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National Standards for US Schools Gain Support From States

This is the VOA Special English Education Report, from | /voalearningenglishAmericans have never had national education standards. Goals for what public schools should teach are set by state and local school boards. Their members are often elected. But some Americans say the lack of national standards is wrong in a competitive global economy. Former President Bill Clinton said it was as if somehow school boards "could legislate differences in algebra or math or reading." President George W. Bush and Congress expanded federal intervention. His education law, still in effect, required states to show yearly progress in student learning as measured by the states' own tests.Now, the Obama administration supports what are known as the Common Core State Standards. These were developed in a year-long process led by state governors and chief state school officers. Texas and Alaska were the only states not to take part. The standards are in two subject areas, English-language arts and mathematics. They establish goals for each year from kindergarten through grade twelve. The aim is for students to finish high school fully prepared for college and careers. The developers considered standards in other countries, along with almost one hundred thousand public comments. One way the Education Department is trying to persuade states is with money. States are competing to share in almost three and a half billion dollars as part of a school reform competition. They earned extra points in the Race to the Top if they approved the standards by August second. States are trying to recover from the recession. There are concerns that some could accept the standards and then lack the money to follow them. The final standards were released June second. A report in July said about half the states had approved them.The Thomas B. Fordham Institute is an education group in Washington. It says the standards are clearer and stronger than those used in three-fourths of the states. But the comparison also found that existing English standards are "clearly stronger" in California, Indiana and the District of Columbia.States that approve the new standards have a right to add up to fifteen percent of their own.And that's the VOA Special English Education Report. Transcripts, MP3s and archives of our reports are at You can also find us on Facebook, Twitter and iTunes at VOA Learning English. (Adapted from a radio program broadcast 22Jul2010)
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