National Standards Shows Cracks

Last week the education task force of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) endorsed measures urging states to oppose adoption and implementation of the federally “incentivized” Common Core standards.  According to Catherine Gewertz at Ed Week:

A package of model legislation opposing the common standards gained ground yesterday at the American Legislative Exchange Council.

The organization’s education task force approved the package, we learned from a couple of folks who attended those sessions of ALEC’s meeting this week in Scottsdale, Ariz.

Gewertz added that the measures do not become official ALEC policy until they are approved by the board of directors.  A similar proposal was proposed last summer by members of the education task force but was tabled until the recent meeting.  Allies of Jeb Bush and the long, gilded arm of the Gates Foundation pulled out the stops to block the measure and may yet succeed at the board level.

I fear that even if the measure is approved by ALEC’s board, the battle over adoption may effectively be finished.  An effort to repeal Common Core standards in Alabama failed despite the fact that the governor proposed the repeal and votes on the state board of education.   If you can’t repeal national standards in Alabama under such favorable conditions, it may be very hard to repeal it in any of the other 40-some states that have signed on.

But just because the adoption debate is winding down doesn’t mean the national standards war is over.  Far from it.  So far states have done the costless and non-constraining step of adopting a set of standards.  Once the nationalizers try to make the standards concrete and binding by incorporating them into newly designed high-stakes testing, we are likely to see a lot more resistance.  And adopting those new tests, revising teacher training, professional development, and textbooks to fit the national standards and testing will require considerable effort and expense — causing more states to rethink their initial support for Common Core.

The ALEC anti-Common Core measure will be important for mobilizing opposition as those next hurdles have to be jumped.  Even if the nationalization effort successfully runs this gauntlet, which they may do, the probability that national standards and assessments will actually produce the end goal — significantly improved student achievement over the long term — is near zero.  If nationally setting goals and ordering progress toward those goals were the path to success, the Soviet Gosplans would have produced their economic triumph over the West.  We all know how well that turned out.

-Jay P. Greene

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