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Common Standards Create Race to Top Snags in Two States

The entanglement of Race to the Top competition and the common standards has provided grist for those who cast a hairy eyeball on federal intrusion into local education decisions. Though the folks leading the Common Core State Standards Initiative try mightily to remind skeptics that the common-standards movement grew from states' own demands, this federal-intrusion shadow hasn't disappeared.

Two cases in point from this week: Virginia pulled out of the Race to the Top competition, citing as a key factor the federal pressure to adopt common standards. (See coverage in The Washington Post here, and in the Richmond Times-Dispatch here.) And Oklahoma legislators threw a wrench into a bill designed to enhance its RTT position. One lawmaker said she was bugged because the common standards, which enhance a state's attractiveness in the RTT judging, are "not American," they're "United Nations" standards. (I don't know what that means. Do you know what that means? But hey, you get the basic sentiment.)

I would guess that United Nations ambassadors would be quite surprised to hear that they have designed academic standards. But brushing inaccuracies aside for a moment, when state lawmakers, state board members, or anyone else with clout in the standards work sees them as a violation of states' rights (an argument I've heard from some state board members)—let alone un-American—you know there is a burr in folks' fur that just hasn't shaken loose.

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