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Weingarten Endorses National Standards

Over the weekend, Randi Weingarten supported national content standards in a big Washington Post op-ed. Andy Rotherham offers a commentary on it here.

The American Federation of Teachers has supported national standards for some time but never quite this vocally. And it's interesting that Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has intimated lately that he wants to move in this direction, too.

Like most other policymakers who have endorsed national standards, Weingarten doesn't mention anything about a national assessment. A national test that could be used for accountability is controversial but it seems like a topic that for pragmatic reasons needs to be addressed. As Mike Petrilli of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute once told me, theoretically we could have 50 state tests aligning to one common set of standards, but at some point we'd conclude that some of those tests were of higher quality than others.

The National Assessment of Educational Progress is considered to be a very strong test, but it would be a real challenge to use it as the basis of a state accountability test. Students take just a portion of the NAEP questions, and because of this the NAEP can afford to cover a great number of topics in considerable depth. State tests have to be shorter because kids must answer all the questions, so typically they can't go into as much depth.

Weingarten also includes this important line for the teacher-policy community: "Teachers ... would need the professional development, and the teaching and learning conditions, to make the standards more than mere words," she writes.

See my colleague Kathleen Kennedy Manzo's take on this announcement at Curriculum Matters.

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