Common Standards for K-12 Education? Considering the Evidence

Ben Hoffman

National Research Council
2008

This report details the brainstorming that occurred at National Research Council workshops held in January and March 2008. The topic was K-12 standards--specifically, the feasibility and merits of a move toward common national standards. At this point, just about everyone realizes the importance of standards, but they also understands the flaws of the state-by-state variety (see here and here, for example). Could common (i.e. multi-state, even national?) standards improve on these? Most likely, argued workshop participants, though national standards alone won't be enough, and implementing them could be quite a challenge, due to America's permanent debate between "local control" and "the urge to tackle national problems with central solutions." Which is why, the report argues, "to have any chance of success, a common system would have to be voluntary." The federal government should play a role, but states, districts, and perhaps third party entrepreneurs would need to be involved every step of the way; to address this, the report recommends "a bottom-up, grassroots approach." Ironic that the success of national standards requires adhering to the maxim "all politics are local." Check out the full NRC report here--or for Fordham's take, try here.

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