states to get them adopted. The signed memo stipulates that the common core must represent at least 85 percent of a state’s standards, and that the common core needs to be adopted within three years.
The memo also spells out that the governors’ association and the state chiefs’ council will convene a “national policy forum” to facilitate the sharing and coordination of this standards effort. The forum will include the Alliance for Excellent Education, the Business Roundtable, the National School Boards Association, the Council of the Great City Schools, the James B. Hunt Jr. Institute for Leadership and Policy, and the National Association of State Boards of Education.
The 46-state commitment follows an April 17 meeting in Chicago that drew 41 states. The one-day summit was meant to get education chiefs and governors’ policy advisers in a room to learn about the effort, and eventually to commit to it. (“NGA, CCSSO Launch Common Standards Drive,” April 20, 2009.)
“We didn’t want them to join in a cavalier way,” said Gene Wilhoit, the executive director of the Washington-based CCSSO. “It’s time for a very serious effort.”
A primary goal is to eliminate the patchwork of academic standards across the country that result in students in the same grades learning different things in different states. The effort also is intended to devise a more rigorous common set of academic targets, and then internationally benchmark them.
But that isn’t a persuasive argument for officials in Texas, which just approved new English and math standards, and developed and ordered new testing materials and textbooks as a result. Switching gears could cost the state up to $3 billion, said Texas Education Agency spokeswoman DeEtta Culbertson.
“The economic reasons [for holding out] are substantial,” she said.
In South Carolina, a spokesman for Gov. Mark Sanford said that the state has a separately elected superintendent of education, and that Gov. Sanford, a Republican, deferred to Superintendent Jim Rex to make the decision.
“The governor does not have a role in implementing education policy,” spokesman Joel Sawyer said.
But even though Mr. Rex, a Democrat, has signed on, Gov. Sanford will still not sign the agreement, Mr. Sawyer added.
Pete Pillow, a spokesman for the education superintendent, said the state education department is already preparing to pursue the common standards even if South Carolina isn’t officially part of the larger group.
Missouri isn’t necessarily holding out for good, but is currently searching for a new education chief. Gov. Jay Nixon, a Democrat, wanted to wait until a new chief is on board, which will probably be this summer, said spokesman Scott Holste.
A call to the education department in Alaska was not returned.
For states that are forging ahead, there could be a financial payoff.
Chiefs and governors have their eyes on federal economic-stimulus money in the $4.35 billion Race to the Top fund, authorized as part of the $787 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which Secretary Duncan will dole out in the form of competitive grants to states. (The memo of agreement mentions the Race to the Top Fund as a possible revenue source.) Mr. Duncan and President Obama are pushing for voluntary common content standards.
The U.S. Department of Education is finalizing the application process for the Race to the Top money, said spokesman John White. Although states will need to submit individual applications for that aid, states will still be asked to collaborate on their proposals, Mr. White said.
Vol. 28, Issue 33