Policy Documents

Why Race to the Middle?

Ze’ev Wurman and Sandra Stotsky –
February 23, 2010

The case for national standards rests on more than the need to equalize academic expectations for all students by remedying the uneven and often deplorable quality of most state standards and tests. The case also rests on the urgent need to increase academic achievement for all students. In mathematics and science in particular, we require much higher levels of achievement than our students now demonstrate for this country to remain competitive in the global economy. These goals are not compatible at the secondary school level, and the tensions they create are not easily resolved. For example, although the National Mathematics Advisory Panel recommended 27 major topics for school algebra, it is unreasonable to make them a high school graduation requirement.
 
In 2009, with the encouragement of the U.S. Department of Education (USED), the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers formed a consortium (CCSSI) to develop a set of K-12 mathematics and English standards for voluntary adoption by all the states. In turn, USED required states to commit to adopting these yet-to-be-developed standards and the assessments based on them as a criterion in judging their application for Race to the Top (RttT) funds.

This White Paper presents an analysis of the September 2009 draft of CCSSI’s College- and Career- Readiness Standards as well as the January 13 draft of its grade-level standards for K-12, which CCSSI sent to the states for inclusion in their RttT applications. Based on an analysis of those two documents and the process used to create them, this White Paper concludes that CCSSI’s initiative has so far failed to resolve the inherent tensions between these two goals and to produce standards that promise to improve both the education of all American students and America’s competitive position in the global economy.