NCSL Won’t Join Rally for National Standards

March 10, 2009 1 min read

The governors are for a national effort to set academic standards. So are the chiefs. But don’t count on state legislators.

That was one of several messages that West Virginia state Sen. Robert Plymale delivered yesterday to the Council of Chief State School Officers’ annual legislative conference in Washington.

“We’ve staked our claim that standards should come from the state level,” said Plymale, a Democrat, who is chairing a task force on NCLB for the National Conference of State Legislatures.

The legislators’ fear is that the Congress or the Education Department would force states to adopt common definitions of academic content, even if they are developed intending to be voluntary.

Look for that argument and many others in an NCSL report due this summer. Plymale said it would include much of the same criticism of NCLB as this 2005 NCSL document. It’ll probably be good timing to inform NCLB reauthorization.

But will it be enough to counteract the “booster shot” NCLB received from the stimulus law? (See the comments in Alyson Klein’s story in this week’s paper.)

ADDENDUM: In my recent story on national standards, I implied that the National Governors Association and its partners in standards setting have endorsed using the Program for International Student Assessment as a benchmark for common national standards. In a separate story, my colleague Sean Cavanagh had more detail on the group’s position, including comments from NGA’s Dane Linn saying that any effort to set common standards should examine PISA as well as other international assessments. But the PISA would not be the only source for the benchmarking, Linn says.

In this December report, NGA, CCSSO, and Achieve Inc., argue that one role the federal government could play is to provide research determining whether PISA and other tests would be appropriate benchmarks to set standards against.

A version of this news article first appeared in the NCLB: Act II blog.