Arts & Humanities

Common Education Standards Could Affect Texas

New uniform education standards in math and English language arts for all public school students in grades K-12 were announced Wednesday.
By Kelli Levey, Texas A&M Marketing & Communications June 2, 2010

New uniform education standards in math and English language arts for all public school students in grades K-12 were announced Wednesday, and educators from Texas A&M University cite their pros and cons and conjecture regarding their possible effects on Texas.

A group of educators, tapped by the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices and the Council of Chief State School Officers, proposed the new set of education standards called the Common Core State Standards Initiative.

Just how many states will adopt them remains unclear. Forty-eight states participated in developing the standards, with Texas and Alaska abstaining. In the Obama administration’s Race to the Top competition, states that adopt the standards by Aug. 2 will stand a higher chance at a piece of the $4 billion in federal grant money to be divided among winning states in September.

James Kracht, executive associate dean for academic affairs in the Texas A&M College of Education and Human Development, says states’ curriculum already share some commonalities in their content pattern.

“In the mid to late 90s, almost all states built their statewide standards and curriculum around the national standards that were out then,” Kracht says, describing the process that led to the creation of the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills.

“Since developing standards is an expensive and time-consuming process, some other states used Texas as the pattern for developing their own state standards,” he adds. “Texas had a fairly good model because it was comprehensive and flexible. States borrowed ideas from each other and in the process, many commonalities in state standards evolved.”

Kathryn Bell McKenzie, associate professor of K-12 administration in the Department of Educational Administration and Human Resource Development, says that uniform standards would have certain benefits, including a logical progression in learning as students advance through grades as well as consistency between schools if students move between states.

Uniform standards also would affect standardized testing and possibly college admissions, as students would possess a common core of knowledge – making it easier to measure and gauge their learning, Bell McKenzie says.

Patrick Slattery, professor of culture, curriculum and instruction in the Department of Teaching, Learning and Culture, says uniform standards would have drawbacks as well, including encouraging the development of national curriculum materials, standardized lessons and national texts, which decrease local control of curriculum and marginalize local cultural perspectives.

He notes that uniform standards would undermine the role of teachers and administrators as professional educators, placing an emphasis on the transfer of information rather than actual teaching.

Kracht points out that the proposed standards for math and language arts are not all that different from those currently in place in Texas. Still, he says, the state would likely be affected if it did not adopt the proposed standards.

“I think the impact of this would be that if all states agree, except for Alaska and Texas, that eventually Alaska and Texas would succumb so they could receive the hundreds of millions of dollars that the other 48 states would be getting from the federal government,” he says.

Federal funding and other factors have long shaped the direction of education, says Slattery.

“Historically, things like federal grants and funding programs, textbooks or tests like the ACT and SAT, which are not mandatory but have become a part of our cultural fabric, have the effect of nationalizing the curriculum,” he says.

Kracht notes that Texas, a major buyer of children’s textbooks, also could see a change in the amount of influence it has over that market.

“If Texas didn’t participate in this initiative,” he adds, “Texas could lose some of its influence on the textbook market – but not all – because we’re such a huge market with a lot of kids.”

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