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Forty States May Adopt National Academic Standards by Year-End

As many as 40 states may adopt U.S. academic standards proposed by the nation’s governors and school chiefs, culminating a two-decade push for consensus on what U.S. schoolchildren should learn for college and work.

The National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers, both based in Washington, released the final version of the standards yesterday. As many as 15 states may adopt its grade-level requirements for reading, writing and math by the end of June, with another 15 coming on board by the end of August and 10 more by year’s end, Dane Linn, director of education for the governors association, said today in an interview.

President Barack Obama’s administration supports the state-led movement to adopt national standards to replace the hodge-podge of curricula now in place. Business leaders and government officials are applauding the effort because of concern that countries with rigorous guidelines are outperforming U.S. schoolchildren on international assessments and the attainment of higher education.

“More states are ready to adopt the standards than I could ever have expected,” Linn said. “These standards are important for all students in this country because they will allow us to strive for a level of achievement competitive with students around the world.”

Shakespeare, Algebra

Under the new national English benchmarks, students will be expected to read and understand works by Mark Twain and Robert Frost in middle school and William Shakespeare and Emily Dickinson in high school. In math, students would learn computation in early grades, solve linear equations in eighth grade and master more advanced algebra, geometry and statistics in high school.

The governors and schools chiefs released a draft version of the Common Core State Standards in March. Based on nearly 10,000 public comments, officials tweaked the standards for middle school to prepare students better for high school math, Linn said. Officials in 48 states, 2 territories and the District of Columbia participated in the yearlong effort.

Education historians date the beginning of the U.S. standards movement to the 1980s, highlighted by a 1989 summit meeting in Charlottesville, Virginia of President George H.W. Bush and the governors.

Duncan’s Winners

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan is favoring states that adopt this week’s announced standards in selecting winners for education-improvement grants under the $4.35 billion Race to the Top program, the largest pool of federal discretionary money in U.S. history. Applications for a second round of Race to the Top money were due June 1.

Texas didn’t apply to Race to the Top, saying its standards are tougher than the governors’ guidelines. Virginia pulled its application for the second round of funding last week, partly because of its concerns that its own state standards were higher.

In Congress, Republican leaders have expressed concern that standards could represent an unwarranted intrusion on local control of education. The standards are voluntary and don’t dictate how schools teach, just the skills and knowledge students must master, Linn said.

Editors: Robin D. Schatz,Jonathan Kaufman

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