Editorial: Nation needs standard by which to measure education

As much as some parents and teacher unions – and the politicians who court them – would like, this nation can’t go back to the one-room schoolhouse with no national standards and ways to measure them. Not if it expects American children to compete in today’s technical and highly intertwined world.

Yet something akin to the little schoolhouse on the prairie is what opponents of Common Core and standardized testing are espousing as the Republican-led U.S. House pushes through legislation that would scrap the education system’s mandates.

While it retains some standardized testing as a measuring stick, the bill would give states and local school districts more control over curriculum and assessing the performance of schools, teachers and students. It would prohibit the federal government from requiring or encouraging specific sets of academic standards. The Senate is considering similar restrictions.

In New Mexico alone, that could mean 89 school districts with 89 different school boards setting 89 standards. Or 89 districts fighting anything the Public Education Department tried to do.

While that might have worked when people stayed in one area for life and worked in the same trade as their parents, in today’s competitive global economy Americans must consider what children are learning and how they are progressing in other countries, especially those in which their students are outperforming ours.

And today, that number keeps growing. According to the Program for International Student Assessment, American 15-year-olds in 2012 failed to crack the global top 20 for proficiency in reading, math or science as U.S. kids slipped further back into the pack.

Also in 2012, the Obama administration began granting waivers from meeting some of the requirements of No Child Left Behind after it began to be clear they would not be met. Forty-two states, including New Mexico, have been granted waivers. Since then, the Obama administration has cited progress that has been made in New Mexico schools as the state has worked toward implementation of Common Core and teacher evaluations that are tied in part to student achievement.

In the debate over Common Core, funding and the feelings of teachers and their unions often take top billing. But the education of children should come first. And without a standard of measurement, like Common Core, there is no way to make sure it is.

This new legislation heads down the path to economic suicide by churning out students who just can’t compete in a global economy.

This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.

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