HSLDA’s Department of Federal Relations
October 4, 2007

The Danger of National Standards

By William A. Estrada
Director of Federal Relations

Many homeschoolers are aware of the dangers posed by a national curriculum and a national test. Nationalized curriculum and testing would take away local control over education by allowing unelected bureaucrats, not parents and local school boards, to decide what subjects should be taught in schools and how. It would also lead to pressure on homeschooled and private schooled students to use the same national curriculum and take the same national test as public school students.

Over the years, HSLDA and other proponents of local control over education have successfully resisted attempts to create a mandatory national test and national curriculum. However, recent proposed legislation has taken a new direction. Having seen their previous attempts defeated, supporters of nationalized testing and curriculum have now opted to advance “national standards.”

Introduced in early 2007, the Standards to Provide Educational Achievement for Kids (SPEAK) Act, S. 224, and its companion bill in the House, H.R. 325, would create universal education content standards in mathematics and science for grades K-12 and then provide for the assessment of student proficiency against these standards. Although termed “voluntary,” these standards would not actually be voluntary. This legislation represents another attempt by the federal government to centralize educational choices.

The supporters of national standards try to draw a distinction between national standards and national curriculum and testing. They argue that the standards are voluntary and that they still leave the curriculum decision to local control. However, national standards are a first step to a national curriculum and national testing. Certain federal education funds to the states would be contingent on the states adopting the standards, which would place incredible pressure on the states to accept these national standards. And if some states resisted efforts to adopt the standards, this could easily lead to calls to make the standards mandatory in the name of being fair to all students. Furthermore, unelected bureaucrats would be able to choose what they believe every school child should be taught. For the time being, the actual details of how the courses would be taught would still be left to local control, but the ultimate decisions of what would be taught would be in the hands of centralized education planners in Washington, D.C.

For these reasons, national standards must be opposed just as national curriculum and testing were opposed. This battle will require constant vigilance, as this issue will not go away in a year or two. The proponents of national standards—and national curriculum and testing—will constantly try to advance their goals even if individual bills are defeated.

HSLDA remains committed to defeating attempts to create national testing and curriculum, as well as national standards—this will require the support of many, including homeschooling families. We ask you to join with us in defeating such attempts to expand the federal role in education.