21 July 2010
Jennifer Ries, a third-grade teacher in Baltimore, Maryland, works with her students in March
This is the VOA Special English Education Report.
Americans have never had national education standards. Goals for what public schools should teach are set by state and local school boards. Their members are often elected.
But some Americans say the lack of national standards is wrong in a competitive global economy. Former president Bill Clinton said it was as if somehow school boards "could legislate differences in algebra or math or reading."
President George W. Bush and Congress expanded federal intervention. His education law, still in effect, required states to show yearly progress in student learning as measured by the states' own tests.
Now, the Obama administration supports what are known as the Common Core State Standards. These were developed in a year-long process led by state governors and chief state school officers. Texas and Alaska were the only states not to take part.
The standards are in two subject areas, English-language arts and mathematics. They establish goals for each year from kindergarten through grade twelve. The aim is for students to finish high school fully prepared for college and careers.
The developers considered standards in other countries, along with almost one hundred thousand public comments.
One way the Education Department is trying to persuade states is with money. States are competing to share in almost three and a half billion dollars as part of a school reform competition. They will earn extra points in the Race to the Top if they approve the standards by August second.
States are trying to recover from the recession. There are concerns that some could accept the standards and then lack the money to follow them.
The final standards were released June second. A new report say about half the states have approved them already.
The Thomas B. Fordham Institute is an education group in Washington. It says the standards are clearer and stronger than those used in three-fourths of the states. But the comparison also found that existing English standards are "clearly stronger" in California, Indiana and the District of Columbia.
States that approve the new standards have a right to add up to fifteen percent of their own.
In California, the State Board of Education plans to vote on August second to accept or reject a new set of standards. These are based largely on the common core, but also existing California standards.
And that's the VOA Special English Education Report, written by Avi Arditti. I'm Bob Doughty.