Politics

Indian American governor of Louisiana Bobby Jindal sues the US government over educational policies

Common Core academic standards and tests impose upon states: Jindal.

By The American Bazaar Staff

NEW YORK: Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal has sued the Obama administration over the Common Core academic standards and tests, which is widely used by school in most of the states in the US, but which Jindal feels is an imposition by the federal government.

Critics, however, say that the move by Jindal is in line with his growing aspirations for a run at the White House, and try to get closer to the Tea Party base.

The latest suit by Jindal also marks the second time in a year that he has locked horns with the federal government over education, reported Politico. He and the Justice Department claimed partial victories in a dispute over a private school voucher program that the feds said affected desegregation efforts in Louisiana public schools.

In the latest skirmish, Jindal alleges that the Education Department violated federal law and the Tenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution by essentially forcing states to adopt Common Core. Through the federal Race to the Top program, states had to “enter binding agreements to adopt and fully implement a single set of federally defined content standards and to utilize assessment products created by a federally sponsored ‘consortia.’”

Race to the Top rewarded states with hundreds of millions of dollars in exchange for the adoption of new college- and career-ready assessments aligned to higher standards, among other requirements, but the Education Department didn’t define those standards or tests, said Politico.

Jindal also alleges that Common Core-aligned testing groups called PARCC and Smarter Balanced are part of an effort to nationalize curriculum, which is illegal. And waivers from the No Child Left Behind law have allowed states to “unlawfully” waive accountability requirements in exchange for adopting the Common Core.

“Furthermore, the U.S. Department of Education has made changes to the Elementary and Secondary Education Act state test review and approval process that will coerce states to adopt the federal government’s preferred tests or risk billions in federal funding,” his office added in a statement.

The Common Core is a set of standards in math and English language arts developed by state chiefs and governors across the country, among others. The testing groups Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers and Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium are developing exams for students’ mastery of those standards using Race to the Top money. Adoption of the standards and aligned tests are voluntary for states. Forty states and D.C. are forging ahead with the Common Core. That’s only a slight shift from Common Core adoption at its peak — when all but four states embraced the standards, said Politico.

According to The Washington Post, Jindal suit raises anew an important question about the Common Core that divides its supporters and its detractors: whether the initiative is just a set of standards that specify what students should learn, or a curriculum that details how they should learn it.

At the heart of the issue is also if Common Core is a curriculum or not.

What’s more, Common Core broadly describes what students are supposed to be able to do after completing each grade, but it does not include reading lists, lesson plans or other details on how teachers are to help their students achieve those goals, said the Post.

“It would be trivially easy for the lawyers representing the federal government to argue that the Common Core is not a curriculum,” said the Brookings Institution’s Russ Whitehurst. “It clearly has implications for curriculum, as any state standards would, but it is not a curriculum. It has none of the things that one would view typically as critical components of a curriculum.”

Advocates respond that that school officials might be making poor decisions about what to assign students, but that they’d do so even without a set of national standards, and that testing on Common Core will at least help districts evaluate their curricula.

Kent Talbert, a former Bush administration lawyer whose 2012 white paper appears to have been a basis for Jindal’s complaint, disagrees, says the distinction between standards and curriculum is a mere technicality. Talbert and his collaborators argued that the Obama administration knew that it would be seen as endorsing Common Core and aimed to prod states not just to adopt the new standards, but also to reform their curricula.

If the courts bought that argument, Obama could be forced to abandon many of his education policies, which rely on executive authority rather than specific legislation, pointed out the Post.

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