As Neal McCluskey revealed (and Greg highlighted), Checker made an excellent case against national standards… in 1997. The Weekly Standard has now allowed non-subscribers to link to the piece, so everyone can read it for him or herself.
Many of Checker’s arguments against national standards and assessments back in 1997 are remarkably similar to those of current critics.
… anything so sensitive as these tests must be run at arm’s length from the government and education-establishment tar babies. It also seemed that Congress should have something to say about the arrangements for so momentous a shift in American educational federalism….
As often in education-reform efforts, the procedure has been hijacked by the tar babies. The hijacking takes the form of contracts that are already being signed with neither congressional approval nor independent oversight.
The main contract so far is with the Council of Chief State School Officers to develop test specifications. “The chiefs,” as they’re known in educator- land, are the Washington-based association of state superintendents, and they form one of the establishment’s most change-averse crews. The chief of the chiefs, Gordon Ambach, is a former New York state commissioner of education, staunch advocate of a larger federal role in education — a key backer of Goals 2000, for example — and a veteran federal grant-getter. He and his group have an ancient and cozy relationship with the Education Department and can be counted on to do its bidding, down to such particulars as Spanish- language math tests and other worrisome wrinkles in the Clinton plan.
The current national standards and assessment craze has similarly not been authorized by Congress and is being spear-headed by the very same Council of Chief State School Officers that Checker denounced as “one of the establishment’s most change-averse crews.”
It’s hard to see what about the current national standards push is fundamentally different to justify Checker’s change of mind. I suppose people are entitled to change their views, but when they do so without being able to articulate the reasons for the change we might have to worry about how much we would trust their policy opinion.
Why was Congressional support essential then but not now? Why was the Council of Chief State School Officers unreliable back then but wonderful now?