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By All Measures: Equity: 'A Transcendent Issue'

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Educational equity must be the overriding concern in the development of a national system of standards and assessments. It is not an issue among other issues, but a transcendent issue that must be central to every aspect of the debate. It is integral to conversations about both the substance of the standards and their implementation.

Equity is the overriding concern for two reasons. The first is moral. In a nation whose laws and values center on the individual, all children deserve a fair opportunity to make something good and valuable of themselves and their lives. Education is the engine of this opportunity. Its failure represents the absence of choices and the loss of hope.

The second is economic. Demographers tell us that the segments of our population that are growing most rapidly, and that will constitute an increasing percentage of the future workforce, are those who have not traditionally been well-served by our schools. Yet, we know that the skills, knowledge, and productivity of this workforce will determine the shape and the strength of our national economy.

Properly developed, high national standards can do much to promote equity. Our education system is presently organized to deliver basic skills for all students with some skill enhancement for those who are college-bound. This goal reflects performance expectations for our students and for our schools that are far too low.

High national standards directly disclaim this two-tier system of education. Standards reflect our belief that all children can learn at high levels, given the time, tools, and motivation to do so. Standards emphasize our commitment to unlocking this potential in all children, not just those who are college-bound.

Roy Romer is Governor of Colorado and was co-chairman of the National Council on Education Standards and Testing.

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