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Lindsey Burke of The Heritage Foundation - Indiana Senate Testimony

Lindsey Burke of The Heritage Foundation - Indiana Senate Testimony

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Published by Shane Vander Hart
Lindsey Burke, Senior Policy Analyst at The Heritage Foundation gave testimony about the Common Core State Standards to the Indiana Senate Education Committee.
Lindsey Burke, Senior Policy Analyst at The Heritage Foundation gave testimony about the Common Core State Standards to the Indiana Senate Education Committee.

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Published by: Shane Vander Hart on Dec 05, 2012
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214 Massachusetts Avenue, NE • Washington DC 20002 • (202) 546-4400 • heritage.org 
CONGRESSIONAL TESTIMONY 
 _______________________________________________________________________  _ 
National Standards and Tests:An Unwise Decision for Indiana
Testimony for Indiana Senate EducationCommitteeJanuary 25, 2012
Lindsey M. BurkeSenior Policy AnalystThe Heritage Foundation
 
My name is Lindsey M. Burke. I am Senior Policy Analyst for education at The HeritageFoundation. The views I express in this testimony are my own, and should not be construed asrepresenting any official position of The Heritage Foundation.American education has room for improvement. On international math assessments, Americanchildren rank in the middle of the pack on measures of student performance, falling behind their  peers in the Czech Republic, Estonia, and Slovenia.Here at home, there is ample evidence that K-12 education is in a state of crisis. Since the 1970s,academic achievement has remained relatively flat. Math achievement has increased onlynominally,
 
and reading achievement has been completely flat for the past 40 years. Not only has academic achievement remained flat, but academic attainment has also beenstagnant. Graduation rates today hover around 73 percent, essentially unchanged since the 1970s.Sadly, in many of our nation’s largest cities, less than half of all students graduate high school.There are other signs that America’s education system is failing to meet the needs of millions of students: one-third of students need remedial coursework when they enter college, and theachievement gap between White and minority students, and between low- and upper-incomechildren, persists. According to the new
Global Report Card 
developed by University of Arkansas researchers, “achievement in many of our affluent suburban public school districts barely keeps pace with that of the average student in a developed country.”These failures have persisted despite significant growth in the federal role in education over thesame time period. What began with President Lyndon Johnson’s Elementary and SecondaryEducation Act of 1965, and the idea of compensatory education by spending taxpayer dollarsthrough federal education programs, quickly morphed into Washington becoming involved insystemic education reform. Instead of simply targeting federal dollars to low-income districts inan effort to improve outcomes for poor children, federal policymakers began creating education programs designed to dictate school policy.In the years to follow and throughout the 1990s, numerous niche programs were created, greatlyincreasing the size and scope of Johnson’s original Elementary and Secondary Education Act.President George W. Bush’s tenure included the eighth reauthorization of Johnson’s ESEA, the No Child Left Behind Act. Today, NCLB is a 600-page federal law that leaves virtually no aspectof school policy off-limits to Washington.Yet, despite all of this growth in federal involvement over the past half century, we have seenlittle in the way of improved outcomes for children. In fact, this involvement has produced theexact opposite effect: academic performance has stagnated, schools have become more opaqueabout student results, and parents are often left in the dark about their child’s educationaloutcomes. Now we have Washington’s latest attempt to “fix” what ails American education. While thearchitects of the Common Core state standards might have planned for the effort to be voluntary,federal policy and dollars quickly became intertwined with the push, resulting in significant pressure on states to adopt this one-size-fits-all approach to what is taught in local schools.
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Washington’s role in the national standards effort.
The Common Core State Standards Initiative began in earnest in the spring of 2009 with anannouncement by the National Governor’s Association and the Council of Chief State SchoolOfficers that they would be supporting the development of Common Core standards andassessments. While the effort was supposed to be voluntary – states could choose to adopt theCommon Core State Standards in math and English Language Arts to replace their existing statestandards – the Obama administration quickly became involved with the effort, creating questionsabout the voluntary nature of the national standards push.In February 2009,
 
President Obama carved the Race to the Top program out of the AmericanReinvestment and Recovery Act “stimulus” funds, providing $4.35 billion to states that agreed toimplement the administration’s policy recommendations, which included common standards andtests. Applications for RTT funding asked states to describe how they would transform their standards and assessments to “college and career-ready” standards that were common to asignificant number of states. The only “common” option available at the time was the CommonCore State Standards Initiative, creating an implicit federal endorsement of the effort, backedwith federal funding.Moreover, Race to the Top required states to join one of two testing consortia craftingassessments aligned with the Common Core State Standards Initiative. $350 million in Race tothe Top grant money was earmarked for the funding of national assessments.In addition to Race to the Top funding, the Obama administration has also announced that it willoffer No Child Left Behind waivers to states that agree to conditions stipulated by the Departmentof Education, including college and career-ready common standards.The federal incentives and increasing federal involvement in the effort led Representative GlennThompson (R-PA) to note that “the Common Core is being transformed from a voluntary, state- based initiative to a set of federal academic standards with corresponding federal tests."There has been clear support, both rhetorically and financially, from the Obama administrationfor the Common Core State Standards Initiative. Federal backing has cemented the effort as oneto establish national standards and tests that will define what every child in America must learn inschool.
 Problems with the Common Core National Standards Push Problems with Content 
.
In addition to problematic federal involvement, questions linger aboutthe quality of the content of the standards. Members of the Common Core mathematics advisory panel said of the original draft standards that they would “encourage the same kind of  bureaucratic enforcement of state standards that has already damaged math education.” The headof the mathematics advisory panel also noted the rushed timeline for the standards, and stated that“a normal timetable for standards adoption would go through multiple iterations, with pilottesting.”Ze’ev Wurman, a former senior policy advisor at the U.S. Department of Education and amember of the Committee that crafted California’s math standards in 1997, notes that thecommon core standards require only Algebra I and segments of Algebra II and Geometry, despitethe fact that most four-year colleges and universities require at least three years of math in high
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