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Math, English classes could be standardized nationwide

SEATTLE - Governors and education leaders proposed sweeping new school standards Wednesday that could lead to students across the country using the same math and English textbooks and taking the same tests, replacing a patchwork of state and local systems in an attempt to raise student achievement nationwide.

But states must first adopt the new rigorous standards, and implementing the standards on such a large scale won't be easy.

Texas and Alaska have already refused to join the project, and everyone from state legislatures to the nation's 10,000 local school boards and 3 million teachers could chime in with their opinions.

The public is invited to comment on the proposed new standards until April 2, and the developers hope to publish final education goals for K-12 math and English in May.

The state-led effort was coordinated by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers. Experts were called in to do the writing and research, but state education officials and teachers from around the nation were actively involved.

After the standards are complete, each state will still have to decide whether to adopt them as a replacement for their existing education goals.

The stakes could be high. President Barack Obama told governors last month he wants to make money from Title I, the federal government's biggest school aid program, contingent on adoption of college- and career-ready reading and math standards.

Already, the federal government has opened bidding for $350 million to work on new national tests that would be given to students in states that adopt the national standards.

But some critics worry the federal government, which is enthusiastically watching the project but not directing it, will force them to adopt the results.

"Texas has chosen to preserve its sovereign authority to determine what is appropriate for Texas children to learn in its public schools," Robert Scott, state commissioner of education, wrote to Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas). "It is clear that the first step toward nationalization of our schools has been put into place."

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which is helping pay for the effort, believes most states will value the new national standards. One state, Kentucky, already adopted the standards in February, before the process was complete.

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