The Education Action Network

Taking Back America By Taking Back Our Schools

September 14, 2010 | By Bethany Murphy

As America’s young people return to school this month, the federal government is becoming more involved than ever in their education.
As Heritage Foundation experts Lindsey Burke and Jennifer Marshall explain, the Obama administration is forcing states to adopt “voluntary,” one-size-fits all standards, despite fresh research showing that top-down standardization does not yield results. The administration is pouring more money than ever into the federal Department of Education, ignoring additional research affirming that more money leads to more problems.
In September of last year the administration published the Common Core State Standards Initiative, which amounts to yet another attempt by the federal government to control education requirements nationwide. This “voluntary” program is linked to Title I funding, a source of income nearly every school district in the nation relies upon, thus ensuring national (and often involuntary) participation.
Simply adopting national standards will not ensure an improvement in performance. Burke and Marshall show that “the relationship between existence of standards and strong educational outcomes is not clear. While the countries that outperform the United States on international tests have national standards, so do most of those countries that score lower than the U.S.”
Worse, national standards might lower the bar for well-performing schools. A Heritage Factsheet on the subject states that “the rigor and content of national standards would tend toward the average among states, undercutting states with higher quality standards like Massachusetts, California, and Virginia.”
The Obama administration has launched a new grant program, Race to the Top, whose funding is contingent upon states implementing these standards. Many states balked at losing control of their education standards for a one-time payout and declined to enter the program. Another state, New Jersey, lost out on the funding due to a single mistake in the 1,000 page application. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie famously blasted the federal bureaucrats that cost his state the $400 million grant. This same bureaucracy is now responsible for the education of tens of millions of America’s youth.
Even though the United States spends three times as much on education today as in the 1970s, there has been little to no improvement in graduation rates and academic achievement. A new Heritage Factsheet asserts that “states should be freed from burdensome federal education mandates and have greater flexibility to direct education resources, targeting resources more efficiently to local needs.”
Local solutions are the key to empowering schools, administrators, parents and students towards a better future.

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