The White House: Raise math and reading standards in poor schools

When President Obama meets today with the nation’s governors, he is expected to set out a plan for higher math and reading standards as a qualifier for Title 1 funds that go to schools with large numbers of low-income students. His statement will boost the national effort, led by the nation’s governors, including Gov. Sonny Perdue, for common core standards in the U.S. that meet the bar of international comparisons.

Clearer academic targets is a goal of the White House in overhauling the federal No Child Left Behind Act, which has been criticized for imposing vague standards and allowing states too much leeway in determining how to meet them. The complaint has been that the law became a race to the bottom rather than to the top because states could set their own standards.

In a statement, the White House said, “Because economic progress and educational achievement go hand in hand, educating every American student to graduate prepared for college and success in a new work force is a national imperative. Meeting this challenge requires that state standards reflect a level of teaching and learning needed for students to graduate ready for success in college and careers.”

According to The New York Times:

Since last year, 48 states have been collaborating to write common standards in math and reading, coordinated by the governors’ group and with the encouragement of the White House. Texas and Alaska decided not to participate in that state-led effort.

The common-standards effort has produced a draft, and earlier this month Kentucky became the first state to approve the substitution of the new standards for the state’s own standards in the two subjects.

How successful or quickly the governors, legislatures, state boards of education and other authorities in other states will be in agreeing on adoption of the new standards is not clear.

“In better aligning the law to support college- and career-ready standards,” the White House statement said, its proposed rewrite of the No Child Left Behind law would “require all states to adopt and certify that they have college- and career-ready standards which may include common standards developed by a state-led consortium, as a condition of qualifying for Title I funding.”

The four Democratic and Republican leaders of the House education committee announced last week that they were working together on the latest overhaul of the law.

In its 2011 budget request earlier this month, the White House said it hoped to replace the law’s much-criticized school rating system, known as adequate yearly progress, with a new accountability system.

39 comments Add your comment


February 22nd, 2010
6:35 am

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February 22nd, 2010
6:53 am

Good luck. American kids these days are idiots. Unless you can work American Idol into the curriculum somehow, prepare for India and China to keep kicking our collective asses in all things academic.


February 22nd, 2010
6:54 am

1) higher than what?
2) measured how?


February 22nd, 2010
7:09 am

The longer that I am in educational administration, the more firmly I believe tat we need to expand our vocational studies programs. We need to realize that the vast majority of our students are not on the academic / university track. They belong and want to be on a vocational track. I do not suggest that we dumb anything down for this track though. Vocational education can be and should be just as challenging as any academic track. We are selling many students short by telling them that they are failures when they could be excelling at something outside of what we consider a traditional education.
A true educational overhaul is needed and needed badly in this country. We can not just keep throwing monies at a system that is broken and expect it to heal itself.
I do believe in standards of education as a minimum level of education that is to be required of all children, but I do not believe in the rigidity of our current grade level systems.
Schools need to become as specialized as any other business model that is a success and be able to adapt. That is going to mean many more smaller schools serving smaller groups of students. It is going to mean that government funding is going to need to follow the child and not just be allocated by numbers in the district.
The sooner that we as a people recognize the need for individual learning plans for all students the better off we will be.
As a final thought, I would like to stress that just because you start on one “track” whether it be the university, vocational, or some other general educational track, does not mean that with work, you should not be able to switch gears and change tracks.

college and career ready?

February 22nd, 2010
7:21 am

just read an article on education and the president said: “Requires the states to “adopt and certify that they have college- and career-ready standards in reading and mathematics” to be eligible for the federal money.” GA does not a career ready pathway for graduation.

We still have the best education system in the world. Everyone comes to us. Students are still the same as far as education goes: kids that excel, middle of the road, and the lower end. And on top of all that, we do have roughly 10% of mexico’s population here; do you think that’s the top 10%?


February 22nd, 2010
7:25 am

I agree Fred. So many making decisions for teachers are far removed from its unfortunate consequences when applied to students. I pray that a change will come- and soon. So many are already at a major disadvantage in life and we still do not have the means with which to provide them hope or an alternative that will help them to be focused and to get on a track that will help them to be contributing citizens.

Gwinnett Middle School Teacher

February 22nd, 2010
7:25 am

Fred-wow an administrator that actually speaks what teachers have always known-that NOT all students are college material, nor should they be told that they SHOULD be. Shame on Gwinnett for being the largest system in Georgia with the least vocational programming and an idiotic attitude that EVERYONE should go to college. Students should have vocational type opportunities by 8th grade so that they stay motivated and don’t drop out. By the time that students are able to take vocational courses(11th grade), the ones that would most benefit have already left school or can’t take vocational classes because of needed credits. What can we do to change this barbaric thinking?

Knows Better

February 22nd, 2010
7:45 am

As long as our federal, state and local governments insist on testing our kids to death, the USA will keep failing at educating children. Educators are forced to teach to a test rather than help kids learn the skills they will need either in college or in a vocational setting.

Georgia Department of Education has done away with the Tech-Prep diploma option. This puts MANY of our kids on a pathway to absolutely nowhere.

We have to give our kids educational options to set them up for success. We have to give teachers the freedom to actually teach the curriculum. We need adminisrators that support their classrooms teachers with respect to disciplining students. We need parents to step up to the plate and teach kids the value in obtaining a good education.

Will this ever happen? In Georgia? I doubt it.


February 22nd, 2010
7:47 am

You can raise the standards all you want. However, there is zero parent support at home in these schools. No parents read with their kids, work on homework, nothing. Those are the facts. More everyday, the difference between good and bad parenting(and not socioeconomic as everyone wants to blame) is the results witnessed in the classroom. Parents who value education for themselves and their children will make it a priority. Parents who are still kids themselves and who are too busy playing and partying or who cave into their kids’ wishes are the main reason why we have non-readers,and apathetic learners in this country. Their plans for their kids include NFL star, American Idol, reality TV star, etc. That is true and sad.


February 22nd, 2010
7:49 am

So that is the answer. National standards set by the big government.

Does anyone else find this type of micro mannagement horrifying? So a kid in North Dakota is now the exact same as a kid in innercity Miami. Just brilliant.

We are the United STATES of America. The national government ascerting agendas by blackmail (grant funding) is irresponsible government out of control. The people at the local level should decide how a community’s children are educated. We are not all the same and will never be robotic drones.

pay attention folks

February 22nd, 2010
7:49 am

HB215 would reinstate a three track diploma system with a vocational track. This bill was introduced last legislative season, but died in committee. It is now seeing new life. Here is a brief summary of discussion on the topic held last week: (Click on Report from the Capital Day 20 under current news).
In that Brooks Coleman plans to bring it up again after the recess, now is the time to make phone calls to legislators to make our concerns about this one size fits all mentality known.

john konop

February 22nd, 2010
7:53 am

The truth is I have talked to many administrators as well and most agree with Fred that we need a tracking system based on aptitude not one size fit all. The PROBLEM is administrators are held hostage via funding by Kathy Cox/NCLB gang since they control the money based on out of touch standards set by them.


February 22nd, 2010
8:20 am

Correct teacher2……


February 22nd, 2010
8:26 am

I don’t understand why anyone would be upset with setting national or federal standards. Especially when we (the federal government) are spending big bucks for these failing Title 1 schools. Do you really want to continue throwing money at them without any standards? I certainly do not!

For those that continue to beat the drum – too big government, blah, blah – this is ALREADY in place. All Obama is doing is trying to set the standards in order for schools to show that they have earned their Title 1 big bucks.

Notice – schools do not HAVE to be Title 1. They do not HAVE to take the money. No one is forcing them to. Most public schools are not Title 1. Title 1 schools are those that are failing miserable and feel the need for additional money in order to succeed.

Subject standards are already in place. For example, there are National Science Standards created by the professional science organizations. I wonder if the federal government will simply adopt the professional standards in each subject – seems reasonable to me.



February 22nd, 2010
8:32 am

Thank you, Pay attention folks, for this information. I will be contacting by legislators. I really believe in a three tier structure. I am a teacher and I care about all of our students. It amazes me how Georgia’s Education bosses want all students on a college track. Students who go to Voc tech school make good money. We need plumbers, electricians, mechanics and other jobs that will not go over seas. We need a variety of students to excel in thier interest. We need college graduates, voc tech graduates, and we need to help those with disabilities. This is the true calling of education— To help each student to fulfill their full potential. Sorry about any typos-in a hurry.

john konop

February 22nd, 2010
9:14 am


First the federal government is spending tax payers’ dollars. Second I would trust letting the standards come from the colleges, vocational/Tec schools over a government paid bureaucrat ie math 123 failure. Third the vocational/Tec schools must meet requirements for graduation and job placement to stay in good standing, while bureaucrats like Kathy Cox can cash out and become lobbyist when they fail. Finally the real debate is around letting education match aptitude not forcing all kids in one size fit all one track system.


February 22nd, 2010
9:23 am

Reality — “Title 1 schools are those that are failing miserable and feel the need for additional money in order to succeed”.

Wholly untrue – Eligibility is based on the percentage of free and reduced lunch students in a school. It has nothing to do with failing status in any shape of form.


Unfortunately you seem to fit that bill here. Pretty basic stuff.

H.S.Math Teacher

February 22nd, 2010
12:26 pm

Blah, I’m ready to quit.


February 22nd, 2010
12:29 pm

Can we agree that low SES children (free lunch) frequently do not perform as highly as high SES children? (Lower test scores, lower rates of school completion, higher teen pregnancy, higher incarceration levels) Can they succeed–yes! And Title 1 has been a big help.

Now, take those kids who (frequently) need extra help (by way of Title 1) and refuse to give them the money for the extra help until they show they can do it without Title 1 money! At least that is what it sounds like to me.

Attentive Parent

February 22nd, 2010
1:59 pm

Kati Haycock, a well known child advocate and the subject of the newer thread is a major advocate for the one size fits all approach.

She has never explained what it will do for high achieving kids to be forced to the same high school standards as the much lower achieving kids even though she has testified before Congress that:

“By the end of high school, African-American and Latino youngsters had skills in both reading and mathematics exactly the same as white eighth graders”.

How does one standard work then? Will certain students spend high school running in place while others catch up to them?

Is that really an equitable or wise program for US students?

reality check

February 22nd, 2010
2:48 pm

Thanks md!! You get it. Not every child needs to be on a college track. Its not for everyone. We need voc tech training back in our schools and we need to start it earlier than high school. It needs to start in the 6th grade. I can tell right now what students are college bound and which are are going to be left with very few options. Lower performing high school students are struggling and becoming very frustrated with the new math standardized curriculum. Students with lower than average IQs are having to do what is equivalent to trig and calculus. Ridiculous!! They would benefit more from a vocational program that taught them skills they could actually use rather than some college level math they will never see again. Prediction: Drop rates will increase and we will be paying for welfare. GREAT!!

Wounded Warrior

February 22nd, 2010
3:16 pm

Not everyone know what they want to be when they grow up. The military and vocational school are viable alternatives. I went to college w/o student federal loans, and debt free. My friends are still paying college loans 20 years later.

Ole Guy

February 22nd, 2010
3:16 pm

John, I believe basic education should be on a one-size-fits-all basis. Just like in flight school, everyone learns to fly the basic machinery. After, and only after mastery has been achieved in the basics does the student go into a transition period where aircraft of increasing complexity and mission-orientation are introduced. By the same token, all students, be they college bound or destined for the work world need to both understand and demonstrate mastery in the basic skills, the 3-Rs, if you will. For this very reason, I advocate a departure from technology-based learning of any flavor until mastery in the basics has been achieved. Once achieved, I would endorse the tracking system. If the tracking system is initited prior to mastery of basics, than both tracks, academic and vocational ed, become moot and, at best, far less than optimal.

pay attention folks

February 22nd, 2010
4:09 pm

Ole Guy,
The problem is students are not being ALLOWED to master the basics. This one size fits all curriculum, especially for math is daunting. I would challenge the readers of this blog, Kathy Cox and Sonny Purdue to complete the tasks being required of ALL tenth graders in math2. I have never seen this stuff before, and yet I have a master’s degree (not in math obviously), and am very successful in my chosen field.
This stuff is being thrown at kids who were not allowed to master the basics.
Read reality check’s comment at 2:48. She hits the nail on the head, especially with this comment:

“Lower performing high school students are struggling and becoming very frustrated with the new math standardized curriculum. Students with lower than average IQs are having to do what is equivalent to trig and calculus.”

john konop

February 22nd, 2010
4:12 pm

Ole Guy,

I agree I think at around junior high is when it should start moving toward different tracks depending on the student. Especially kids at risk of dropping out or just getting passed along.

[...] See original here: The White House: Raise math and reading standards in poor schools … [...]

Ivan Cohen

February 22nd, 2010
4:19 pm

India and China are already kicking our collective asses in all things economic because some corporate bigshots outsourced the jobs. As a matter of fact graduates from high school should have a diploma in one hand and an application for a passport in the other. This will enable American kids to go overseas and apply for the jobs which left this country. Vocational education is just as as valid as education obtained at a university. The day will come whereas the President of the United States will be a graduate from vocational school.

Ole Guy

February 22nd, 2010
5:28 pm

John, and …folks, I am not at all familiar with the math curriculum which students must master. My 1st hand experience was with the 5th grade curricula which, as I recall, pretty much covered the essentials…basic numerical manipulations, etc. Judging from public reaction to the current day math standards, I would imagine that, as with any and all building block scenarios, successful negotiation of the “new math” curriculum is predicated on the mastery of those basics. Inasmuch as the so-called “social promotions” appear to be the accepted alternative to repeating grades, the entire concept of even presenting any new material prior to basic mastery seems to be both foolish and not at all in keeping with the purpose of public education in the first place. If my observations are at all accurate, this is somewhat akin to taking a 3 or 400-level bio course in college without first taking AND mastering a basic survey course in biology.

All that being said, the big question of the year would be…”Who in hell is establishing the standard…who is responsible for designing curriculum”? While it’s admirable to set high standards to which students will strive, it is equaly foolhardy to expect any kind of achievement without first ensuring mastery of basics.

If a student pilot couldn’t demonstrate basic maneuvers, there was no way he was going to be passed on to advanced tactical flying where chances were high that he would hurt, not only himself, but many others. If, by the same token, students are being passed on without this basic mastery, they are indeed hurting themselves both in terms of “false achievements” via social promotions, and, as adults, in the work world and/or the world of collegiate demands.


February 22nd, 2010
5:53 pm

“Raising standards,” by itself, won’t improve educational achievement one iota, when so many students can’t even meet the standards we have set so far. It’s like if Bobby Cox decided that the “standard” on the Braves would be for everyone to hit .300 or win 20 games — that in itself won’t make the Braves one bit better, What we need are some better strategies to raise *actual* student achievement. For an interesting article on some promising strategies, read the Jan/Feb 2010 Atlantic magazine, under “What Makes A Great Teacher?


February 22nd, 2010
7:15 pm

After reading several post, I wish that John Konop would run for the education chief. You seem to understand the education in Georgia. I appreciate reading your insight and speaking up for us teachers. I speak for many teachers I talk to in saying we feel like Kathy Cox has let us down on so many fronts as well as the state. But we are not the only ones the state has let down. Georgia Troopers, the veterans in Milledgeville, and so many other people in the state the Governor has let down.


February 22nd, 2010
8:07 pm

Would having national standards mean we got rid of Math1234?

Would having a national curriculum mean that students could move from state to state without losing credits or being too far ahead or behind?

And how are students who can’t pass the low, low CRCT going to meet higher standards?

Attentive Parent

February 23rd, 2010
4:47 am

Reports from the committees drafting these standards are that they are quite low. That’s how they get everyone to the same level.

The initial draft on math had little beyond the Algebra 1 level and a Language Arts reviewer calls those English standards “tragic” in their weakness.

We seemed to be going to one national standard in order to slow down the most able students and thus closing the achievement gap. Knowledge and skills become more evenly distributed and what is lost gets blurred because there will be new open-ended measuring tests in use.

The Terms “college and career ready” and “internationally Benchmarked” are just empty slogans designed to win political support for radically remaking what it means to be educated in the US in the 21st century.

Hard to imagine the rest of the world not wondering why we would so hobble our economy and international position as to insist on equal educational outcomes for all.

Maybe the federal government can also mandate that everyone gets to start at least one game as varsity quarterback. That will make high school so much more nurturing and fair for all.

frustrated educator

February 23rd, 2010
9:18 am

When will the people making decisions about education be educators; not people who only taught the 3 years to be administrators and then move on into politics or business people?
Those in charge have to remember (or learn) that we are not dealing with a commodity that has stabilzers added so that each day the same learning will occur. We are dealing with children who vary from day to day and have strenghts and weaknesses, likes and dislikes, good home lives and difficult situations. It is not that Title 1 students can’t learn – they can and amazingly so – it’s that they come to school missing important pieces of learning that students at non-Title schools have. Educators have to or should try to fill those gaps to shore up the student. But with the pressures to make ayp, teach the standards, pass CRCT -(which by the way is a baseline test – the very least they have to have to pass) students weaknesses just keep being overlooked. You can’t take a child ( or several in a class)who is 3 years behind and make them be on/above grade level in one year. Which again is not really a full year of learning as we test in the end of April with 3/4 weeks left in the school year. What happened to taking a child from where they are to their greatest potential – we’re just trying to get them to the baseline to make ayp!!! It’s not just title kids we need to think about, our gifted students are in dire straits with NCLB. The general concensus tends to be “they’re bright, they’ll figure it out!” No they won’t! They need to be challenged and have the same interest given to their education as the others.These are our next Bill Gates, Warren Buffets, and if they continue to be ignored we will truly be in sad shape. Teachers use to be taught to teach to the middle, pull the low ones up and stretch the high ones. That is no longer true. We now have to teach to the standard/test to make ayp so we can get more money!!!

V for Vendetta

February 23rd, 2010
11:03 am

Easiest solution:

Increase early childhood literacy and exposure to books from ages 6 months to 5 years of age.

But that brings up an obvious question: Whose responsibility is that?

Hmmmmmm . . .

pay attention folks

February 23rd, 2010
12:16 pm

Do you happen to know the status of the math article your
colleague(s) are working on? Do you know whn it will run?

Maureen Downey

February 23rd, 2010
12:23 pm

@Pay attention, I believe either early next week or the week after, but these bigger projects can be held if news breaks that demands the space immediately, Maureen

Marjorie Johnson

February 25th, 2010
1:23 pm

When are people going to stop saying that the economic level of the parent is the main determining factor of a student’s academic achievement? I strongly believe that it is the academic attitude of the parent. My father was a career Air Force officer. He never made a huge amount of money, even though he was an expert in the field of communications. I took my SAT test when I was a Junior in high school at Clark AFB in the Philippines. Our school scored in the top 1% of the nation. The kids in our school had gone to school all over the world, with a heavy dose of Department of Defense Schools. None of our dads, except maybe the general’s kids, made big bucks. When are parents going to accept responsibility for at least part of their child’s education. If the majority of the children would come in well-behaved and ready to learn, then the teachers could work the miracles that we are expected to perform. Thirty-seven years ago when I started teaching, the kids were great! I loved going to school everyday, and could never imagine having another career. What has happened? Ask any public school teacher, and they will tell you that student behavior is the #1 issue that impedes them in doing their job!

Marjorie Johnson

February 25th, 2010
1:28 pm

I totally agree with the comments of “teacher”. Thanks for telling the truth!

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June 24th, 2010
8:37 am

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