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Election Results Raise Questions for Common Standards

It's in headlines everywhere, so you certainly don't need me to tell you that yesterday's elections shifted the political landscape to the right. Narrowing the lens to education, that shift could bring about some key policy changes nationally and in states. And those will trickle into classrooms, whether through the decisions that get made about funding or the decisions made about academic standards and assessments.

My colleague Sean Cavanagh reports, for instance, that a number of Republicans reclaimed governors' and state superintendents' offices with campaign platforms that included arguments for more local control over education, and a heaping dose of hairy-eyeball for what they consider federal intrusion into school policy.

This is a theme I've heard over and over while covering the development and adoption of the common standards, so it will be interesting to monitor whether the new powers in statehouses manage to roll back their states' embrace of the new standards that have now been adopted by 40 states and the District of Columbia.

In states that won Race to the Top money, how easy will it be to get out from under a common-standards-and-assessment promise that formed part of the basis for getting the money to begin with? And the 44 states participating in consortia to design new assessments are now holding some $360 million in federal money for that project. As participants, they have to adopt the common standards, too. Sure, they can drop out of the assessment consortia, but in lean budget days, are states going to be eager to turn their backs on a group investment and spend their own money on assessments?

Republicans' newly regained control of the U.S. House and stronger position in the U.S. Senate will likely mean a slimmed-down federal role in education policy, as our own Alyson Klein notes. And since the current Congress didn't get its act together in time to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, that means the added influence of Republicans will be a new ingredient in that process when it finally happens. And that matters to common standards and assessments, since a number of its advocates have been hoping that the new ESEA could be shaped in ways that support their costly implementation.

We've got maps, blog posts, and a slide shows detailing the education-related election results here.

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