Preparing U.S. Students for the Global Economy

A New Plan for Common Math and Science Education Standards

Monday, Jan. 8, marks the fifth anniversary of the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) and the beginning of a comprehensive congressional examination of standards-based school reform. How has it succeeded? How has it not? Why? And how can it be improved?

While the most significant accomplishment of the standards-based school reform movement that began in the 1980s is improved national student achievement in mathematics, international comparisons of mathematics and science achievement continue to indicate sub-par American student performance. Reports suggest that high school graduates are underprepared for college: Many lack basic computational skills, much less those needed to participate in post-secondary education without remediation. Further, because of our mish-mash of state standards and accountability measures, similarly performing schools and school districts are designated either as making "adequate yearly progress" or in "need of improvement" based solely on state of residence.

On this fifth anniversary, Sen. Christopher J. Dodd (D-CT) presented the plan he has developed with Rep. Vernon Ehlers (R-MI) to upgrade math and science education as part of the next NCLB. The Standards to Provide Educational Achievement for All Kids (SPEAK) Act places special emphasis on raising and reconciling state academic standards with more rigorous national standards.

Distinguished guests, including John Engler, Bob Wise, Michael Casserly and Michael Petrilli, commented on the question of why American education standards need to be raised and harmonized, and took audience questions in a session moderated by the New America Foundation's Education Policy Director Michael Dannenberg.

Video of the event can be viewed at right, while an MP3 audio recording of this event is available below. The full text of the proposed Dodd-Ehlers bill and a one-page summary of the legislation are also available in PDF format.


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  • The Honorable Christopher J. Dodd
    United States Senator (D-CT)
  • The Honorable Vernon Ehlers (invited)
    United States Representative (R-MI)
    Ehlers was unable to attend due to inclement weather in Michigan.
  • The Honorable John Engler
    President and CEO, National Association of Manufacturers
    Former Governor of Michigan (R), 1991-2003
  • The Honorable Bob Wise
    President, Alliance for Excellent Education
    Former Governor of West Virginia (D), 2001-2005
  • Michael Casserly
    Executive Director, Council of Great City Schools
  • Michael Petrilli
    Vice President, Fordham Foundation
  • Michael Dannenberg
    Director, Education Policy Program, New America Foundation