Margaret Spelings said "No."
But Arne Duncan says "Yes."
In August of 2007, the National Conference of State Legislatures took a hard line against any form of national academic standards, declaring that any national attempt to unite school curricula across states would be unacceptable until perceived flaws in the federal No Child Left Behind Act are fixed.
Republicans have tended to oppose such moves when federally imposed. (I know. The bush administration's No Child Left Behind legislation certainly intruded into state affairs.) But the idea of states voluntarily agreeing to submit has much broader support.
I'm not sure NCLB has been fixed in any significant way, but the number of folks supporting the idea certainly has. The last I heard, Achieve Inc., had been working with 36 states to develop voluntary standards. The number of states thinking seriously about national standards has now jumped to 46.
The hold outs: three conservative states Texas, Alaska, and South Carolina, plus the more moderate Missouri.
This from the Washington Post:
Forty-six states and the District of Columbia today will announce an effort to craft a single vision for what children should learn each year from kindergarten through high school graduation, an unprecedented step toward a uniform definition of success in American schools.
The push for common reading and math standards marks a turning point in a movement to judge U.S. children using one yardstick that reflects expectations set for students in countries around the world at a time of global competition.
Today, each state decides what to teach in third-grade reading, fifth-grade math and every other class. Critics think some set a bar so that students can pass tests but, ultimately, are ill-prepared.
Led by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers, the states, including Maryland and Virginia, are aiming to define a framework of content and skills that meet an overarching goal. When students get their high school diplomas, the coalition says, they should be ready to tackle college or a job. The benchmarks would be "internationally competitive."
Once the organizers of the effort agree to a proposal, each state would decide individually whether to adopt it.