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April 20, 2009

Who Supports National Curriculum Standards?

Eduwonk Andrew Rotherham points toward this Walter Isaacson Time piece in support of national curriculum standards, which notes that two-thirds of American kids attend schools whose curricula leave them unprepared for higher education and the workplace. I'm a fan of national standards, which are a common feature of the highest-rated school systems in the world. But Isaacson's article hardly provides a sophisticated understanding of the politics at play here in the U.S. For example, he writes:

Fortunately, there are glimmers of hope that the politics surrounding national standards has become a little less contentious. A growing coalition of reformers — from civil rights activist Al Sharpton to Georgia Republican governor Sonny Perdue — believe that some form of common standards is necessary to achieve a wide array of other education reforms, including merit pay for good teachers and the expansion of the role of public charter schools.

But as Isaacson notes later on, it isn't just self-styled "reformers" and "Republicans" who support moving toward a national curriculum. Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, has written a Washington Post op-ed advocating for the idea. If the national standards movement is going to gain any bipartisan traction, it must embrace all of its supporters, regardless of where they stand on other education reform issues, such as teacher merit pay or expanding the charter sector. And it must fight the battle for curriculum guidelines separately from those other issues, in order to attract the broadest base of support.

cross-posted at TAPPED

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