Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Mandating An Academic Standard In Classrooms Across America

There is a terrific "Room for Debate: A Running Commentary on the News" piece in today's New York Times about the recently proposed national educational standards, which is a joint project of the National Governor's Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers. The widespread goal of this proposal is guaranteeing that all schoolchildren be fluent in a specific set of skills in mathematics and English-language arts by the time they graduate from high school. Currently 48 states (Texas and Alaska are abstaining for now) have signed on to the initiative, officially named the Common Core Standards Initiative, to write the standards.

As an example of academic standards for English-language arts, by grade 12 students must be proficient with the level of reading and comprehension of such works as a novel by Jane Austen, a speech by Toni Morrison, a letter written by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., as well as a Walt Whitman poem on the death of Abraham Lincoln and the New York Times coverage of Lincoln's assassination.

The question of academic standards is a hot button issue, but I think we can all agree that it is important to provide the students of today with a basic set of skills for them to able to function in an increasingly intellectually complex world. What do you think about these proposed standards? Will they promote competency in students and excellence in education? Or is an academic standard impossible to mandate?

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