Core standards could benefit all U.S. students

Freedom New Mexico

Public opinion polls have shown most people agree standardized testing helps assess students’ overall readiness and the success of the instructors who teach them.

Standardized evaluations, however, require standardized curricula; you can’t measure students’ performance on the same test if they didn’t study the same — or at least similar — information.

This is one of the items of contention that arose recently when Texas’ State Board of Education set standards for what the next set of state-approved textbooks will contain.

A different set of standards, however, could influence how many of those requests are honored.

A set of national standards was released last week by a group of school officials from across the country. The group, called Common Core, aims to provide benchmarks that all U.S. students should reach at each grade level.

“Having consistent standards across the states means all of our children are going to be prepared for college and career, regardless of ZIP code,” West Virginia schools superintendent Steve Paine said at a public release of the final draft of the standards.

Officials of 48 states have committed to adopting the standards. Only Texas and Alaska education boards declined.

Texas Education Commissioner Robert Scott told The Associated Press his board didn’t want to give up its “sovereign authority to determine what is appropriate for Texas children to learn in its public schools.”

Ordinarily, it would be hard to argue with the value of keeping control as close to the student as possible; that would favor local or state, rather than national control over the information our children receive. But this board recently voted to downplay the importance of Thomas Jefferson, one of the primary authors of our founding documents and our third president, as well as the constitutional imperative that the federal government refrain from sanctioning one religion to the detriment of others.

Such mandates, set by the fundamentalist Christian majority on Texas’ state school board, could put Texas students at a disadvantage if they move to another state or go on to college, where a different version of history is being taught. At the very least it could lead to a statewide drop in Texas students’ performance on standardized tests, if those tests include issues regarding the Bill of Rights, religious freedoms and other items of contention.

It is also fair to question if textbook publishers will be as willing to adopt Texas and Alaska rules for textbooks, if the rest of the country has another set of standards. Generally, the publishers try to meet all states’ requests so that the same books can be used in all schools. But if Texas’ standards clash with those approved by Common Core, which represents the great majority of our school boards, the Core standards are likely to take precedence.

Some might argue the Common Core standards can be just as politicized as Texas’ have become. However, the national standards will provide the basis for national tests, whether they’re given in public classrooms or used for college admission.

Many people have decried the new Texas curriculum mandates. The Common Core standards could effectively make the state changes moot.