Conservatives Split Over Common Education Standards Conservatives Split Over Common Education Standards
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Conservatives Split Over Common Education Standards

by Nikhil Swaminathan

March 24, 2010
I predicted last week, a liberal media love-in over newly drafted common standards for education was sure to galvanize opposition from the right against those very same metrics. I was at least half-right. It seems that conservatives are split on the issue, as seen in two pieces recently published on the National Review's website.

Chester E. Finn Jr., president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, seemed as impressed by the original draft of standards as editorial writers for The New York Times and Washington Post. Sure, he has some reservations, specifically regarding what could happen to those standards during the current revision period. But, he sees them as being in line with right-wing, free market principles:
[O]ne little-noted benefit of properly implemented common standards is a better-functioning education marketplace, in which parents will be able to make choices about schools on the basis of more accurate information about how school A's performance compares with that of school B - not just within communities and states but also when considering a move from state to state. Entrepreneurial school operators (such as KIPP and Edison) will also be better able to gauge and manage school performance in locations across the land.

Neal McCluskey, associate director of the Cato Institute's Center for Educational Freedom, rebuts Finn's view, pointing out that while adopting these standards are designed to be voluntary, the Obama administration has dangled a pretty tantalizing carrot that will essentially lead to nationalized standards.
Even before a single standard had seen the light of day, the Obama administration was informing states that to compete for part of the $4.35 billion Race to the Top fund - a fund stocked with money involuntarily taken from state taxpayers - states had better sign onto CCSSI. And Race to the Top is just the beginning. Having states adopt common - oh, let's just call them "federal" - standards is central to the administration's Elementary and Secondary Education Act reauthorization proposal.

Ben Boychuk, managing editor of School Reform News, a newsletter published by the Heartland Institute, argued in the Sacramento Bee, that the common standards don't make sense for California (or really anywhere else for that matter).
The standards are also supposed to be "flexible," but it's difficult to see how. The draft reading and math requirements include detailed, year-by-year prescriptions for every child, regardless of ability. A student who struggles with reading, writing or arithmetic would have an even tougher time keeping up, as teachers would face mounting pressure to cover all the material in federally sanctioned lesson plans.

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Conservatives Split Over Common Education Standards