The people who want to impose national standards on all public schools are pushing a curriculum called Common Core Standards. It calls for the development of standards and a "shared curriculum" for nearly every subject, including English, math, history, geography, the sciences, arts, and health. 42 states have already adopted use of the Common Core Standards.
But a lot of important people don't want national standards. Their opposition is presented in a statement signed by more than 200 leaders in education, business and public policy. These leaders argue against national assessments and shared curriculum. They call their statement a "counter-manifesto"; it's a rebuttal of the "Call for Common Content," which was released last March.
The counter-manifesto, which spells out criticisms of national assessments and instructional materials, argues that a so-called shared curriculum will lock in an unacceptable status quo, threaten state and local control of education, and impose a one-size-fits-all model on students with diverse needs. It also argues that federal law prohibits nationalized curriculum and tests. The counter-manifesto argues that Americans do not want "a national model of instruction." They accuse the Common Core advocates of resorting to stealth tactics instead of being willing to discuss and debate their nationalization agenda openly. They say, "It just sounds like someone trying to impose national curriculum who doesn't want to be called out for it."
The Obama administration has also stressed that state adoption of the Common Standards and related tests and curriculum are optional, but we cannot ignore all the federal carrots and sticks being used to coerce states into so-called "voluntary" compliance. President Obama has repeatedly said that he wants $15 billion in Title I funds to be contingent on states adopting Common Standards.
Despite all the financial inducements to cede state educational control to federal bureaucrats, we should consider the long-term consequences. "Decentralization has been the engine of educational innovation. We shouldn't trade our federalist birthright for a national-curriculum mess of pottage."
Listen to the radio commentary here: