Not to beat a dead horse, but Eduwonk recently blogged on this story about the new federal program to give added funding to students who complete “rigorous” high school programs. The article contains the requisite expressions of concern, both scholarly (“national school board”) and, well, less scholarly (“just the precursor for a new federal invasion”).
Truth be told, there is little reason to expect the current Department of Education to do especially well defining rigor. And there is plenty of reason to worry that a federal definition will be applied inconsistently across 50 different states with 50 different standards and tests. The solution for both problems is to establish an independent body charged with working this out (plenty of groups already live and breathe this stuff) and establishing standards and tests for everyone.
There is nothing wrong with the federal government encouraging kids to take rigorous classes. It’s a good idea. Implementing this idea will be a lot easier with national standards, which is one more reason to do it.