Will National Standards Improve Education?

Writing at the New York Times, Neal McCluskey asks, “Will National Standards Improve Education?”, and answers in the negative.

Here’s the crux of his argument:

Public schooling is a government monopoly, and the people employed by it – those who would be held accountable – are the most motivated and best organized to engage in education politics. The result is that sooner or later they get what they want, and what they naturally want is as little accountability to others as possible.

You may object to the word “monopoly,” but he adds that there is “no meaningful empirical evidence” that national standards improve education.

In fact, national standards–whether imposed from Washington DC on down, or created through state-by-state negotiations–run a significant risk.  It’s one thing for your neighboring states to have standards you don’t like, but what if those standards are  centralized.

Meanwhile, over at Education Week, Rick Hess comments on the debate over standards between Checker Finn, Mike Petrilli (pro-common core) and Jay Green (skeptic).

On the pro-national standards side:

Checker and Mike are absolutely correct that the standards were developed by a state-led partnership, are superior to those in place in most states, and that transparency and market efficiency can benefit dramatically from a clear, rigorous, national standard.

Then again,

there’s a huge chance this will dramatically boost federal control of K-12 schooling, that teacher unions and other status quo interests will make their influence felt, and that state and local control will be undermined.

Hess says that the debate reminds him of the early days of No Child Left Behind.  Given that the common core is in part a response to perceived problems that resulted from NCLB (states watering down their standards to make life easier for schools), that’s not exactly good news for the value of the common core standards.

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