Obama proposes new way of uniformly raising academic standards
Under Obama’s plan, states would be eligible for federal Title I funding only if they adopt new academic standards that are certified as 'college- and career-ready.'
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States can also work with universities, the Obama administration has said, to certify that their existing standards are high enough.
The proposal also calls for $405 million to help states better prepare teachers, $400 million to help states implement assessments aligned with the new standards, and $2.5 billion to support professional development for educators.
Previous, top-down efforts to create national standards have failed. The current effort has gained more traction in part because it has been developed by the consortium of states, rather than by the federal government. But it still has many critics. Rick Perry, the Republican Texas governor, is not participating, citing Texas’ already high standards and saying it smacks of a “federal takeover” of public schools.
Neal McCluskey, an education analyst at the libertarian Cato Institute in Washington, is another critic of the common-standards initiative. There is no evidence, he says, that national standards will lead to higher achievement or will even necessarily be better standards. And once a system of national standards has been adopted, he says, it becomes difficult to ensure that they’re enforced, and it insulates state- or district-level officials from responsibility.
“Talk is nice, but it never translates into kids really meeting high standards consistently over time,’ Mr. McCluskey says. “It’s the structure of the system that causes it to have low standards.... What we need, rather than further centralizing authority over education, is decentralization.”
Mr. Jennings acknowledges all those difficulties. But still, he says, the process is essential and is a step in the right direction.
It’s still doubtful whether Congress will be able to move quickly enough to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (better known as No Child Left Behind) this year. Congress would consider the proposal that Obama outlined Monday as part of a reauthorization.
The House Education and Labor Committee has announced plans for a bipartisan effort in the reauthorization process, which kicks off with hearings this Wednesday on a proposal to expand access to charter schools.
“This is moving,” says Jennings. “We shall see how far it gets, but it’s moving.”