Are Common Standards Coming to Your State?

By Lawrence Hardy

In 1990, about 3 million people used the Internet. Singapore established its first Internet site. Mobile phones were beginning to run on digital networks. And a video guide to the World Wide Web urged viewers shopping for a computer to “make sure you tell your dealer you’ll be using it to access the Internet.”

That also was the year the Kentucky General Assembly passed the Kentucky Education Reform Act (KERA). Despite being derided by some teachers as the “Kentucky Early Retirement Act,” it became a highly celebrated model for curricular reform.

Today, the world has more than 6.8 billion Internet users. Singapore is an education powerhouse that consistently ranks at or near the top on international tests. Mobile phones are everywhere. And there’s no need to tell your “dealer” that you’ll be using your computer for the Internet.

And KERA? It’s being supplanted next year by a more rigorous accountability system, one that is tasked both with raising student achievement (which KERA did, for the most part) and preparing all high school graduates for college and careers. Once again the Bluegrass State is leading the way in school reform, but this time it is hardly alone.

In just three years, all but perhaps a handful of states are expected to have a common standard and assessment system. These standards -- “fewer, clearer, higher” in the words of their creators -- are designed to enable all high school students to succeed in postsecondary education and the workplace and to help America compete in the burgeoning global economy. It is the nation’s first real attempt at establishing common standards, and it is happening very quickly.

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