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What Classrooms Need Most

May 31, 2010

The refusal by Virginia Gov. Robert F.

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The refusal by Virginia Gov. Robert F. McDonnell (R) to scrap his state's 15-year-old Standards of Learning in exchange for a national "common core" version that hasn't even been released in final form is about more than state pride in a proven product ["Virginia withdraws from Obama's Race to the Top," Metro, May 27]. It is simply forward-looking.

The issue that architects and advocates of the national "common core" initiative have ducked is how the curricular standards for kindergarten through 12th grade and a soon-to-come national test will be revised in the future, as will be necessary. Who will be in charge of deciding if fuzzy math or traditional math will prevail or if tests will probe knowledge or feelings? Given that the Obama administration is paying for development of the test and that the president himself wants to condition federal aid on a state's buy-in to the new, unitary standards, it is reasonable to conclude that the feds would make those calls.

Standards are important. A high school diploma should have meaning. However, in this wonderfully diverse country, standards and assessments don't have to be cut from one orthodox mold.

Robert Holland, Chicago

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Robert Holland, a journalist and author who has championed school choice throughout his career, is a Heartland Institute Senior Fellow addressing education policy. @PeripateticPop