New `Entity' on Education Standards Stirs Ire: States Balk at Private National Policy

Article excerpt

Conservative governors and school officials are having second thoughts about creating a non-governmental "entity" to replace a federal agency in overseeing higher academic standards.

Following through on plans announced at the recent education summit of governors and business leaders, the summit's planning commission is advancing a draft proposal for a privately funded civilian successor to the controversial National Education Standards and Improvement Council established in federal Goals 2000 legislation.

"What concerns a lot of people is this will become the index of success, the standard-bearer, the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval, and I don't think that's a good idea," said Pennsylvania Secretary of Education Eugene Hickok.

"I don't know that private funds are somehow untainted by interest groups or political bias," he said.

One concern is states giving up the right to make their own decisions "to somebody else, whether it's the federal government or some other `entity,' " said Virginia Secretary of Education Beverly Sgro. "Many states will have a quarrel with that," she said. "I'm sure Virginia will."

The new organization would have a budget of $2 million to $3 million and be controlled by a board composed of governors and chief executive officers of business firms.

It would function as a national clearinghouse for standards-setting activities and as a source of technical assistance to the states. The technical assistance would be performed by in-house staff or through contracts with outside education experts and their organizations.

The "entity" also would promote a national test (there is sentiment for using the National Assessment of Educational Progress), which states could use to compare their students' achievement with other states and countries.

The expectation is that the National Governors Association will endorse the new "entity" at the NGA's summer meeting in July. But the state school chiefs in Pennsylvania and Virginia say their Republican governors, who have not yet seen the draft proposal, have reservations about the concept. …