Considering National Education Standards

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This is the VOA Special English Education Report.

Americans are considering national education standards recently developed by teachers and other education experts. The National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers led the effort.

The United States, unlike other nations, has never had the same school standards across the country.  The reason?  Education is not discussed in the Constitution. That document limits the responsibilities of the federal government.  Other responsibilities, like education, fall to the individual states.

Local control of education probably was a good idea two hundred years ago. People stayed in the same place and schools knew what students needed to learn.  But today, people move to different cities. And some people work at jobs that did not exist even twenty years ago.

Many American educators say that getting a good education should not depend on where you live. They say that some states have lowered their standards in order to increase student scores on tests required by the No Child Left Behind Act.

Kara Schlosser is communications director for the Council of Chief State School Officers.  She says the new standards clearly state what a student should be able to do to be successful in college and work.

The standards deal with language and mathematics in every grade from kindergarten through high school. For example, in first grade, students should be asking and answering questions about something they read.

In mathematics, students should be working with shapes in kindergarten and angles in fourth grade.

Forty-eight states have already shown approval for the standards.   Two states reject the idea. Critics say that working toward the same standards in every state will not guarantee excellence for all. Some educators in Massachusetts say adopting the proposal will hurt their students because the state standards are even higher. Others say the change will be too costly, requiring new textbooks and different kinds of training for teachers. Still others fear federal interference or control.

Supporters say the standards are goals and do not tell states or teachers how to teach.  They also say the federal government is not forcing acceptance. However, approving the standards will help states qualify for some federal grant money.

And that's the VOA Special English Education Report, written by Nancy Steinbach. I'm Steve Ember.

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