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Letter to Senator Dodd and Representative Ehlers expressing "soft" support for their bill calling for voluntary national content standards in math and science

January 09, 2007

Dear Senator/Representative:


On behalf of the National Education Association's (NEA) 3.2 million members, we thank you for the opportunity to review the Standards to Provide Educational Achievement for Kids (SPEAK) Act. 

Overall, we support the bill, and are pleased with provisions involving educator input in creation, adoption, and ongoing review of voluntary national math and science content standards. We do, however, believe that the focus of your bill reflects a small part of a larger necessary debate about ensuring that the federal role in preK-12 education satisfies the basic right of every child to attend a great public school. Specifically, we believe that funding and emphasizing creation or adoption of voluntary national math and science standards should not eclipse other initiatives that directly impact student achievement — such as reducing class sizes, recruiting and retaining highly qualified educators, and providing a broad, rich curriculum that engages students and prepares them to graduate.

As you know, voluntary standards are not new to educators. In fact, classroom educators developed the first model national math content standards in 1989 through the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics. These standards have been reviewed and updated by classroom educators to ensure they reflect what students should learn and know to be successful academically. We strongly believe content standards should keep pace with the changing demands of our society and economy and should prepare students to be well-rounded, active citizens in a democracy and to compete in a global economy.  

NEA agrees that all students should have access to a high quality, broad, rich curriculum — a major component of our ESEA reauthorization agenda (http://www.nea.org/esea/posagendaexecsum.html).  Furthermore, NEA is a member of the Partnership for 21st Century Skills, a collaboration of leading businesses and education stakeholders to promote skills students need to be successful in a global, information economy.  The Partnership has developed principles important to consider in ESEA reauthorization (http://www.21stcenturyskills.org/documents/NCLBMemoandPrinciples0630.pdf ). We hope Congress will give serious weight to the views and work of our members as well as the Partnership.

Finally, we are pleased that your bill does not create a national test or mandatory national standards. NEA does not support a national test and we would be unable to support a bill that provided for one. We believe there should be a comprehensive and thoughtful discussion about how to raise the quality of state standards and assessments. This is necessary to ensure that we raise student achievement and close achievement and skills gaps in a way that meets students', educators', and society's needs. 

We thank you for your leadership on these important issues and look forward to continued work together.  If you have any questions, please contact Kim Anderson (202-822-7341;kanderson@nea.org).

Sincerely,

Diane Shust, Director of Government Relations

Randall Moody, Manager of Federal Policy and Politics