Former IBM head Lou Gerstner, no doubt building off his appearance at the Wall Street Journal's CEO Forum, argues in today's Journal that we should, basically, nationalize k-12 education.

I recommend that President-elect Barack Obama convene a meeting of our nation's governors and seek agreement to the following:

-???????????? Abolish all local school districts, save 70 (50 states; 20 largest cities). Some states may choose to leave some of the rest as community service organizations, but they would have no direct involvement in the critical task of establishing standards, selecting teachers, and developing curricula.

-???????????? Establish a set of national standards for a core curriculum. I would suggest we start with four subjects: reading, math, science and social studies.

-???????????? Establish a National Skills Day on which every third, sixth, ninth and 12th-grader would be tested against the national standards. Results would be published nationwide for every school in America.

-???????????? Establish national standards for teacher certification and require regular re-evaluations of teacher skills. Increase teacher compensation to permit the best teachers (as measured by advances in student learning) to earn well in excess of $100,000 per year, and allow school leaders to remove underperforming teachers.

-???????????? Extend the school day and the school year to effectively add 20 more days of schooling for all K-12 students.

Over at the Bridging Differences blog, Deborah Meier argues that such an approach would take the public out of public education; she thinks we're better off when "the people making decisions about the minds and hearts of our children should be those most directly impacted by them and responsible for implementing them." But couldn't a system of charter schools bridge this divide between Meier and Gerstner? These schools would be held accountable to the national standards, but run day-to-day by the most local of educators (and parents), free from the meddling of district bureaucracies or school boards.

Still, it probably doesn't do the national standards movement any favors to have Gerstner equating that sensible approach with abolishing local control, and not just because it will give Neal McCluskey another chance to take a whack at the idea.

Lou Gerstner photograph from Washington Speakers Bureau website

Mike Petrilli is president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, research fellow at Stanford University's Hoover Institution, executive editor of Education Next, and a Distinguished Senior Fellow for Education Commission of the States. An award-winning writer, he…

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