In 1997, Checker Finn, a former assistant secretary of education during the Reagan administration observed that Republicans don’t like the word “national,” and Democrats don’t like the word “test,” suggesting that national tests, from a political perspective, were dead on arrival.
Fast forward 12 years–politics aside, more rational education leaders recognize that the current patchwork of 50 different state standards resulting in 50 different state tests is in a word—irrational.
The American public understands this. In this year’s PDK/Gallup poll
, two of three Americans supported a single test to measure student achievement in grades 3-8 as required in No Child Left Behind, as opposed to 50 different tests. Add to that the results from last year’s PDK/Gallup poll where almost two of three Americans supported a single set of common expectations for all students in the U.S.
So let’s think about this. This is a state-based, bipartisan initiative. It will result in internationally benchmarked education standards ensuring that all U.S. students are held to the same rigorous requirements, regardless of whether they live in Montana, Massachusetts or Mississippi. What’s not to like—loss of local control?
Local control—I witnessed local control when I was deputy superintendent/chief academic officer at the Michigan Department of Education. We regularly updated our state academic standards, but we did it on a shoestring budget. We had dedicated educators serving on standard-setting committees, but we didn’t have the research and benchmarking we needed to identify rigorous standards.
Mostly, we just added standards each time they were reviewed, ensuring that Michigan teachers were forced to move classroom instruction forward at lightning speed, and cover content that was described as a “mile wide and an inch deep.”Even worse, we then had to develop student assessments for these standards.
Personally, I will do whatever I can to support the efforts of CCSSO, NGA, Achieve, and other leaders in providing a rational solution to the current patchwork of education standards.