Monday, February 19, 2007

Real Standards get On the Hill

I read with great pleasure the recent Ed Week article from Lynn Olson regarding legisative intent to set national standards. Actually, it was more like how I read National Lampoon or Mad Magazine when I was a kid.

Anyway, it seems like the politicians are hard at work looking to see what they can do next after NCLB. The Dodds-Ehlers bill—called the Standards to Provide Educational Achievement for Kids, or SPEAK, Act—is really an attempt to push states to adopt NAEP-like standards for national comparative purposes. According to Olson, the bill would provide up to $4 million in grants to each state adopting the new and voluntary "American education content standards" in math and science. These new content standards would be developed by the National Assessment Governing Board (NAGB), the overseers of NAEP. In addition, the SPEAK Act would allow the Secretary of Education to extend the 2014 deadline for No Child Left Behind for states who adopt the new standards.

Let the rhetoric begin! I have commented in this blog and elsewhere about the questions I have regarding NAEP and its standards. Why would we expect states with different content standards than those measured on NAEP to have comparable performance to NAEP? The Olson article also generates other good questions. Suppose for a minute that we (you and I) actually wanted national standards. Would we start by giving the power to create those standards to a national committee like NAGB, comprised of just a handful of people? I doubt it! Furthermore, I hear everyone claiming that our goal is to have all graduating high school students ready for college. I am not against such a goal, per say, but where was I when we debated that this was the purpose for having high school? I am not at all sure that our high schools are ready to teach the current standards, regardless of what people think about them, let alone Algebra II, Physics and Calculus required to prepare students for college.

One additional interesting comment came from the Olson article, namely a quote from noted researcher Daniel Koretz:
"If we want common content standards, we need to do some work, and it's not clear to me that a small, federally appointed board is the right place to do that."
Finally, I can agree with Koretz and be accepted into the Borg.

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