Education Law

New National Academic Standards at Your School?

  • New National Academic Standards have been recommended by state governors and education experts
  • The standards set minimum requirements for math and English
  • President Obama is encouraging schools to adopt the standards
  • Know what you can do if the new standards are proposed at your local schools


New National Academic Standards, or "Common Core State Standards," are designed to increase performance of students in public schools across the US. Some states have adopted them already, while others are debating it.

What Are They?

The National Governors Association Center for Best Practices and the Council of Chief State School Officers worked on the new standards for about one year until before the final versions were unveiled in June 2010. Over the course of the year, input was asked for and received from parents, teachers, businesses, and scores of others.

Generally, the new standards set out what public school students should learn in math and English in each grade from kindergarten through high school (K-12). For example, in math, first graders are expected to master addition and subtraction skills up to 20, and eighth graders are expected to master using the Pythagorean theorem.

The idea is to help students graduate high school and then succeed in college or in the workforce.


The Obama administration is encouraging the states to adopt the new standards. To that end, the US Department of Education is preparing a program to provide federal funding for schools to test and assess students and help teachers get additional skills so they can help students master the standards.

In addition, as part of the President's Race to the Top program, states that adopt the standards by August 2, 2010 have better odds of winning some of the $4 billion in federal grant money set to be awarded in September.

Mixed Reactions

As of early August 2010, a number of states have adopted the standards already, including Florida and Massachusetts.

Several states are still debating it. For example, California is hesitant to abandon it's standards that have been successful. There's concern that the new standards aren't as stringent as the ones in place now, and so adopting the new ones may mean "dumbing down" its classrooms.

Likewise, Texas has refused adopt the standards because they're unproven and add to the taxpayers' burden.

What You Can Do

First of course, read the standards carefully to see if they're something you think will help or hurt the academic performance in your local schools. If your state has already adopted the standards, see what exactly your child's school is doing or plans to do to help students meet those standards. Attend the next school board meeting and give them any suggestions you may have.

If your state is still on the fence, contact your state and local lawmakers and tell them what you think about the standards, pro or con.

Everyone can agree that quality education in our public schools should be a top priority. How to achieve that goal, however, is a hotly debated issue. The new national standards may be a good step in the right direction. Rest assured that critics and proponents of the standards will be watching closely to see if that's indeed the case.  

Questions for Your Attorney

  • If a state adopts the standards, do all public school in the state have to adopt them?
  • Can a state change its mind after deciding not to adopt the standards?
  • If I home-school my child do I have to follow the same standards as public schools?
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