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a panel of educators convened by the nation’s governors and state school superintendents released a set of proposed common academic standards on Wednesday. The standards, posted on the panel’s web site, lay out the panel’s vision of what American public school students should learn in math and English, year by year, from kindergarten to high school graduation.
If a majority of states were to adopt them over the next few months, which experts said was a growing possibility, the new standards would replace the nation’s motley current checkerboard of locally written standards, which vary greatly in content and sophistication. And adoption of the new standards would set off a vast new effort to rewrite textbooks and standardized tests.
The Obama Administration quickly endorsed the effort. Under the Department of Education’s Race to the Top initiative, in which states are competing for a share of $4 billion in school improvement money, states can earn 40 points of the possible 500 for participating in the common effort and adopting the new standards.
The proposed standards outline concepts to be learned, but do not lay down a specific curriculum.
In English, for instance, they do not prescribe individual works of literature, but instead offer a list of texts “illustrating the quality, complexity and range” of student reading that would be appropriate for various grades. The middle school list includes “Little Women” and “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer,” as well as works of nonfiction like “Letter on Thomas Jefferson” by John Adams. The 11th grade nonfiction list includes Henry David Thoreau’s “Walden” and President Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address.