On Federal STEM Efforts and Grassroots Support for Standards

By Sean Cavanagh — December 02, 2009 1 min read
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On the American Enterprise Institute’s blog, former federal ed stats Commissioner Mark Schneider casts doubt on whether the Obama administration’s “Educate to Innovate campaign is likely to bring more students into math and science studies or the workforce in those fields.

The nation’s most-pressing needs in those subjects, at least in math, appear to be in improving curriculum and the quality of teaching, Schneider says. The “Innovate” campaign seems focused on raising students’ enthusiasm for those subjects, through technology and other means. But building enthusiasm is different from building academic skill, Schneider says. And Race to the Top funding isn’t likely to right this ship long term, he says.

Meanwhile, the backers of the common-standards movement are taking their effort to the streets, or maybe I should say, to the states. With the help of a $1 million Gates Foundation grant, the 5.2-million member National PTA is organizing a grassroots campaign to build support for common standards. As I reported today, they’re focusing on four states initially—Florida, Georgia, New Jersey, and North Carolina—though the PTA says more are likely to follow.

This is one of the clearest signs to date of how backers of the standards venture are planning for the actual implementation of standards in districts and classrooms. Whether these state and local efforts will stave off potential political opposition to the standards remains to be seen.

On a related note, the Council of Chief State School Officers and the National Governors Association are hosting a private event today in Washington to talk about progress on the drafting of K-12 standards, state implementation, and other issues. Here’s an interesting graphic the groups have put together, with their vision of how the standards process should play out.

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Curriculum Matters blog.