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Rep. Mike Castle and the Third Rail of American Education

Rep. Mike Castle, R-Del., said yesterday that a system of national standards and assessments is "worthy of consideration" - an idea I'm sure he's likely to expand upon in tomorrow's hearing on the topic.

Castle, a key member of the House Education and Labor Committee, made his remarks yesterday at a forum on the GOP and education. He was careful to make it clear that he's not 100 percent sold on the idea of national standards and tests, just that he wants to look into it.

And, in a quick interview after the forum, he said that, even if he decides to support such a policy, he wouldn't expect it to come to fruition for at least another five years. On the congressional time clock, that's actually pretty quick turnaround for a bold policy idea. (Congressional time moves only slightly faster than geological time.)

Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, another leading GOP lawmaker on education, also participated in the discussion, as did Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina. Alexander straddled the line on national standards, saying that many tend to think the term means that Washington would write those standards. (Check out Fordham vice-president Mike Petrilli's excellent live blogging here, here, and here).

In the last Congress, DeMint introduced a bill that would allow states to opt out of the accountability requirements of the No Child Left Behind Act. He's planning to sponsor it again and talked a lot about the need for Congress to step back and let states do their thing.

And he didn't seem too keen on national assessments.

"The thing about a national, standardized test is that it's going to be antiquated before it's even implemented," he said.

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