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ROMNEY BASHES OBAMA’S NATIONAL ED STANDARDS THAT DUMB DOWN CALIFORNIA MATH
by Lance T. Izumi
Governor Jerry Brown recently approved a new law that will eliminate algebra from California’s eighth-grade math standards. While troubling, even more disturbing is the fact that this move is dictated by Sacramento’s adoption of less rigorous national standards supported by President Obama.
Thankfully, in the first presidential debate and in recent interviews, it’s clear that Mitt Romney realizes what Barack Obama can’t seem to fathom: the federal government is not the nation’s school board.
SB 1200, which Gov. Brown just signed, says that the state Board of Education shall ensure “One set of standards is adopted at each grade level.” Those standards will be the Obama-backed national standards. As education journalist John Fensterwald points out, the law will remove California’s algebra requirement and “will leave [the national] Common Core pre-algebra standards as the default course for eighth grade.”
Why did California opt for the lower national standards?
In the debate, President Obama touted his Race to the Top grant program, which requires applying states to implement the national standards. California applied for a grant, didn’t win one, but was still stuck with Obama’s standards…
In an interview with NBC News prior to the debate, Romney said, “I don’t subscribe to the idea of the federal government trying to push a common core on various states.” Why are national standards dangerous? Chief among the reasons is that they will lead to a national curriculum.
As California’s experience proves, changing over to a national-standards system will affect what’s being taught in every classroom. According to Fensterwald, “Last year, about two-thirds of California students had taken Algebra 1 by the eighth grade.” Now, because the national standards will change the state’s math curriculum, relatively few students will likely take algebra in the eighth grade.
Romney says that for the Obama administration “to financially reward states based upon accepting the federal government’s idea of a curriculum, I think, is a mistake.” Specifically, Romney says that he worries about the federal government promoting an agenda through national standards, tests and curricula. For the Obama administration, its agenda neatly coincides with the agenda of the teacher unions.
The American Federation of Teachers is a longtime supporter of national standards and its members helped write the Obama-supported standards. In legislative testimony, Stanford University math professor James Milgram, who served on an advisory committee for the national standards, said that special-interest groups, like the unions, “were mainly focused on things like making the standards as non-challenging as possible.” He said that the national math standards “are written to reflect very low expectations.”
…Obama and his union allies have triumphed by overturning California’s rigorous state standards.
During the debate, Romney articulated a very different strategy that would empower, not special interests, but parents. Rather than a top-down Washington-centric approach, Romney proposed attaching federal funds, such as Title I money for disadvantaged children, directly to students. These dollars would “follow the child and let the parent decide where to send their student” and allow children “to go to the school of their choice”, where school-choice programs have been enacted.
When asked by debate moderator Jim Lehrer about the federal government’s role in education, President Obama said, “I think that it has a significant role to play.”
Indeed, his nationalization of education has already altered and distorted math education in California. In contrast, Mitt Romney envisions more local control and more parental choice.
It is now up to Americans to decide which future they want for their children.
Lance T. Izumi is Koret Senior Fellow and Senior Director of Education Studies at the Pacific Research Institute for Public Policy (PRI), California’s premier free-market public-policy think tank based in San Francisco.