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D.C. board of education adopts national 'common core' standards for schools

By Nick Anderson
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, July 22, 2010; B04

The D.C. State Board of Education on Wednesday adopted new national standards for English and math, joining Maryland and more than two dozen states in a groundbreaking effort to establish common expectations for what students should learn every year from kindergarten through high school.

The board's vote of 6 to 1 will set in motion changes to testing, curriculum and teacher training as Schools Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee and charter school operators seek to improve public-school performance.

Board member William Lockridge opposed the measure, citing cost concerns. Member Laura Slover abstained, citing her work for an organization involved in standards advocacy. Member Sekou Biddle was absent.

Board member Dotti Love Wade said she backed the standards, because they are "a beginning point for us all to be on the same page in education."

Maryland adopted the standards last month, but Virginia decided not to join the effort.

The National Governors Association and Council of Chief State School Officers proposed what they call the "common core" standards in June after experts spent months drafting, circulating and revising them. Adopting the standards gives states and the District points in the Obama administration's $4.35 billion Race to the Top competition for school reform funds.

Advocates say the standards are more rigorous than what, until now, has been the norm across the country. Some critics say the standards are not strong enough; others fear that adopting national standards will erode local control over schools.

The standards have won formal or preliminary approval in 28 states -- including this week New York and Massachusetts -- and the District. Within a few months, 40 or more states could be on board with the movement.

"We're reaching a point of critical mass," said Gene Wilhoit, executive director of the state school chiefs council. To have a majority of states agreeing on academic standards, he said, "is a major step in this country."

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