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Republicans Miffed About 'Race to Top' Common Standards Push

Earlier this year, the House Committee on Education and Labor held a hearing on the common standards effort being led by the Council of Chief State School Officers and the National Governors Association, during which members from both parties basically agreed that: a) common academic standards could be a good thing for students and U.S. competitiveness, and b) the feds should stay out of the way and let states lead the effort.

That was, of course, before the final regulations for the $4.35 billion Race to the Top Fund came out. Based on the scoring system, it is much more difficult for states that choose not to participate in an effort to develop and adopt common standards to get a piece of the Race to the Top funding. And right now, the CCSSO-NGA effort is the only game in town.

Today, the committee held another hearing on the CCSSO-NGA effort, and it became clear that the department's guidance could monkey with all that bipartisan harmony.

Rep. Glenn Thompson, R-Pa., said that because of the RttT regulations and the department's plan to use $350 million in stimulus funds to help states develop common assessments, the standards and tests could appear to be mandated by the feds.

Mr. Thompson said he applauds U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan's "enthusiasm when it comes to education reform" but that "we have been particularly troubled by this aspect of the Race to the Top guidelines and the ramifications of federal involvement in academic standards."

During his testimony, Gov. Bill Ritter, a Democrat from Colorado, conceded the effort could pave the way for common tests. Rep. Mike Castle, R-Del., said he wasn't sure that governors would want to see all states measured with the same yardstick, since low scores on a national or common test could ultimately hurt their re-election chances.

We'll have more on the hearing on Edweek.org later today, so stay tuned.

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