Additional Resources

Voluntary State Standards?

NCSL policy on standards supports and encourages states to establish their own challenging academic standards, but warns that the independence of this movement could be subverted by the well-intended intervention of the federal government. 

NCSL's concerns are summarized as follows:

  • “Voluntary” participation in the movement became mandatory to many states when eligibility for “Race-to-the-top” funds was made contingent upon endorsement of the voluntary state standards. (In a time of fiscal crisis, all revenues sources must be pursued.)
  • The “state” led movement became less state and more federal when the administration announced a set-aside of $350 million to develop common assessments for the common standards and announced that the reauthorized Elementary & Secondary Education Act (ESEA) could include a provision making receipt of Title I dollars contingent upon states joining the “voluntary” movement. This action is another step toward a growing federal influence in a state-initiated movement and represents a stick masquerading as a carrot. Further, it highlights the intentions of supporters who view common national standards as the first step toward common assessments, common curriculum, common textbooks and common teacher preparation programs. 
  • How do the leaders of the movement plan to administer to the variations that will undoubtedly be seen as states consider adoption-with up to 15 percent variation in the content standards that is allowed? Who determines whether a state’s adoption is at 14 percent variation or 16 percent variation? 
  • Why are states such as Massachusetts, Virginia and Texas worried that their own revised and challenging standards will be “dumbed down” to comply with the national standards?
  • Finally, what effect will challenging standards have on student achievement? According to Russ Whitehurst at the Brown Center on Public Education—none. This begs the question of why everyone seems to be rushing headlong into a “reform” that apparently has negligible effect on achievement.

Read NCSL's Policy on National Standards here.

For additional information, please contact David Shreve (202-624-8187) or Robert Strange (202-624-8698) in NCSL's Washington, D.C. office.