Standards News in Brief

Panel to Spur International Benchmarks

By Michele McNeil — September 16, 2008 2 min read

A new advisory group packed with high-powered technology executives, governors, education policymakers, and think tank researchers is aiming to help jump-start the movement by states to measure their academic standards against those of other countries.

The 22-member group is on a fast track to produce a report in November that will make the case to policymakers for international benchmarking, and to offer steps for carrying out such an initiative.

The group is a joint effort by the National Governors Association, the Council of Chief State School Officers, and Achieve Inc., a nonprofit organization based in Washington that promotes higher academic standards and better preparation of students for college and the work world.

All three organizations signaled earlier this year their interest in working together on what such a move toward international benchmarking might look like in a practical sense. (“Benchmarks Momentum on Increase,” March 12, 2008.)

The new advisory group is co-chaired by Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano, a Democrat and a former NGA chair who made innovation in education part of her agenda; Gov. Sonny Perdue of Georgia, a Republican; and Craig Barrett, the chairman of the board of the Intel Corp.

In a sign of which states may lead the charge toward internationally benchmarking, the group includes the governors of Virginia and Rhode Island and the state schools chiefs in Colorado and Massachusetts.

Also among the members are Steven A. Ballmer, the chief executive officer of the Microsoft Corp.; Chester E. Finn, Jr., the president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute; former U.S. Secretary of Education Richard W. Riley; and Beverly L. Hall, the superintendent of the Atlanta public schools.

“The difference between this group’s report and previous ones will be that the NGA, the council [of chief state school officers], and Achieve will be working to help states on the implementation of the recommendations,” said Dane Linn, the director of the NGA’s education policy division.

In addition, said Mr. Linn, the group will work to identify how the federal government can help states set benchmarks comparing their standards with those of other countries.

International benchmarking is the latest offshoot of the standards and accountability movement, which sparked the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

“NCLB was a good start,” Mr. Linn said. “It’s now time to raise the bar.”

A version of this article appeared in the September 17, 2008 edition of Education Week

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