WASHINGTON, D.C. | April 29, 2009
Some people in Washington seem to think that the federal government created the states to administer its far-reaching programs and policies.
But that’s not the case. History tells us that the states created the federal government.
Similarly, policy reform movements have a tendency to spring forth at the state and local level, where elected officials and community leaders are closest to the problems we’re trying to solve.
And when it comes to the problem we’re trying to solve today – namely how to ensure rigorous academic standards that will keep American students competitive – it would be instructive to look to the states for leadership.
There’s no reason why the states can’t work together to create their own common academic standards, which should be high so we can see real improvement among our students.
In fact, the states have already begun.
About two weeks ago, three organizations hosted a meeting in Chicago. The organizations were the National Governors Association, the Council for Chief State School Officers, and Achieve Incorporated – a non-profit group.
Also attending this meeting were the representatives of 37 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico.
At this meeting, the state and local representatives offered their support for creating common standards in reading and math.
They are now planning a formal agreement on these standards to be signed by the participating states.
Those three groups held a similar meeting in 2005, when they created the American Diploma Project.
Under this project, governors, state education officials, high-school educators, and business executives worked together to create standard graduation requirements for high-schoolers.
There are now 34 states participating in the program.
As far as I know, the federal government didn’t initiate these meetings, nor dictate their outcome.
And they didn’t need to. The states took care of it all by themselves. They saw a common problem, came together, and took steps toward addressing it.
That’s how it should be, and I urge members of this committee to encourage these efforts – by staying out of their way.
This is the first hearing of the 111th Congress on the No Child Left Behind Act, and I look forward to hearing from this distinguished panel about efforts underway to strengthen academic standards.
I think we are right to begin by examining an issue where leadership need not – and currently does not – come from the federal government.
That’s the best path to success in this case and I’m sure the Founding Fathers would agree.