Policy Brief

Federal Role Touchy in Standards Push

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Memo to Congress and the U.S. Department of Education: Stay out of the common-standards business.

That was the message at a recent Education Commission of the States session from Gov. Phil Bredesen, whose state has signed on to the common-standards effort—and was a winner in the Race to the Top competition, in which common standards are an important element.

If federal officials decide to take ownership of the push for common academic standards, they could inject an unwelcome partisan note, Gov. Bredesen, a Democrat, told attendees at last month’s session at the ecs’s National Forum on Education Policy, held in Portland, Ore.

“The problem with Congress is they take any issue and it turns into a liberal-conservative” split, he said.

The Obama administration has pledged to stay out of states’ way on the Common Core State Standards Initiative, led by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers.

But President Barack Obama has also proposed tying Title I money for disadvantaged students to states’ adoption of standards for college and career readiness, either through the common-core effort or standards states create with higher education institutions.

Also at the ECS session, Colorado schools chief Dwight D. Jones—speaking just days before his state was shut out of a second-round Race to the Top grant—said that he has mixed feelings about the administration’s penchant for competitive grants. The Race to the Top applications were very labor-intensive, and not every state education agency had the capacity to apply, he said.

“You’ve got to be careful that you don’t create haves and have-nots,” he said.

He and Massachusetts schools chief Mitchell D. Chester parted ways a bit on the No Child Left Behind Act. Mr. Chester said he’s glad the Obama administration still pushes some policies begun in the NCLB law. They are “on steroids [regarding] accountability and teacher policy and so forth,” he said.

Mr. Jones, on the other hand, said there hasn’t been enough emphasis on helping to improve teacher quality and finding ways to intervene in low-performing schools.

Vol. 30, Issue 02, Page 14

Published in Print: September 1, 2010, as Federal Role Touchy in Standards Push
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