This week's news that 46 states plus the District of Columbia have signed up to pursue common education standards is a big deal but it's also potentially a big nothing. If this effort leads to rigorous national standards and tests in reading and math, historians will view this milestone as historically significant. But nobody has yet committed to anything of the sort. It's not too hard to say "we're interested in participating in the development process"--which is about all that's happened so far. It's something else to convince state legislatures and boards of education to jettison home-grown standards for the national variety, much less to use a common test with common cut scores to denote proficiency. (Recall the states' promise to measure high-school graduation rates using a common metric--a bold statement that later evaporated when the going got tough.) And it's anyone's guess as to how the standards will turn out. Still, we're heartened that the politics of national standards have shifted enough that all but four states feel comfortable contemplating playing ball. Let the games begin.
"46 States, D.C. Plan to Draft Common Education Standards," by Maria Glod, The Washington Post, June 1, 2009
"4 states yet to agree to standards for academic rigor," by Ledyard King, USA Today, June 1, 2009