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Is the time ripe for national standards and tests?


National standards and tests: New York City Schools Chancellor Joel Klein “strongly support[s]” them. Knowledge is Power Program (KIPP) charter schools founder Mike Feinberg is in favor. Education historian Diane Ravitch agrees. A recent Phi Delta Kappa/Gallup poll shows mixed feelings among the public (62% say we should have “common expectations” for all children, but 63% are satisfied with their own state’s standards).

And now, the Gates Foundation plans to advocate for national standards and offer free standards and tests to the states.

But will they succeed where others have failed? When then-President Bill Clinton pushed for national tests in the 1997, the New York Times reported broad public support for national standards and testing, but when it came to implementation, deep divisions over whose standards, what kind of tests, and how results would be used:

Still, the whole concept of standards was still relatively new back then, and the federal government played a fairly small role in education policy. Now, children in every state take yearly standards-based exams, and under the federal No Child Left Behind Act, schools are judged on the results. In this new climate, will states embrace the Gates Foundation’s standards and tests? And, as bloggers Aaron Pallas (a.k.a. skoolboy) and Alexander Russo have asked, is the Gates Foundation the right organization for the job?