Wall Street Journal: Conservatives Oppose National Standards

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Opponents of national standards and tests see the push as furthering “federal intrusion into state education matters,” asserts the Wall Street Journal today.

While the standards have been touted as “voluntary” by proponents, the Obama Administration’s heavy promotion of the standards—tying Race to the Top dollars to a state’s adoption of the standards, by suggesting that federal Title I money for low-income schools could be tied to their adoption, and, most recently, by making No Child Left Behind (NCLB) waivers contingent upon a state’s adoption of common standards—makes them anything but “voluntary.”

And if these standards were simply an option on the table for states to pick up of their own volition, it’s curious that U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan would come down so forcefully—or at all—on South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley for expressing interest in steering away from adopting the standards.

That states are becoming increasingly uneasy about ceding control of the content taught in their school systems is not surprising.

“Conservative lawmakers and governors in at least five states, including Utah and Alabama, recently have been pushing to back out, or slow down implementation, of Common Core,” reports WSJ. “They worry that adoption of the standards has created a de facto national curriculum that could at some point be extended into more controversial areas such as science.”

And the science standards will likely come sooner rather than later. While states have been told that they must sign on to Common Core’s math and English language arts standards to receive federal funding and NCLB waivers, a framework for common science standards produced by the congressionally chartered National Review Council will be unveiled this Friday.

The push to nationalize education standards is troubling on many levels.

Massachusetts watered down its current standards by adopting the Common Core, and students across the country will be affected by what some content matter experts have decried as the low quality of the standards . For example, Ze’ev Wurman, a former official in the U.S. Department of Education, also notes that the standards don’t expect Algebra I to be taught in eighth grade “reversing the most significant change in mathematics education in America in the last decade.”

Sandra Stotsky, professor of Education Reform and author of the highly rated Massachusetts state standards, said that the standards “ come in at about between a sixth- and eighth-grade level on average, and that will constitute college readiness.”

Of considerable concern as well is the high cost of the standards. The Pioneer Institute recently calculated that the total price tag for implementing the standards would be a hefty $16 billion.

Pioneer also released a report back in February pointing out three federal laws that prohibit federal involvement in curriculum and arguing that the Obama Administration has “simply paid others to do that which it is forbidden to do.”

Rigorous standards are an important part of promoting high quality education. However, more Washington control over schools is the wrong approach to improving education. States around the nation are moving in the opposite direction by giving parents greater control of education through policies like school choice. Rather than putting more power into the hands of the federal government, continuing to put educational decision making into the hands of those closest to the child will give American students the best opportunity for a bright academic future.