Standards…And Report Politics! Plus, Sins Of The Father…

There is nothing really new in today’s NCES report on state standards and NAEP in terms of the topline finding: State standards vary in their rigor. It’s an interesting analysis, but we knew that. Still, it will fuel the larger debate about No Child Left Behind. Ed Trust already has a statement out:

“The NCES report demonstrates that far too many states have set their proficiency standards at levels below even a basic knowledge and understanding of core academic subject matter. These findings follow previous research from the U.S. Department of Education showing that an estimated 75 percent of current high school graduates pursuing post-secondary education, while one-third of them end up in remedial classes.”

But I have to disagree with Sherman Dorn’s contention that reports, like the CEP No Child one the other day, never matter much. They often don’t cause an immediate pivot in a debate, but that shouldn’t be mistaken for not having effect. In the CEP case, there is a raging debate about the No Child law and Senator Kennedy and Representative Miller are working hard to hold Democratic support on the law. That’s an easier sell when they can say that, sure, the politics are tough but it’s the right overall direction for the policy so suck it up. It’s a lot harder if the data show something different. All that said, today’s report doesn’t matter much!

Update: Referring to the NCES report, in The Times Tamar Lewin writes:

The report supports critics who say the political compromise of the federal No Child Left Behind law, President Bush’s signature education initiative, has led to a patchwork of educational inequities around the country, with no common yardstick to determine whether schoolchildren are learning enough.

Fair point except for the “has led” part. That patchwork preceded No Child Left Behind. If anything, put it on Bush’s father who tried and failed on national standards. The 1994 (Clinton) law subsequently charted the course on state standards. But hard to see, considering the politics, how either could have done more on the national issue. This Jack Jennings book looks at the history (but try to score a used copy!). And, the states have always had variance, that’s hardly new. The policy question is whether a national policy can effectively abate it or needlessly exacerbates it.

Also, while you’re reading The Times story, note the Spellings – Petrilli back and forth. Big fun.

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