There are several shibboleths here. The Union head raises a red flag which is actually a red herring. By adopting national standards, states can actually save money, as the the article reports, by not having to bear the costs of developing separate state-only standards. In addition, enlightened states can work together to share costs and ideas in changing over to national standards, spreading the costs and reducing them for each state. They can also share best practices for implementing the new standards, resulting in lifting achievement levels across the country. Rather than embrace change, the union leader seems to fear it and appears to turn away from its challenges, despite it potential huge upside.
The national standards set goals, but do not mandate curriculum content. At the content level, it appears that states have plenty of room and the flexibility to shape educational activity and classroom instruction to fit states needs, employ instructional methodology for a variety of learning styles and support skill sets to equip students for a range of paths from school to work. That’s a real plus for national standards!
A caution should be sounded as Texas opts out, because of that state’s impact on textbook publishing. States can find themselves at odds if Texas continues to drive textbook content, and that content does meet the needs of the 49 other states, the District of Columbia, and the territories. This issue of materials could be a real implement and stumbling block.
Finally, not all agreement in policy councils is money driven. It has become an axiom of politics within any social institution to assume that change, a priori, is a consequence of money supplied by those who are pushing a special agenda. The assumption becomes that such change protects some interests and exposes others. But there can be honest differences–and money can and often does drive opposing sides. It would be interesting to know where the “independent” organization who renounces Gates Foundation funding receives its funds. Nor are the competitive funds of the Education Department a sufficient reason to drive national standards. State leaders have come to realize the benefits of streamlining and synergy of common national standards for assessment, comparisons, rankings, and planning.
National standards will end the head-in-the-sand, fragmented fiefdoms that have lost massive educational ground in recent decades. There is no reason, given American resources and broad community and family commitment, why the the US, and its individual states, can not become once again the world’s leader in educational content and higher order skills in problem-solving and advanced methods. National standards should raise the bar and give us as a nation a common laudable goal.