I know many states have looked to choice as the single answer to educational challenges. In Massachusetts, we took a more comprehensive view of reform, which bundled choice through charters with accountability and setting really high academic standards goals. The results you know: In a decade we went from 11th in the country to 1st, and from mid-range on the international math and science tests to among the top 5-6 “countries” (along with Singapore, South Korea and Taiwan). Our charters also perform at a higher level than those in many other states.
Yes, we are focusing on charters right now, because of the debate on the Hill. That said, we are once again ramping up some work on standards because of the twin challenges that are out there:
1. The “21st century skills” distraction, which is being peddled like the latest line of touch-pump sneaker. We have fought it to a standstill here, but in 14 other states it has gained a stronger foothold.
2. While we support state academic standards (ours are the best in the country), we will likely oppose the drive by the Obama administration (with unfortunate funding assistance from the Gates Foundation) to set national academic standards. We oppose the effort for three simple reasons. (A) Our standards are a lot better than other states’, and the real effect of national standards would likely be dumb down our own. (B) National standards are more easily “captured” by union interests. (C) Education has traditionally been a state and local issue. We prefer to continue innovating here rather than deal with the gigantic and impractical egos in DC. A corollary point is that we believe a “policy” competition among the states is preferable to a one-size-fits-all approach to standards.