Why Connect Education Standards to Title I Funding?
Most agree that national education standards are politically unpalatable in the U.S., so in its place, 48 of the 50 governors and their state superintendents have volunteered to work together in developing common core state standards. This effort began last year, and since then, the National Governors Association (NGA) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) have made extraordinary progress. A draft K-12 common core standards became available for public comment on March 10, 2010, and initially, the standards have received mostly positive reactions. From my two previous blog posts, you should know that I fully support this effort.
So at a time when the initiative is making excellent progress, why would the President throw a wrench into the works? In February, President Obama announced to the nation’s governors that he wants state-level funding for Title I programs to be contingent upon the adoption of standards–whether it is the national common core standards, OR in lieu of that, standards that each state creates with their own four-year public university system, which must ensure that students who are not held to the national common core standards will not need remedial coursework upon admission to a postsecondary institution in the system.
This is a big stick or carrot depending upon how you view it, as Title I funding currently represents about $15 billion a year given to states. From my perspective, it undermines the voluntary underpinnings of this initiative.
So back to my question, why link common core standards to Title I funding? I think the answer is simple—the governors and state superintendents wanted the President to make this link and raise the stakes to force state adoption of the standards with few or any changes.
These state leaders realize that adoption of the standards will proceed through state-level hearings. Invariably, that means state legislators, state board members, and others will want to alter, water down, or add additional standards.
At a personal level, I’ve witnessed the powerful forces to add standards during the standards creation process. It seems everyone has their “pet” requirements that must be covered, and this has resulted in too many standards; and this leads to teacher’s not being able to cover everything that’s required. The common core state standards initiative has fought this tendency successfully so far.
So here is a future scenario as I see it. When a powerful state legislator proposes to the governor and the state superintendent that their state should eliminate five of the common core standards (“these are too difficult for our students”), and replace them with 15 other standards (“our students are unique from all other students and need these skills”), the governor and state superintendent will respond (tongue-in-cheek), that while they would like to consider the suggested changes, they can’t as it would jeopardize Title I funding. This is called political cover.
So while I dislike the President connecting common core standards to Title I funding, having worked in the state-level education arena, I understand why the parties involved, i.e., the administration, the governors, and the state superintendents, have probably agreed that this is the route to go.
What do you think?