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TribBlog: States Echoing Texas on National Standards

State school leaders from across the West are complaining of too much federal intrusion into local curriculum decisions, along with inflexible rules – including that national standards be adopted “word for word.”

Governor Rick Perry at the podium in his press conference room

Not long after Texas turned down between $350 to $700 million in federal Race to the Top education grants, some in the vast majority of other states seeking the money are raising complaints similar to those launched by Gov. Rick Perry and Texas Education Commissioner Robert Scott.

Chiefly, Perry and Scott ridiculed grant rules prodding states to sign on to a national curriculum standards movement, called the Common Core State Standards Initiative.

An article today from Education Week quotes a host of school leaders from other states, meeting together at a conference in Las Vegas. The meeting, a gathering of state school boards from a dozen Western states, organized by the National Association of State Boards of Education, gave rise to complaints about federal intrusion into local curriculum decisions, along with inflexible rules – including that the standards be adopted “word for word.”

“You can’t pick and choose what you want. This is not cafeteria-style standards,” said David Wakelyn, the program director of the education division of the National Governors Association’s Center for Best Practices … 

... Concern about the perceived intrusion of federal officials into state education authority, because of their support of common standards and assessments, also was a frequently stated issue.

In Montana, officials “want to do the right thing,” said Steve Meloy, the executive secretary for the board of education. But they keep hearing the question, “Where will we draw the line? First it’s standards, then curriculum, then textbooks,” he said.

A number of board members also expressed reluctance to abandon standards their states have only recently revised.

“I don’t think we’re going to be anxious to throw out our standards and start all over again with theirs,” said Randy DeHoff, a member of the state board in Colorado, which recently revised its standards.

Some members questioned whether standards or the common assessments eventually designed to align with them will be compatible with their educational philosophies. In Wyoming, said its board vice chairwoman, Sandra Barton, students are assessed through a “body of evidence” approach that draws on their work over time to demonstrate proficiency.

Discussion of the common standards sparked a dialogue about teacher quality, too.

 “The standards aren’t going to do diddly for any kid in any state if we don’t do something about teacher quality,” said Esther J. Cox, a board member from Alaska, one of two states that have not signed on to support the initiative.

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