Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Is consensus growing for national academic standards?

Recently, EdLog reported on AFT President Randi Weingarten's Washington Post column about the problems faced by states which have more rigorous academic standards than others. A couple of days later, her contention was reinforced by a Fordham Institute study.

The problem: states (like Louisiana) that have really tough standards compare poorly to states that are less concerned with rigor.

The story has been verified by no less than State Superintendent of Schools Paul Pastorek. In this article, co-authored by Gannett reporter Ashley Northington and AP reporter Libby Quaid, Pastorek argues in favor of national standards.

As the reporters explain the problem from a local angle:

...the state's accountability system is considered one of the best in the
country. That could mean the 10 Shreveport and Baton Rouge schools that'll be placed in the state's Recovery School District for low student achievement on standardized tests may have been able to remain under local control if they were in Arizona or any other state with a less rigorous accountability system and standardized test.

Pastorek, who will never be accused of wanting to water down standards, seems to agree when he tells the reporters,

"People need to know exactly where they stand. I don't think it's important to
know who the best one in town is or who's the best one in the state. I think
it's important to really know how well the children are doing, and the only way
to do that is to know how well you're doing against the rest of the nation."

Do we see some sort of consensus growing here, even among people who may not agree on much else? As Weingarten said,
"Every other industrialized nation has national standards. When you start
thinking about how are we going to create a school system throughout the United
States that helps enable kids to be prepared for college, prepared for life and
prepared for work, you have to start with common standards."

And Keith Guice, president of the Louisiana School Boards Association, told the reporters,
"If anyone anywhere is going to attempt to make any type of comparison between
states, it can not be valid unless there is some type of common assessment

In Washington, there even seems to be some sort of agreement between parties. Both Democratic Rep. George Miller of California and Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee are edging toward a statement in favor of national, and even international, benchmarks.

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