The Ties That Bind Common Standards to Title I Aid

By Catherine Gewertz — February 23, 2010 2 min read
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You’ve read before in this blog that the role the federal government is taking—or ought to take—in the development of common standards is a touchy subject. Fresh rounds of evidence popped up yesterday, with the news that President Obama proposes tying Title I money to the adoption of college- and career-ready standards, a clear—though not exclusive—nod to the set currently under development.

The National Conference of State Legislatures gave an elbow jab to the feds, as you can see in reading our story about Obama’s proposal. Take a look, also, at this announcement from the National School Boards Association, which isn’t normally noted for its biting phrasing. The word that woke me up was “coerce.” UPDATE: The Common Core folks have weighed in, as well. UPDATE #2: The National Association of Secondary School Principals just turned in a less-than-glowing view of the decision, as well, saying it threatens the well-being of students in poverty. Strong words.

James Stergios, the executive director of the Pioneer Institute in Massachusetts, which has been skeptical that the common standards will serve that state better than its current, widely respected standards, said Obama’s move erases “the façade of voluntary adoption” on which the common-standards initiative was based, and begins to make the movement look “more like a federal takeover of educational standards.”

(To be fair, the president’s proposal came in for support, too. Democrats for Education Reform, for instance, commended the move.)

At a forum about new assessments that I attended yesterday, the organizers of the common-standards initiative didn’t say anything about the president’s move to tie college and career-ready standards to Title I aid. They have bent over backwards, especially in recent days, to emphasize that the common-standards movement is led by states, not the federal government. But in some folks’ eyes, the lineup of panelists at yesterday’s forum could have confused that message. The White House’s top education adviser, Roberto Rodriguez, appeared on the panel, expressing support for common standards and “transformative” new assessments. He told the audience that the president was meeting that day with governors to discuss the importance of “transitioning” all states to college- and career- readiness standards.

Those of you interested in the question of what role federal officials should take not just in the common standards, but in other education policy as well, might also want to check out a new report that explores those questions from the Center on Education Policy.

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