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Four States Reluctant to Join National Standards Planning

Four states—Alaska, Texas, South Carolina and Missouri—have so far declined to participate in the Common Core State Standards Initiative, the attempt to develop national standards spearheaded by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers.

South Carolina Superintendent of Education Jim Rex has signed on to the initiative, but Gov. Mark Sanford has not. Sanford, who made news last spring for refusing to apply for $700 million in federal stimulus money until forced to by the state Supreme Court (and more recently for admitting to an extramarital affair), claims that because he has no role in setting the state’s curriculum, there is no reason for him to sign on. In order to participate in the initiative, however, a state must have the signature of both its chief education official and its governor.

In Alaska earlier this summer, then Gov. Sarah Palin and state Commissioner of Education Larry LeDoux expressed concerns about the initiative, although they did not close the door on participating. In a statement, Palin, who has since resigned as governor, said that Alaska would “monitor but not yet actively participate” in the initiative. In a piece in the Anchorage Daily News in June, LeDoux identified several reasons for his opposition, including his belief that because the standards in each participating state must be composed of at least 85 percent of the national standards, the resulting 15 percent variation in state standards will render state-by-state comparisons meaningless.

Opposition to the initiative from Texas Gov. Rick Perry and the state’s education commissioner, Robert Scott, stems primarily from a reluctance to alter the current state standards, which were recently revised and which they believe to be rigorous and thorough. Scott told the San Antonio Express-News, “I will absolutely look at them and make sure that Texas’ standards are always higher.” Spokespersons from the Texas Education Agency have said that the state could have to spend up to $3 billion for new textbooks and assessments if it changed its standards in English and math.

Missouri is likely to join the effort, as Gov. Jay Nixon recently signed on after months of reluctance and newly appointed Commissioner of Education Chris Nicastro is expected to do the same.

Fast Fact

Source: The Nation's Report Card: Arts 2008 Music & Visual Arts

In 2008, 57 percent of eighth-graders attended schools where music instruction was given at least three times a week, and 47 percent attended schools where visual arts instruction was given at least as often. Despite fears that NCLB’s focus on math and reading would crowd out offerings in subjects such as music and art, these figures represent no significant statistical change from 1997.

Source: The Nation’s Report Card: Arts 2008 Music & Visual Arts

New Tests Eligible for Race to the Top Money

Arne duncan announced at the 2009 Governors Education Symposium in June that $350 million of the Race to the Top fund will go to states to help them offset the costs involved in creating new assessments based on the national standards being developed by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers.

Anticipating critics who fear the federal government’s deepening role in education, Duncan stated, “Some people may claim that a commonly created test is a threat to state control—but let’s remember who is in charge. You are. You will create these tests. You will drive the process. You will call the shots.”