State board approves new national education standards
At a special meeting Monday, the state board of education unanimously adopted common national academic standards. These standards are to provide the basis for future instruction in the state.
The common-standards initiative has been pushed by the Obama administration, but executed through a voluntary national effort in which nearly all states are participating.
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger applauded the vote, praising the state board for maintaining “California’s high expectations and our belief that every student is capable of success in the classroom.”
The standards are to ultimately supplant California’s current academic framework, which is widely viewed as among the best in the nation, although the same cannot be said of the results in the classroom.
A state commission supplemented the national standards with elements of the existing state plan as well as with updated approaches.
In Massachusetts, another state with high standards, the national plan became controversial, although it was finally approved. In California, there’s been vigorous debate, but most opposition had faded by Monday's vote.
Two commissioners on the state’s standards review committee said they opposed the national framework out of concern that the approach to math, and especially algebra, instruction could water down California’s efforts.
Other speakers at the meeting supported the national standards but said more work is needed to make the plan effective for students learning English.
The common standards were endorsed by the Los Angeles Unified School District and the L.A. teachers union. The state meeting, held in Sacramento, marked perhaps the first official appearance of new L.A. Unified Deputy Supt. John Deasy, who started work for the district on Monday. Deasy is considered a possible successor to L.A. schools chief Ramon C. Cortines, who plans to retire next year.
The vote enhances the state’s chances in its bid for federal school reform dollars through the Obama administration's controversial Race to the Top school reform program.
The decision before the California board went right to the wire, with a federal deadline set for 1:30 p.m. for states to vote on the standards, to qualify for added points in the Race to the Top competition.
-- Howard Blume
Photo: Fourth-graders work on a math lesson at Romero-Cruz Elementary School in Santa Ana. Credit: Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times