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States and Schools Need Flexibility to Foster Innovation
Common Standards Initiative Should Not Tie the Hands of Our Nation’s Educators

The House Education and Labor Committee held a hearing today on the Common Core State Standards Initiative being developed by the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices (NGA) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO). While there is bipartisan support for voluntary, rigorous academic standards that could be shared among states and local communities, education experts have raised concerns with efforts to expand the federal government’s influence over the program – giving the Department of Education the impetus to use any proposed set of standards as a mandate on local schools.


Testifying on behalf of local school boards, Cathy Allen, Vice-Chair of the St. Mary’s County Board of Education in Maryland, expressed concern that states and local school districts may be required to abide by Washington-approved one-size-fits-all standards. Additionally, she highlighted the potential danger to local communities of the Department of Education linking Race to the Top funding to adoption of a singular set of academic content standards and assessments:

“[W]e do have some reservations with what appears to be greater coercion from the federal government in adopting such standards.  As an example, the Department of Education’s $4.35 billion Race to the Top program will award competitive grants to states that have worthy school reform plans – including the adoption of college and career ready common standards developed by a substantial number of states.  This Race to the Top component effectively would favor states using the CCSSO/NGA common standards.  Additionally, the proposed requirements for Innovations Grants recently released by the Department of Education suggest support for similar consortia addressing assessments.”

“Adoption of Common Core standards should not be a national litmus test for states seeking funding meant to promote innovation and initiative,” said Rep. John Kline (R-MN), Senior Republican on the House Education and Labor Committee. “There is value in state and locally driven efforts to raise the bar on academic achievement targets. A voluntary system of academic content standards would offer local schools guidance against which they can measure their success and foster greater innovation. But we should not impede or contradict those efforts by imposing limits on flexibility or rigid mandates that are not necessarily in the best interests of all our nation’s diverse communities.”

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