“[These standards] are generic skills—‘can-do’ kinds of statements—which can be applied at any grade to any text but in themselves entail no body of prior literary or world knowledge or content specificity to give them intellectual heft,” observe the authors.
If high-standard states must accept comparatively weaker national standards, then new national tests aligned to those standards would also be weaker. Student test score may go up, but that won’t necessarily mean that learning has improved.
The final nationalization domino would be the imposition of a national curriculum. Rep. John Kline, ranking Republican on the House Education Committee, predicts: “If the federal government is going to insist that the states adopt these standards, then the federal government is using coercion, and will move inevitably to a national curriculum.”
Faced with national standards, national testing and a national curriculum, it will be nearly impossible for grassroots parents and community members to effect change when problems arise. In contrast, powerful Washington-based bureaucrats and special interests will be strategically positioned to influence content, tests and curriculum. Rather than promoting excellence, one-size-fits-all national standards and curriculum will stifle competition and could lock in mediocrity on a countrywide scale.
Unlike the prolonged debate over health care, the public was given a criminally short three-week period, ending in early April, to comment on the draft national standards. As a result, the nationalization of education may occur before most people are even aware of what’s at stake. Welcome to Obama-ed, America.
Lance T. Izumi is Koret senior fellow and senior director in education studies at the Pacific Research Institute.