National standards need national tests
My colleague Nick Anderson found an early copy of the new common standards for teaching and learning being advanced by the nation's governors and state school chiefs, and got the story on the front page. It is an exciting document, with a deeper approach to math and a new emphasis on students reading non-fiction, a favorite issue for me.
But as Anderson and anyone who has followed the history of education standards knows, it is a long way from proposing draft standards to having them taught well in classrooms. One roadblock may be the ongoing debate in the United States between people who think the country is too dumb and those who think it is too soft. The former group will support the new standards. The latter may object to requirements for teaching subjects that they think violate American values, like internationalism, environmentalism, feminism and evolution.
Even more important, as we have seen with the No Child Left Behind system, only what is tested gets taught. Restricting the NCLB state tests to reading and math meant many states had no incentive to teach as much science and social studies as some of us would like.
We will need tests---they will likely evolve into national tests---that are aligned with the new standards. That means changing the annual tests already used in some states, and overcoming the still widespread view that national testing undercuts states rights. I have talked to some influential governors who think it will take at least five years to have national tests, which they prefer to call common tests, in the hope of avoiding that federalism issue.
It will be interesting to see how this goes. As always, the future of our schools will be up to teachers, not standards writers. I will be listening to what the best educators I know say about this latest development.
Read Jay's blog every day at http://washingtonpost.com/class-struggle.
| March 10, 2010; 12:57 PM ET
Categories: Jay on the Web | Tags: common standards, five years for a national test, national standards, national standards need national tests, social agendas intrude on standards
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