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National Standards: A Step in the Right Direction?


In an Education Week Commentary, Rudy Crew, the superintendent of the Miami-Dade County, Fla., public schools; Paul Vallas, the chief executive officer of the Philadelphia schools; and Michael Casserly, the executive director of the Council of the Great City Schools, argue that national standards would improve American education, especially in urban schools.

They write that urban school administrators and teachers are convinced that the most effective way to overcome challenges posed by poverty and other factors is not to lower expectations, but to raise them. Ultimately, national standards and tests, they say, could help ask and answer questions that could never be posed using state tests alone. Eventually, they believe, such standards and tests would help raise the quality of public education in the nation's cities and build a foundation for economic progress.

What do you think? Would national standards help or hurt U.S. education?


National standards would be a great way to make sure that all students in the USA are getting a higher quality education. Too many states have very lax standards, and this is not fair to the students living in those states. We need to raise the bar for students, and they will rise to the challenge.

Presently, I am a Substitute Teacher while working on finishing my BA in Mathematics (5-12) with teaching licensure. I cannot believe how bad the Math standards are in my state. In fact, I cannot believe how bad the Math standards are in the US. I come from Canada, where the academic standards are much higher. Even 25 years ago, I had a better education than what most American students are receiving today - that is so incredibly sad.

This is not the only thing that we need to do to improve the public education system.

We need to also deal with the problems of classroom discipline. Students think they control the class, from what I have seen, and it is time to give complete authority back to the teacher.

Parents also have to stop thinking that their child is definitely "college material." Reality check here... Not all students are capable, nor want a college education. The sooner parents realise this, the better off we will be. I don't understand why we don't have technical/vocational high schools for children that are not academically inclined.

I agree completely! After over 50 years in public education,I find the state tests are so varied, there is no way to measure progress on an equitable basis. One national test, administered by ETS, would be a great help.And let's stop the crazy NCLB program, and work on reforms such as those recommended bt the National Commission on Education and the Economy!

Standards! We don't need no stinking standards!

There seems to be a habit of standardization going on throughout the world of education. The problem is that there are no standard children. Students are not a product that come out of a school with one of those "Inspected by #....." tags. The USDA cannot even keep up with all the food that is being shipped to all the stores in the U.S. The USDE will hardly be able to even set standards, let alone come up with i=one test to measure those standards. I agree that NCLB should be shredded and the paper recycled into something useful. ETS has shown itself to be marginally capable of producing and grading exams. It was barely one year ago that nearly ten percent SAT scores were somehow compromised and the only explanation offered was that the answer sheets may have somehow gotten damp due to unusually humid conditions. Leave the standards to the schools and the teachers. Leave the testing and assessment to the teachers and the grading system should be left alone. The system is not broken and it does not need fixing. Many schools could use physical improvements and some should be demolished and new ones built. The money should be going to where it is needed, not to silly standards and useless testing.

Certainly children come in all sizes and shapes, none standard. However, I am glad that there are standards on children's clothing to ensure that their pajamas are flame-retardant. I am glad to know that the milk that I buy for my children meets a government standard,at the turn of the 20th century mothers were coming together as volunteers to put together pure milk stations--because in the absense of government standards the available milk supply could be watered at best and tainted at worst.

Those same mothers were engaged in such government efforts as birth registration--a government effort that led to the ability to assess the infant death rate--and for the first time make a link to poverty, and spurred government efforts to set standards that helped to evaluate the health of babies (weight gain, growth, walking, talking, etc) using benchmarks that helped to determine when there was a problem.

Actually, National Standards (and I hate to agree with the Fordham Fdn--but I think that they have a decent ramp up plan from voluntary adoption onward), would certainly be one way to turn federal $ into something that states could use in a fairly efficient way. If there was universal adoption, testing programs could also be developed nationally, rather than state by state--another efficiency. Face it--fifty states had to leap into something that they weren't (all) doing (standards/assessments)--and we have fifty learning curves.

We have to be cognizant of the other standards models available globally. I would think that adopting national standards would be a great weight off of most states.

National standards, if valid and practical, are defensible. Why wouldn't every state, community, school, parent and student wish to meet a standard representing a threshold of success (if it does so)?

I would argue however the choice of whether and how to accomplish the 'standard' be the choice of states and communities. Greater choice, greater will. As it stands now a good deal of local funding is linked, directly or indirectly, to federal expectations, i.e. perform or else. Essentially, the government is a parent imposing its will. In reality, the funds (or allowance) used to gain local conformity, are funds we've given the federal government .. our taxes are used to control us. Local choice has eroded, but the cost of education has not. To the point, states and local communities need to regain their voice (and indeed their responsibility to) in determining whether and how to meet or exceed standards our government has, through research and practical involvement, developed.

Again, I find little offensive about having national standards ... standards indicative of our country being competitive in the world and establishing a foundation of decent values .... but feel a) local communities can do a better job of staging the achievement of the standards, and b) that bullying using one's own resources against oneself, is probably the worst way to achieve anything.

My experience in life has been that stakeholders are more motivated to achieve results if they have had the opportunity to buy-in and are part of the solution. Further, there is a huge difference between setting standards and telling people how to do something. A national standard is good .... how we achieve it needs to be addressed.

National standards could serve as a viable and effective means to raise student performance as long as the assessments are developed to measure higher order thinking.

While being the principal of a 100% Air Force elementary school, I have tracked data for the past three years of every new student's reading performance. Believe me when I say there is a variance in the level of performance in the students depending on the states from which they come. When chatting with parents and asking about the location of the previous school, I have to be careful not to show negative facial expressions when certain states are mentioned. I know the liklihood is greater that students will not be up to par when arriving from certain locations.

National standards would be a good way to try to achieve equity among the states' educational systems.
One concern might be how achievement would be compared between states after national standards had been instituted. If there were to be punitive federal consequences i.e. NCLB, differences in demographics and other factors should be taken into account.
Another serious concern is who choses the standards. In California, the standards are high but many are not developmentally appropriate and there are too many of them. This has created a breadth versus depth problem. Teachers should work together with experts in each field to create and revise standards.

Discussion regarding the "raising" of standards to a national level is a dynamic kind of problem.

Education is the kind of thing wherein high expectations are needed to reach reasonable standards of testing to determine promotion.

If we project high expectations into standardized testing to assess abilities for promotion, however, we run the risk of perpetuating institutionalized prejudice. Consider the problem of history texts that had been exclusively written by the majority race. Are our politics to be continually determined by the standards established in the past? What will that do to a legitimate expectation for progress in the improvement of society?

It is not only our expectations of student performance that needs to remain high. Our expectations of the expressions of the national standards has to remain high in terms of formulating reasonable test questions to assess abilities that are used in the determination
to allow promotion through the grades of the school system.

Clear, concise and relevant test questions are not as easy to establish as are the cries for "raising" the standards to national levels of competence.

Steve K.

Given all of the TIMSS countries that outscore the US have content specific national standards it is apparent content specific standrds are a key part of their high average levels of academic success. Parents need to know the specifics of what their child should learn in each subject and at each grade level especially in math, science and reading. State standards are seldom if ever content specific. The existing general standards do not let parents know what words their child needs to be able to pronounce, define, or use in a sentence nor do they let a parent know what math problems their child needs to be able to solve and understand. Content specific standards allow everyone in the system to be on the same page at the same time.

Comparing educational systems based on the results of TIMSS is like comparing apples with oranges. All of the nations that score higher than the US have national standards for all school aged children. The US and Canada are among the few nations that actually attempt to educate all children. In many Asian nations that lead the US in TIMSS scores, there are whole groups of minority children that either do not attend school or do not attend schools that are tested. It would be nice if all students in each grade could be on the same page of the same text, at the same time, but it is not logistically reasonable in the multi-cultural society we live in.

Five years ago NCLB began its journey. Now we want to exert national standards as a way to improve student learning. NCLB has actucally left children behind. One of the goals of NCLB was to close the gap between low and high SES. Five years later the gap is wider and the drop out rate is higher. As with national standards, I don't think that will solve any educational issues. Two things to remember. First "one size does not fit all". Second we educate the multitude. Many other countries do not.

National standards in education are exactly what was done in Poland when the communists came into that country. They wanted to get control of the minds of the people at a very young age. At the governor's conference there was talk of getting rid of school boards, because they are not capable of preparing schools for the 21st Century. Parents are ultimately responsible for the education of their children, and should not lose all voice in the matter to the government. Because we set a standard, does not necessarily mean that all children will meet it. "You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink." The standards may limit some children because they narrow the thinking, they limit the teaching, and they are not a true measure of a child's ability when they are set by a test, which is only specific facts. Of course, teachers need guidelines in which to do their work, but they do not need strict standards from the government that may or may not have the people's best interest at heart.

National standards would help create consistency in what is being taught across the nation. As a parent, I have always paid more attention to how my children have performed on norm-referenced tests than on the state developed tests. Why? Because it compares my child's performance on a basic set of skills to children across the country. What if I move to another state? Our children will primarily be competing for jobs with applicants from around this nation. Forget about how competitive we are with other nations, we have closer to home issues. Within our own country - there are vastly divergent standards of what is considered "on grade level". A child that is educated in West Virginia, for example, should expect to have the same basic skill set and level of proficiency for each grade level as one who grew up in Ohio or California or Texas. And the employers in our country deserve that consistency. The problem with all standards-based testing right now is that we tie merit pay to it. This incents states and districts to get as many kids to meet standards as possible - whether they really meet them or not. Instead, standards should dictate minimum content requirements and what qualifies as demontrating competency, and the results should be used by teachers as a diagnostic tool to further individualize for each child's deficiencies.

It's amazing that private schools, with uncertified teachers, are "smart" enough to set their standards and compete for students.

Public schools, supported with public funds, directed by certified administrators, and run by certified teachers, aren't "smart" enough to set their own standards. In public schools, everyone is an idiot not to be trusted, especially kids, parents, and teachers.

Each school should set its own damn standards. Each family should choose a school that matches their own value system.

Stop playing God.

I recommend checking out Susan Ohanian's website and books for examples of how universal, compulsory standards set as back and hurt kids.

Education is personal. Each of us is on a different path, moving at a different speed, and in search of different destinations. The idea that there is a single pathway (or that some blue ribbon panel has figured out the one true way to a perfect life) is a joke.

Once you get out of schools, you see that there is no such thing as meaningless grades and meaningless standards. Real accountability comes in the work we do and the relationships we create and sustain.

There are no standards to being an adult. We each create our own. Let's allow our children the same individuality.

I look forward to National Standards, only because it will hasten the end of our compulsory, one-size-fits all "brain-washing" system.

Bring it on. Bring on the National Tests. Bring on the National Grades. Bring on the National Textbooks. Bring on the National Teachers.

We'll go through hell first, but eventually the entire system will combust and we'll have real liberty, real choice, and real opportunity for young people.

I am a Title 1 teacher with 25 years of classroom experience. National Standards would solve a number of problems. It would alleviate gaps in students' acquisition of academic content caused by students' moving from one state to another, it would alleviate teacher workload caused by tasking teachers to rewrite standards every few years, and utilization of national standards might well encourage school systems throughout the country to gather and discuss how to better meet the needs of all students. With adoption of national standards, states might be encouraged to send a group of teachers from all 50 states to meet and discuss the standards in relation to the content and methods they use in their classrooms---wouldn't it be useful for our nation's teachers to meet often to discuss what works and what doesn't work? Adopting national standards would not prevent teachers from making decisions on methods or lessons most appropriate for their classes. Educators are well aware that every class is different and that methods and lessons should be reviewed/analyzed often---lessons used for last year's classes will not necessarily be appropriate for subsequent classes. But, having a national menu that all teachers use would allow for more "fair"comparisons of what works and what doesn't. If states are going to be graded with a national report card, then maybe all states need to be responsible for a core curriculum.

It is interesting to read eveyones take on National Standards. It is difficult for me to equate children and their learning to standards for clothes, or food etc. Children have a response to what is done to them. They can accept or reject it. They can choose to co-operate or not. They can pay attention or not. They can try to succeed or not. They can go to school or quit. When we think about National Standards do we mean all students are taught the same information and expected to respond to it in the same way. I know a young girl who passed the high school exit exam in her sophomore year. She figured there was no need for her to continue in high school. There was nothing else for her to achieve. How sad! We shouldn't ask more of our children than we do of ourselves. Where are our standards? It is because of our diversity that we have achieved so much in this country. Anything that destroys confidence cannot be good for education. Standards can destroy confidence when one tries to push a "round peg into a square hole".

National standards would be an excellent way of unifying contents and skills throughout the nation. Our nation seems to be investing so much resources in education, yet in some areas it appears that such resources are not available. I concur with those who say that the standards should be raised, however such should be done with equity and consistency.

That been said, I also believe that the standards for highly qualified teachers should also be at the national level. This would mean that both the states and educational colleges would have to be in sinck with those at a national level plan.
The educational success of other contries stems from having a national educational department which oversees the nation's educational programs, to include both students and teachers.

It is nice to consider changes, but it is best to improve on what we already have in place, and create a system that would give success to every child in the nation. I believe we can, we have the manpower and capability.

Who cares if all students memorize the same content? Seriously, how do we decide what ALL students must know? Do all students need to memorize the periodic table of elements? Do all students need to recite the platform of the Know Nothing party? Do all students need to be fluent in multiple languages? Do all students need to know how to find the tangent to a curve?

Seriously, once you get past basic literacy, there is NO AGREEMENT as to what all children need. This should be obvious of course, since we're all individuals.

National standards are about conformity. Policy makers like to imagine the world a giant chess board that they control. Give it up already.

Having National Standards is a good way to focus our countries efforts around education nationally. (Well explained by a previous writer.) The methods used to help all students accomplish meeting the standards should be not be nationally prescribed. There should be adequate funding to support equal access to excellent materials, teachers, facilities, class size, and needed supports to all schools throughout the nation. Assessment instruments should be standardized and include a suite of formats that allow children with special needs to be assessed in a way that allows them to express what they know. Assessments instruments should be designed to be formative as well as summative, giving teachers periodic diagnostic information that will help guide their instruction.

Not all subject areas are ready, yet, for national standards. We do not even know, for instance, what logical progression of science concepts at what grade levels are needed for building science understanding K-12. We also do not know, given the current access to advanced pedagogical tools not available a decade ago, at what age students are developmentally ready to learn which particular science concepts. We should focus a concentrated national research effort to learn this important information, based on empirical evidence.

Until we really understand a lot better than we do now, the best way that children learn science (and other subjects) it does not make much sense to institute national standards, however worthy a goal. Until we can get better at assessing our childrens' understanding than administering a multiple choice exam once a year, any standard for learning is in danger of being poorly measured. Regurgitation or identification of memorized facts is not a valid measure of learning, nor an appropriate goal of learning.

Lastly, standards should be subject to regular review, to make certain that they evolve appropriately, as our knowledge base evolves. The state of CA has adopted science standards that fly in the face of what we know to be good pedagogy (addressed by a previous writer). They are actually diminishing a child's access to understanding science concepts. There has got to be a possible recourse when a mistake that large negatively impacts children's learning!

I agree. Children will do what you expect of them; if you expect nothing, they will do nothing. But give them a challenge and they will rise to the occasion to the best of their abilities. It is too bad that students living in an urban area are stereotyped just because of their living location. These are some of the best and brightest students you will ever find. It just takes the right kind of teacher to bring out their best. Look at who they are, whose they are and I guarantee you they will give you their very best. Are they perfect? No and they should not be expected to be such. There are more troubles and problems with suburban kids than urban. But look at who gets the publicity and not always at the right time or the right kind. I believe in the "children of the city" because they are diamonds in the rough.

We're missing the point. School shouldn't be preparation for a trivia game.

Most of the work done in school is pointless, in that it isn't connected to the real world. Who cares if a student has studied trigonometry, memorized the formulas, and regurgitated them on the test? It means NOTHING! It proves NOTHING! Can they use it in the real world? Can they apply their learning to actually DESIGN AND BUILD A HOUSE? After all, that's what trigonometry is for.

That's my problem with standards. Just having kids memorize more trivia doesn't mean anything. In fact, it's wasting our most precious commodity, TIME.

How about the following as national standards:

All students will be able to build their own house.

All students will be able to repair their own car.

All students will be able to grow their own food.

All students will be able to take care of themselves physically, emotionally, and spiritually.

All students will be able to live within a budget and invest through businesses, real estate, and stocks.

All students will be able to be their own boss, run their own small businesses, and manage their own time.

All students will be able to influence others through writing and public speaking.

All students will be able to contribute to the welfare of their communities by initiating meaningful service projects.

Now these are national standards that actually might mean something.

National standards are the manifest destiny of education reform. Whether people in this country like it or not, they're coming to a school district near you, soon! There is already substantial bipartisan support for this legislation in Washington.

Too many states are currently administering "feel good" tests, relative to the federal tests administered by the National Assessment of Educational Progress, commonly referred to as the "nation's report card."

In 2005 Tennessee tested its eighth-grade students in math and found eighty-seven percent of their students performed at or above proficient while the NAEP test indicated only 21 percent of Tennessee's eighth graders proficient in math. In Mississippi, 89 percent of fourth graders performed at or above proficient on the state reading test, while only 18 percent demonstrated proficiency on the federal test. In Alabama 83 percent of fourth-grade students scored at or above proficient on the state reading test while only 22 percent were proficient on the NAEP test. In Georgia, 83 percent of eighth graders scored at or above proficient on the state reading test, compared with just 24 percent on the federal test.

Oklahoma, North Carolina, West Virginia, Nebraska, Colorado, Idaho, Virginia, and Texas were also found guilty as charged in the area of "truth in advertising" where their determinations of proficient didn't seem to match what the NAEP test indicated.

The duplicitous attempts by these states to declare their students proficient by 2014 to satisfy the NCLB legislation has created a firestorm of demands for federal standards with corresponding assessments as the only reliable indicator of student performance at the taxpayers' and parents' disposal.

Children come first!, the moment we start loosing that, we are no longer doing our job of educating children, which is what this is all about.
We also have to remember that there is no standard child, which has been said several times. The best education for the child would be for the teacher to meet each individual's child's needs at every moment every day.
The other thing we are missing is these children in urban areas sometimes have bigger issues, mom or dad was taken to jail last night, don't get enough food at home, have to help take care of grandma and four sibblings. I am not saying kids in the suburbs don't have these problems just these need to be adressed first before anyone can ask or expect these children to perform differently. Granted, education will help them get out of this situation they need help first.
In regards to a statement above about mother's taking charge and fixing the problem. We need to do that today, schools, teachers, and classrooms need more parent, and community support.
One more point, standards can be good to get everyone on the same page, however then you have everyone on the same page. It does not leave much room or time to go above, or at least in reality that doesn't happen. I know of teachers who have had to give up several of their supplemental activities because they just don't have the time with the added pressure of the standards.

Motivating students to learn is the key issue and hope for our nation. In my humble opinion, the best way to improve performance of students that are below any of a thousand different standards is with classroom differentiation using all the tricks teachers can muster from past successes to modern theory. National standards will not take the place of the attention needed by some students especially those in need of extra effort by teachers. We need to put the grease in the front lines where the teaching happens.

Ultimately, I am not against assessments that can gauge certain proficiencies if scaled to realty; i.e., that academic acumen is distinguishable from knowledge that provides self-efficacy, employment, innovation, and entrepreneurship. I also agree with others in that it would be nice for teachers to meet national certification standards and licensure and be able to move freely among the states. Likewise, there would be advantages of students meeting certain content proficiencies that can transfer between states and districts. Now, I see only smoke and greater disparities of equity. One thing for certain though, this dialog must continue and open minds must prevail. If not, I see a whole nation left behind.

I strongly support national standards! As an educator for over 50 years it is clear that America's public schools need national standards so taxpayers can see how far behind other nations our children are. And I urge the federal and state governments to pay the lion's share of quality public schools, beginning with tax-supported preschools for the 3 to 5 year olds. America needs to get going and make quality public schools a top priority! Children are our future!

Implementing national standards in the U.S. if done appropriately, with a cadre of educators/non-educators alike, might definitely improve the state of our nation's schools. Not only financially in terms of the synergies that could be had when talking about implementation and adoption, but also instructionally IF and only IF accommodations are made to ensure that students and children of all cultures are taken into account. Removing biases from nationwide tests would be impossible, so what else to do?

What about implementing standards that are achievable and RELEVANT to today's society. I like what Joel stated in his numerous recommendations for "standards" in the comments above. Technical education has all but been removed from our society, why? When the average working person will go through various jobs in their lifetime far from the days of one 25 year employ), why are we limiting student's perception of what life will be like. Most students are lucky they make it to a 12th grade education with the national drop out rate somewhere around 60% (quoted in various articles). What is it about schools that is failing them??? Is it us, as educators, us as parents, us as a country?

There are plenty of educational reformers out there, armed with brain research to help us understand how to teach / learn better. There are innovators, like George Lucas, Steve Jobs, and Bill Gates who are working with organizations, national organizations, global organizations to change the shape of education. We know what our children respond to, ask any parents who needs a few minutes to themselves and they'll tell you. So what is it about a classroom that turns them off? Do we give them what they want - gaming, technology, computers, free time? Everything in moderation you say? How about listening to them and finding a happy medium. Or are we just too good for that? Are we happier convincing ourselves that we are doing the best we can and that they will thank us one day. That one day is coming, the day they rebel against us because we can't give them what they need and want in order to survive, exist and succeed. Success comes in various ways - enjoyment of life is one important measure. How many of us are happy with ours?

Give me measurable outcomes other than nationwide tests and I am sure you'll have the best of the best coming out to help your cause. Teach them to speak, read and write and you are more than halfway there. Take the population that you have and draw upon their strengths, across language barriers, across cultures. How about making this country the first bi-lingual country in the world...oh, they already have those? How about helping our children to catch up, to become global citizens, to expand their imagination and draw upon the creativity that other countries envy so much? How about sending educators around the world to share in ideas?

Oh and one other thing...where does bureaucracy fit into education? Where did unions come from and what is their role in today's society? What is our global intention and is the government doing something about it? Let's evaluate the good, the bad and the ugly and come to a happy medium there too. There's enough change to be made, it's time we revamped from the inside out.

Achieving 12th grade and graduation are certainly high marks and should be for all students. I seriously doubt that over half of all students in the U.S. are dropping out, as suggested by the "60% droput rate" posed by the last post. Certainly many, and one is too many, students do drop out. The reasons are widely varied, from unwanted pregnancy and a need to work to just plain lack of interest. One thing is fairly certain. That is that raising the bar higher is not going to encourage those already missing the mark to try harder. They will be encouraged to slip under the bar or simply walk away, Minimum competencies are a good idea and nationally achievable. This is far different from a national standard. The educational system should do what it was and is designed to do, teach students to read, write and do arithmetic. Once those minimums have been reached, we can look towards advancing into the higher realms.

The dropout rate, from the newspapers, was 30%(for the state) between freshman year to high school graduation. But some urban schools districts had a 50% dropout rate. National standards, if they were a measurement of how the U.S. compares internationally would be a good thing for any student or parent to know. Keeping them free of politics and the latest educational fad would be the most difficult thing.

Standards, national or otherwise, do not teach children. Teachers do. Even if we could agree on standards, every teacher still must be equipped with high quality instructional materials that can be implemented with fidelity. What is lost in this debate is the role of the educational publisher. If teachers and administrators are to be held accountable, why aren't publishers? Our tax dollars purchase curriculum yet, for many students, the curriculum is failing them. Let's hold publishers accountable for student achievement too. Why not ask publishers to guarantee their programs will teach each child?

High national standards are a start in making certain that students in all states are receiving the highest quality education possible. However, these high standards MUST be for both students AND educators. As an educator, I am sickened by the "blow-off classes" that we all know exist in schools today.
If we raise the standards across all disciplines and hold students accountable for their learning, there will be improvements. Establish high national standards and attach public financial assistance to student attendance and classroom achievement and you will see improvements immediately!

In our highly mobile society, national standards would certainly make school a more welcoming place for our children. Imagine walking into a new school in the middle of the year (every other year)and only having to learn the names of your new classmates and teachers, not spend time figuring out the new books, new curriculum, new levels of expectations. What child wouldn't achieve more in an environment that isn't so overwhelming? Where do I sign up to help with this issue?

I have been puzzled, since the advent of NCLB, as to how the government believes that it can assess the quality of the nation's schools in the absence of clearly defined national standards. To me this seems akin to testing a class full of students on a topic in which they have been provided little instruction; in which students are ignorant of the learning goals for that topic; and where the teachers are ignorant of all information regarding just what it is about that topic that's important for students to know.
That said, I also confess my dismay at the belief of our educational leaders that high stakes testing is the be all and end all of assessing student knowledge and ability. Well developed national standards should provide a broad framework to guide the work of schools across the nation. Beyond that, let's provide our teachers with decent pay, with the tools they need to teach, and lets focus on school improvement rather than school failure.

National Standards exist in almost every other developed country, and their educational outcomes for the average student are streets ahead of the USA. These standards, programs and examinations are now coupled with course work evauation so that students are not simply evlauted on high stakes testing, but testing is a feature of educational life in other countries and students and teachers do not get as uptight about it as they do here in the US. Possibly because there is not the same inane preponderance on multiple choice questions. Testing routinely involves cloze questions, matching and short answer questions. Yes they are more involved to grade...but..yes, maybe...we as educators need to think more clearly on evaluating students this way rather than running an answer key quickly over a students answer sheet or stucking it in a scnatron machine. Spending time on helping and evaluating how students test can be a very worthwhile thing to do. National standards and testing if done right can be a very in depth and rewarding way to go. Go outside the US to see how it works and improve on the experiences gained by other nations. What a concept, actually going outside our own back yard to be better educators, wow!

Indoctrination is not education. Teaching to National Standards will not educate, but it will create a society of non-thinking, obedient followers who cooperate and do just what they are told. Creative minds will be squashed at a very early age. Imaginations will never be allowed expression. There will be no time for curiousity.
Federal standards will be the government telling us everything about what our children need to know. Who they need to become and how they need to think in order to survive the system. This country is great because of all the best minds coming here to express themselves. Perhaps other countries have more strict standards in their schools, but for what reason? Most of them want to come here, to express themselves among our people who are open to new ideas. Strict standards narrow the thinking and ultimately we will be a nation of followers not leaders. Is that what we want in the name of education?

For those of you in support of NATIONAL STANDANDS, what should they be? In a previous post, JOEL suggested some that I could support because they're linked to the real world and they're personalized for every student. I am reposting his ideas below. Unfortunately, when people talk about national standards, they're not thinking like Joel; they are confusing memorizing trivia with useful education.

How about the following as national standards:

All students will be able to build their own house.

All students will be able to repair their own car.

All students will be able to grow their own food.

All students will be able to take care of themselves physically, emotionally, and spiritually.

All students will be able to live within a budget and invest through businesses, real estate, and stocks.

All students will be able to be their own boss, run their own small businesses, and manage their own time.

All students will be able to influence others through writing and public speaking.

All students will be able to contribute to the welfare of their communities by initiating meaningful service projects.


To successfully impliment National Standards, public schools will need more funds. Especially in cities where English is a second language. Do we believe that the current federal administration is going to give the schools the funding it needs to make this happen?
Not in our wildest dreams....

I am all for national standards. With the mobility of children in this country, it would be of greater service to them and their parents,our customers,if they were held to one set of expectations regardless of where they live. In my experience, the need for national expectations is critical when working with children with disabilities. My experience was in an urban district with another state just across the river. Of course, they had an entirely different set of standards for qualifying children for services. When children arrived from the other state who qualified in that state for services, after the 45 days of service and re-evaluation, these students then would not qualify in our state. What a nightmare for kids and parents. Who are we in business to help? Yes I am all for national standards not only for regular education, but in the area of serving children with disabilities as well. Is this not "one country"? Well, it is time for our education system to get the message and set appropriate and high expectations for our children.

National standards are a fraud, as are state standards, as our county standards. The only standards that matter are those of the individual. There is no single "right" way to live. Education is not simply memorizing facts, it's about developing a life philosophy and structuring one's life accordingly. When we try to impose a universal curriculum, what we're really saying is that:

1. People are idiots who can't be trusted. We need to save ordinary people from themselves by telling them what to learn, when to learn, how to learn.

2. Certain "experts" have it all figured out and we need to learn exactly what they say, in the sequence they demand.

3. If you aren't obedient to the demands of the experts, you'll get bad grades and bad test scores and you'll have a bad life.

Of course, any classroom teacher with more than a year's experience knows ALL of these assumptions are completely bogus. We know them to be false, but we continue to peddle them to protect the money flowing into the "education industry" - contractors, consultants, text book publishers, administrators, specialists, ect.

The problem with national standards is their is not in place a national standard curriculum, teacher certification(though I am not 'big' on certification because it stifles educators) school certification, etc. It is sad when a student moves from a rural school in the southwest to a urban school in the northeast and he has to start a grade lower than were he came from. Doesn't DODS have unified curriculum so when the service personnel transfer from one school to anther the students will always be able to step in and go on with no real problems? If they don't I would be surprised. This is the kind of unification we should have along with testing. I realize the problems with culture and uniqueness of colloquialism. I believe that could be worked out. When I was in Mission work I traveled from church to church, north to south and east to west. Because my children were home schooled with a curriculum from a satellite school. Where ever we went, we found other churches using the same material; and usually we were all on the same page at the same time. So I know a national curriculum with national testing can work. It can also work keeping the local flavor intact.
The biggest problem is inconsistence do to funding, and lack of personnel in one area and too many in another. Standardize curriculum, testing and certification across the board no matter the ability to pay, then we will have children who learn with equality across all lines. This too will make training teachers easier as well. In a matter of speaking we already do that with other disciplines; medicine, computer tech, auto tech and with exception to code differences the building trades are also using standardized curriculum. So we see it works, lets just do it. Oh, don't forget the list of objectives from Matt’s letter, all student will be able to simple repairs on their car, house, lawn mower, etc.. This must be part of the standard lesson as well, so our children will know the common knowledge elements of life. If I can take my Chevy to a mechanic in Alabama, or in Michigan and get the identical work done because they were trained from identical curriculum in two different schools in 2 different states, why can’t this be said for all the other K-12 curriculum.

National Standards?? Who will pick them? Rush Limbaugh? Hillary Clinton?

The whole point of local control over education is to keep competitiveness in the system. When districts compete with their neighboring districts then they have to be better to draw in the businesses and the families that follow to keep their areas growing.

National Standards equals even more governmental control which equals even larger government. We all know how efficient large bureaucracies can be, don't we? Aren't we all enjoying the big government NCLB process?

Re-read the editorial "Truthiness in Education". The people that will pick these wonderful national standards are the same people that are researching the education out of education. National standards will be the death blow to education as we know it.

The wide range of responses shows just how complex this topic is. I have conducted a 20-year study of educational ideas and practices (both in the classroom and after my retirement), and with this perspective find some of the comments to be well thought out and compelling; others are emotionally charged repetitions of a century-old opposition to content study in school.

However, the major impediment to making progress, if there were a real national debate, is that there is no common definition of the terms used. People react to different ideas when they hear the term "national standards;" even the word "education" has many meanings: associations, overtones, etc. in peoples' minds. I have found it extremely difficult to talk about our schooling because so many people are convinced that only one way is right "and that is the one I am familiar with, no matter how many other ideas are possible." Without a common vocabulary we will continue to flounder in trying to improve school education.

A movement for National State Standards comes at a time when administrators and teachers are all too familiar with the complexities of No Child Left Behind: testing to make annual yearly progress, changing requirements for highly qualified teachers, and publishing lists of schools “in need of improvement.” Clearly I believe the legislative intentions were sound, but the reality of applying more regulation and additional testing to already overburdened, overtested and underfunded school systems pushes our resources closer to empty. Do we again divert money to entrenching bureaucracy, testing costs, and compiling data while school buildings crumble, students use outdated textbooks, and teachers scramble to provide classroom space and desks while teaching large sized classes? Property owners in the state of New Jersey vote down school budgets that rely heavily on local property taxes while the federal government dictates education mandates to us without covering the costs. What happened to putting your money where your mouth is?
You want to talk about National State Standards, then first fully fund all existing federal and state school mandates. Second, create and maintain a system of federal and state funding for schools that provides quality facilities and programs to all New Jersey students. Third, through use of best practice, support and praise, all strategies of a master teacher, let our federal and state departments of education guide school districts to raise student achievement.

Having national standards would be a great way of gathering and brining together contents throughout the nation. There are alot of interesting comments about his article and some I agree with and some I do not. I do believe that it is important that we continue to find ways to make national education better and more unifyed. I also beleive that we as a nation need to continue to raise the level of expectations and make it more challenging to our students that can handle it. Let's face it, student will do what you INSPECT not EXPECT so we have to continue to assess oue students. I also belive that by having national standards it will make it easy for those students that do get moved from schol to school for whatever reason. Again, unify content and stayign consistent so that the student does not have to start all over againin his/her new school. What I do think that we as eduactors forget about is our ability to teach our students, that no matter what the content is if there were in NJ and moved to PA, the love to learn. A lot of the content that students learn today in our classrooms they will forget because it is not interesting or it wasn't taught to them in a way that it was engaging. If we can focus on teaching our students the love of learning then to me it won't make a difference were they live or how much money the district has.

The authors of this article present an extremely convincing argument in favor of national standards. They argue that national standards can help raise the quality of public education in the nation’s cities. The key illustration of their position comes from the results on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), a voluntary set of rigorous tests taken by students nationwide. The authors suggest the results of this test demonstrate a profound disparity in the quality of education from state-to-state. National standards would seemingly promote a level playing field for our students. They would reduce the temptation by states to lower academic standards under the weight of NCLB. National standards would provide us with a common definition of academic proficiency while helping our students compete in a global marketplace. National Standards would also, according to the authors, determine who is making the most progress and how they are doing it. The authors strengthen their argument by citing politicians who are backing the movement. In short, national standards seem to be the answer to all of our educational woes.
I found this article to be so eloquent, that I nearly changed my position on the idea of national standards. I agree with the assessment that not all public school systems are created equal and that there is a severe disparity in performance levels from district to district. I am often dismayed by the realization that students in affluent communities with soaring property taxes are receiving a better education than students living in a neighboring town. I am dismayed however, by the one-sided viewpoint presented by the authors. Shouldn’t we be wary of reforms when the author suggests we make them a priority now rather than “debate how they might be achieved”? I also was not reassured by the citation of politicians who have jumped on the bandwagon for national standards. I would have rather studied a table of empirical evidence demonstrating these standards will help our students. John Dewey warned us against this push for a nationalistic definition of education. He used the European experience (particularly the German experience) in which “the new idea of the importance of education for human welfare and progress was captured by national interests and harnessed to do a work whose social aim was definitely narrow and exclusive.” I agree with the authors that there is a need to make education equally successful for all students. I am still concerned, however, as to the implementation of national standards and precisely how they will benefit our students.

The proposal of national standards is a debate that has to be carefully studied before making any decision that could affect our students. Every state has educational standards that must be met by the curriculum; however, some states have higher standards than others. In many ways, this is a huge disadvantage for those states where standards are less demanding, but in some other ways, those states that have more challenging standards could suffer also.
There are many arguments that lean toward implementing national standards in our educational system. First, it would eliminate the discrepancy between students in different states. For instance, what happens to a student who moves from South Carolina to New Jersey, a state with higher standards? That student may have been a star student in South Carolina, but when met with the standards in New Jersey, he might have a harder time. In the other hand, are the higher standards too demanding?
That brings up a second argument. Employing national standards may be beneficial for the states that have lower state standards, but what does it do for the states whose standards are more arduous? It would not be right to make those states lower their standards. By the same token, when is the right time to raise the state standards for those states that need it? In some cases, raising the standards in certain states could lead to setting those students up for failure. Maybe, if instead to implementing national standards, the federal government could work with those states whose standards are lower to raise their objectives, as opposed to involve those who are doing fine. I believe that putting national standards into practice, will take away the independent decisions of each state.
Before making any decisions, there are factors to be weighed. Is it a disservice to students who do not have to reach as high of a standard? Is there any other way to improve some states’ education without involving every state? Before any of the standards are addressed, these questions need to be answered. Education has been around for a long time, and the states have managed with only state standards.

Developing national standards is not the way to assist students in meeting the goals they need to become productive and successful members of society. National standards will be as trivial as the state standards that are in place today. Teachers are being forced to teach to the test and students are being taught that the only purpose for learning is performance on one yearly standardized test. If national standards are developed, teachers will just change the material that they are teaching. They will teach students the material that is based on the national standards that will be assessed on the new national test. Teachers have more than the ability to help students perform on a standardized test. Teachers need to be allowed the opportunity to teach students about how to acquire knowledge and how to make connections among subject matter and how it translates to the real world and students need to be allowed the opportunity to find their own love of learning just for the sake of learning, not because it is going to be on the test.

In a time when we find a curiously strong and slightly biased national attention on our educational system, especially through the view of NCLB, I believe it is imperative that we develop a national curriculum that can be a true barometer of our students weaknesses as well as strengths. Whether completely national or national with regional "modifications" something needs to be done to work toward a level playing field for American students. The educational/political climate today is putting heavy scrutiny on our public school system and using different standardized achievement test scores as valid indicators in this battle. This pressure has in effect caused states and local boards of education to adjust, finagle, and realign their philolosophies and educational goals to satisfy unwarranted and often uninformed outside pressures, this is a very dangerous situation. Without a set of national academic standards we will continue to find ourselves in the educational quandary which now envelopes schools across the United States in which each state and often each district sets their own academic standards. With the fear of lost funding and the looming cloud of NCLB, these academic choices are not always with the child's needs or best interest in mind, instead fiscal demands, standardized testing requirements and uninformed international score comparisons (U.S. test scores are often compared to similar scores of "European" style secondary schools, not comprehensive high school test results) are producing knee-jerk solutions that are often detrimental to educations true purpose, educating our children.
In the U.S. we have many things to be proud of with our public school system, it is probably the most idealized, criticized, and regularly re-invented school system in the world and yet we manage to offer every American child the educational opportunities needed to potentially make their “American Dream” come true. In a nation that is based on the tenants of democracy it is our obligation to ensure that we continue our efforts in the vain of national tradition and not give in to big business, privatization, and political pressure all of which work toward the dismantling of our public school system. Although not ideal our public school system offers the necessary training to young Americans to help them survive in our democratic society. To help ensure its goals, understand its worth and be more competitive on an international level I believe national standards are the first step toward a new direction and understanding of the true value of the public school in the United States. Although current efforts by some politicians are glimmer of hope in the direction of national educational standards much more needs to be done to ensure a sound educational future for the youth of America.

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