Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Progress Towards National Standards

According to the June 11 edition of Education Week:
The National Association of Secondary School Principals calls on Congress to appoint an independent panel... to come up with a set of common guidelines for what students should know and be able to do at each grade level.
Maintaining a separate set of standards for each state simply does not make sense, and I do hope that Congress moves toward national education standards whenever NCLB is finally discussed and revised. As this article points out, "we have 50 states, which have 50 different definitions of proficiency, and NCLB never even describes what is meant by proficiency." We already know from national assessments such as NAEP that standards for proficiency vary widely between states. In this age of accountability holding students and their schools to a common standard is just common sense.

One of the original criticisms of NCLB was that it was an unfunded mandate - that states were suddenly all responsible for implementing statewide assessments without funding to support this undertaking. Streamlining this process by creating a national assessment aligned to national standards would lead to significant savings in state education budgets.

National standards would also relieve some of the inefficiencies in creating state and district curriculum. For example, I've learned that here in Ohio district technology standards are based on county standards, which are based on state standards, which are based on ISTE guidelines. Imagine the interminable faculty meetings and piles of paperwork as this process is replicated in districts across the country, and how much time could be focused on improving instructional quality instead of recreating the wheel.

However, if and when we do move towards national standards, we must ensure that the resulting standards are sufficiently challenging, and that the process for revising the standards allows for continuous updates and improvements. National standards should also allow enough flexibility for states to pilot innovations in curriculum, instruction, and assessment.


Nitin said...

While I am admittedly not well versed in the intricacies of national and state standards...

I believe we need to be careful of believing that Washington bureaucrats will be able to create the right set of standards.

One strength of allowing States to determine their own standards is that it allows 50 experiments.

If Hawaii, for example, mandates a conceptually better set of standards, then other states can quickly adopt them.

On the other hand, national standards will be very slow-moving, hard to change, and disconnected from students.

Abby Kelton said...

I share your concern that national standards risk being slow-moving and hard-to-change. But, state standards are similarly slow-moving. Are you aware of any examples of states quickly revising their standards to align with those being successful in another state? I am not.

I am aware though of many states writing standards inspired by the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, the National Council of Teachers of English, or the International Society of Technology in Education.

This is something I am still learning about though. If you're aware of any resources about this topic I should check out, please let me know.