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House Education Committee: Don't Leave us Behind on Common Standards


Common standards is the twitter, the Wii, and the Twilight book series of education policy right now -- the latest, hottest thing that everyone (President Obama, Arne Duncan, state leaders) can't stop talking about.

Well, next week the House Education and Labor Committee is getting in on the action. On Wednesday, they'll be holding a hearing on common (not national!) standards.

The witness list, which was put together with committee Republicans, will feature some major players.

It includes: James B. Hunt, Jr. of the Institute for Educational Leadership and Policy in Durham, N.C. Hunt, a Democrat, served as the governor of the Tar Heel state, and is respected by folks in both parties on education issues. Also testifying will be Ken James, commissioner of education in Arkansas and president of the Council of Chief State School Officers; Greg Jones, the chair of the California Business for Excellence in Education in Sacramento; Dave Levin, a co-founder of KIPP: Knowledge Is Power Program, a network of charter schools based in New York City, and Randi Weingarten, president of the AFT. Weingarten has editorialized before about national standards.

And (maybe interestingly?) there's no one from the education department, signaling, possibly, that Congress doesn't want to be seen as taking a top-down, we-do-this-to-you approach to a topic that runs right into local control issues.

My guess is that there will be a lot of talk about the $4.35 billion Race to the Top fund, which Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., the committee chairman, championed in the stimulus package.

So ... do you think Congress has an important role to play in keeping up the momentum on common standards so that it doesn't falter, yet again? Or is it better if they stay away and let states do their thing, since the train already seems to be leaving the station?


It is yet to be seen what "common standards" the hearing seeks to discuss. Standards relating to the substance of school curricula? Standards of assessments and achievement? Standards of data collection and systems?

The witness list, you say, has some "major players". Other than Ms. Weingarten, they are mostly major foundation and business lobby players.

Where are the educators? And why is education policy now constantly discussed in an economic "competitiveness" framework?

I agree with Mitchell. Congress should stop having conversations with itself and its beltway wonk circuit buddies and realize educators have already developed high quality standards in every academic content area; many of which have been borrowed by the other countries about whom we are so worried. What we need is to be allowed to teach them and to assess students for those standards rather than the milk-toast ones pushed on us by the testing industry.

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