Back in November, Elizabeth crashed the Gates Foundation’s annual meeting and reported that the foundation was planning to turn its attention to pushing for national standards. 

Today, testifying before the the U.S. Congress Committee on Education and Labor during a hearing on high school reform, Vicki Phillips, who heads the foundation’s education division (and wants “college ready” to be the word of the day), hinted at what those standards might look like. She said a strong set of national standards would bear little resemblance to the ever-expanding lists of skills and content that most states require students to master:

The hard part of this standards process will be making the radical leap from the vast numbers of standards states have today to a focused core that can accelerate performance. Dedicating ourselves to the fewer standards of what students really need for college and career readiness will require courage. Everyone can posture about whose standards are higher — what takes courage is making the tough choices about the fewer things that demand students and teachers attention. 

Already, Phillips said, education leaders from more than 40 states have started working toward national standards, gathering last month in Chicago for an initial conversation on the topic. State Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch accompanied Education Commissioner Richard Mills to that meeting, a move that he said last week represented “a very eloquent statement” about the willingness of New York State education officials to work collaboratively with each other and with other states.