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A National Standard?


The debate on the reauthorization of the No Child Left Behind Act is heating up in Congress, and critics are asking tough questions about the federal government's role in student achievement. Different standards and assessments make comparisons difficult across the 50 states.

A recent public opinion poll found that 59 percent of those surveyed favored having national standards. But some state officials have expressed concerns. "I worry about a national standard becoming a national test," said Lucille Davy, the commissioner of education of New Jersey, at a recent meeting of the state school chiefs. She said she "would be leery of feds being at the helm of this."

What do you think? Where do you stand on the issue of national standards?


i would like to see a basic national curriculum basic on scientific facts and is interdisciplinary and would address the education in a place-based way so that children would learn the same basic academic and arts material but it would be addressed from the state and cultures from which they hail.

since the constitution requires states to make decisions on education i think education representatives from each state , those who are familiar with the benchmarks of that state in for example the science area would meet to set national standards.

I believe NCLB's objectives, accountability for schools, teachers and students, are desirable; and, while the plan may not be perfect, it is on the right track. Schools/districts are verifying that their teachers are credentialed in their content areas. Teachers are currently being evaluated more thoroughly than in the past,and they are placed into mandated improvement programs as needed. Testing is now addressing accountability for teachers and students, also an essential aspect of the plan. Let's remember this was not Bush's plan. This was a bipartisan bill; it was evident to members of both parties that there was an urgent need to improve our educational system and make all stakeholders accountable. The Dem's new revision proposes alternative testing options, which I feel defeat the purpose of a univeral standard. The Rep's are suggesting giving English Language Learners an additional year before they are required to meet the proficiency. Let's see what other revisions can be made to improve the plan rather than bash it entirely as many of the democratic candidates have been doing lately. Let's also realize that a high school diploma should be meaningful. Students who do not earn their diplomas, due to test scores or credits, should be allowed to graduate with completion of their high school coursework but without the diploma designating proficiency. One of the blessings of our country is the opportunity to continue one's education at any/all levels.

I believe that national standards could offer a lot, not only in increasing accountability, but also in unifying the American public education system. However, I fear that there are a large number of ways that trying to implement national standards could go wrong. The only way to ensure that a change as ambitious as this would work would be to keep it strictly in the hands of educational experts and out of the hands of politicians.

Why not start by giving every student the NAEP? This would let the educators in each state know how their students and their instruction compare to the other states. All that money and energy that is currently spent on developing individual state tests could be used for curriculum development and instruction instead.

The gap between State Expectations (State Assessments) and National Expectations (NEAP Assessment)are demonstrative of the need for all schools to increase expectations for all students and increase teacher accountability and expertise.

NCLB is a great concept...but, it is managed and legislated to far away from the classroom.

The Feds could offer financial incentives to States and Schools who significantly improve on the current NAEP (administered in the current way-randomly).

Instead of punishing schools who are not making the changes needed in a competitive global economy, let's make it economically profitable to get on board with new research and effective instructional practices for all students. Schools who aget on board would then benefit financially allowing them to implement and purchase additional resources and schools who would like to gain access to the resources would be motivated to find out HOW to be more successful.

Local control and local requirements are the only way to increase student achievement and meet the needs of our students, parents, teachers and community. How can the Feds EVER know what a child in Alaska, Hawaii, or the mid-west needs?? The biggest problem with NCLB is they CAN'T. Most of the problems with NCLB are related to unforseen issues at the local level.

Create incentives to improve local requirements!

Our Founding Fathers were Smart Fellows...we need to be careful when we are considering our local freedoms, rights, responsibilities and liberties. We need to avoid giving up rights to improve a situation...it rarely works. Hitler and others have shown that time and time again.

There are national standards for math NCTM and science and those should guide state standards. The inequities are coming in state testing. Not all state tests are equal, but are being compared to each other both statistically and by the NCLB mandates. You still can't compare apples and oranges. A it stands, as long as we have we have NCLB, we have the federal government dictating education standards. It needs to be completely overhauled or thrown out. Accountability is important and should remain, but there are other ways that states can have accountablility standards for teaching that are realistic and promote and support a teacher's professional growth. It should not be punative as the NCLB legislation presccribes. Education is about children not about punishing schools and teachers. Setting up schools and teachers to fail, sets up our children for failure.

It's indefensible today to oppose national standards. As increasing numbers of families are forced to relocate across the country to take advantage of new jobs, their children need the assurance of uniformity in schooling. The U.S. does not have to go to France's extreme, whereby all teachers anywhere in the nation on any given day are teaching virtually the same material, but America can no longer afford to hide from the new realities.

I have long thought that a national curriculum would be extremely desirable IFF (those of you who are mathies will recognize this as "if and only if") we keep it small. What I mean by this is that the national curriculum should include minimum standards and have plenty of room at every grade level for teaching locally important issues.

We seem to constantly add more to the curriculum in any given subject without ever taking any out. Many of us strive to eliminate clutter and extra stuff in our personal lives. We need to do the same with our curricula.

National standards are the WORST thing that can happen to education. State standards are bad enough-ignoring the free will of individuals and treating all children as robots to be programmed.

Who gets to decide what the national standards should be?

National standards are a great idea. Admittedly without the data at hand, I was appalled to see that a few of the states that are known to have atrocious schools had the highest rates of proficiency on their own tests. I'd like to see the children of Alabama (and I am one) held to the same standards as the children of New York and Massachusetts. Only then will the low educational standards that prevail in some regions improve.

I believe the federal government is overstepping their constitutional bounds. The Founding Fathers left education in the hands of the states. If the federal government wants to be involved in education, they should ammend the Constitution to grant them the powers. If not abolish the Education Department.

Although I live in what many consider the most conservative, "hands off" state in the union (Idaho), I find myself agreeing with proponents of federal education standards. As expressed by several other commenters, the disparity between state assessment results and those provided by NAEP and national assessments demonstrate the states' lack of honesty when it comes to establishing standards and reporting results.

Public education is a multi-faceted system, charged with providing a well-rounded learning experience to its constituents. Integral to that learning, however, is a focus on the core skills that create opportunties in this ever more complex world. Art, music, etc, are important facets of the experience, but simply not as important as reading, math and science. It is ironic to me that the states want more and more federal dollars, but do everything in their power to maneuver around being held accountable for its use.

I don't believe anyone is proposing federal control of curriculum or instructional methodology. I'm not sure how a set of consistent reading, math, science, etc, standards reduces local control. Anybody want to explain it to me?

Of course if you ask folks if they want "standards," they will answer "yes." But ask them if they want "standardization" of their child's education, and you will get a negative reply. Standardization of education is a bad idea because the raw material going in is not uniform, nor do we want the products coming out to be uniform.
National curricula are an old idea. Most of the rest of the world has been under national curricula and the consequences are disastrous. It was most concisely defined by the Korean minister of education who saw the top math scores in TIMSS were Korean and responded that was what Korean students were practiced to do, but they did not get any Nobel Prizes. There is a direct and negative relationship between teaching to the test (and that is what national standards will drive) and the creative and diverse teaching that is required for producing students who will go on to Nobel Prizes, or non-science citizens with solid science literacy.
The American teacher has been unique in deciding what to teach, when to teach, and how to teach, but that responsibility is being rapidly eroded. China and many other countries are moving off of a standard curricula; their scientist production is up and they will soon be getting Nobel Prize research.
Current "national standards" are far from perfect. The National Science Education Standards are seriously flawed, cutting out major subdisciplines in a less-science-not-more Ed School mindset, and incorporating questionable educationist methodologies.
National standards (and remember that education is a "state's right") will further de-professionalize the field. In biology, we fully understand the dangers of monocultures and the importance of variation. To paraphrase Nietzsche, education in large (standardized) schools will be bad for the same reason that food in large resturants is usually bad.
Teaching is an art, and artists vary in their skills. We do not need this master recipe. The previous century of U.S. education was good because we allowed a century of good cooks to dish up a variety of nutritious meals.

Amen Dr. Schrock! Finally a voice of reason.

The rest of the world uses standardized curriculum and it´s gotten them nowhere. Germany and Japan had the most standardized education systems the world had ever seen and it allowed their governments to march their youth to war. Singapore, with its highly touted test scores, has realized that innovation and creativity are not produced through memorizing massize bits of disconnected information. They are trying to destandardize their system.

I propose taking it a step further. If we really want to improve our education system by teaching to the individual, we should adopt universal vouchers.

Children are individuals, not robots to be programmed. They have different needs, goals, and motivations. Further, families are not the same. They have different expectations and desires for their children.

Allow families and students to choose schools that are a best fit for the individual, with the freedom to move and try multiple alternatives. In todays schools, children are trapped in a one size fits all model with no chance for escape from a failing environment. Only with vouchers will we have an educational system based upon freedom, rigor, and dignity of the individual.

It really is that simple. Stop trying to control the lives of others. You only have the right to control your own life and the lives of your children.

I have always been in favor of a national standard. As the product of a mobile society I have seen first hand how moving within our country effects the level of education obtained by studens.

I do not beleive, however, that the federal government should be at the helm of our national standards. This is something that we as educators could do ourselves. The guidelines are already set up.

I would propose that representatives be selected from each state and an educational congress be formed. This congress would be made up of educators. We have our own strong leaders with experience in education. We certainly know more about what our schools and students need then a bunch of poilticians. Besides who taught the politicians?

As I read the responses, I was starting to hear boots of marching legions of same-thinking AMERIKANS(or, maybe, North Koreans). Then came Matt's and Professor Schrok's comments. Hooray! Schrock For Dean of Education! Way to go! Still, I'm shocked that so many respondents appear to endorse the "cookie cutter" approach to education, with the Great Baker in D.C. passing out all the cutters.

I strongly favor standardized national curriculum and testing for topics of national importance. National expansion and application of a revised NAEP may be one entry point to a better education system. Matt worries about loss of free will and treating students as robots. No state presently leaves participation in formal learning up to the free will of children. Learning is sufficiently important that children should learn despite their contrary free will desires.

I've had to employ graduates of America's K-12 education system. We can do better---much better.

Some curriculum should remain in state control. State history, geography, ecology if taught, etc.

National standards in a nation with fifty different teacher certification standards is as far over the top as the whole idea of NCLB. NCLB seeks to impose the Federal Department of Education on all the separate state departments, while the Fed puts forth less than ten percent of the total educational costs. Imposing a national standard, while it may sound good, becomes a type of governmental bullying.
As with state standards, the best that can be developed are minimal standards, as long as there is an expectation of 100% proficiency. On the other hand, a national acreditation of teacher education programs would go a long way to prefessionalizng the career field. This would also move the nation along the road towards true accountability.

NCLB does not improve the education of our nation's youth and serves to enrich testing companies at the expense of learning. Whether testing national standards or state standards, those who were supposed to be served are being left behind because they can't pass tests. Only the "bubble" kids are recieving help to get schools to meet AYP. Would national standards change that? NEVER. And let's not forget that the plan is for national standards in reading and math only. That will reduce learning in non-tested areas such as social studies, the arts and PE. The latest CEP report, released yesterday, indicated that 36% of districts surveyed have already reduced time for social studies.

Most rhetoric addresses the goals of education as college and career. We must keep in mind the need for well-rounded citizens who are interested in addressing the challenges of our nation and its place in the world.

I also agree completely with Professor Shrock. Here's a personal experience that mirrors his words:

When my own sons were little, I took their education very seriously. After talking to people whose own children became very successful adults, I understood that each child has individual talents and abilities that must be recognized and nurtured. The best advice I got was to "follow the interests of the child." One mother told me that she ran to the nearest library every time her son or daughter expressed an interest in some topic. Well, I did the same and I was not disappointed. I am proud to say that my sons developed their abilities beyond my wildest expectations.

For many years, I tried to do the same for my primary students. I provided an enriched classroom environment and designed lessons to appeal to individual and group interests. I took pride in nourishing each child's special talents, although this was difficult to do without parent involvement. Most parents, however, when told that "Johnny loves to build things" happily provided the creative child with appropriate construction materials to use at home.

With NCLB, administrators started appearing in my classroom, telling me to "stick to the core curriculum" (code for teaching to the test) and to use only certain software on the computer (i.e. software to drill on tested skills). Art, music and PE were out. Soon I became bored and burned out. Once I realized that I was only expected to "cover the material," I stopped doing the extras that make learning so much fun for young children. Fortunately for my students, I retired in June.

It is so ironic that the Chinese are carefully studying (and copying) our traditional educational system because of its phenomenal successes. These people know a good thing when they see it. I DO have confidence in the American people, though, so it's only a matter of time before this stupid period is behind us. High educational standards for the USA? Always. Standardization? No.

And why are so many public school administrators so eager to go along with reductionist ideas of standardization, core, and "national" curricula that bore creative teachers into early retirement? For a start, check out the Wall Street Journal "letters to the editor" page of 7/25/2007. Find a letter there that reports on the abysmal GRE performance of graduate school applicants in "Educational Administration" # 6 from the bottom of ALL 51 GRE fields tested!

Why do we need national standards?

What are we predicting will happen to the future of America if we don´t adopt universal, compulsory standards of memorization for each child?

The sky isn´t falling.

The rest of the world already uses a standardized curriculum, and they don´t have the results we have! We lead the world in technology and creativity. The pioneers of Silicone Valley don´t even have college degrees. The lead scientist responsible for sequencing the human genome was homeschooled on a sheep ranch using his own personal interests as the curriculum. Most of our great political figures were mediocre students as measured by test scores and grades.

Í´m not against accountability, but we´re trying to go about it the wrong way. We´re trying to legislate a uniform, socialized solution for all.

Give the power directly to families. Let parents choose the school their child attends, the teacher their child works with, the curriculum their child is exposed to, the methods of assessing learning, ect.... Those that care about public education shouldn´t be trying to control the lives of others; they should be giving others the opportunity to take control of their own lives.

Children aren't "standard", 100+ years of government experimentation on children has decimated the literacy and education of the U.S.population. While these bureaucratic "standards" might be good for producing a herd of obedient, conforming, easily manipulated grown up "children", it does not produce informed, discriminating, intelligent, adult people. But I don't think that is what the rulers and the school "industry" really want. Only fools trust the immature minds of their precious children to the government indoctrinators to "mold".

National standards would be very beneficial from an equity standpoint. As a writer from above eluded to; students from Mississippi and Alabama should have access to, and be held accountable for, the same rich body of knowledge as students from Massachusetts. Federal standards with corresponding federal assessments do NOT need to be developed or governed by the federal DOE in Washington. They could be developed and overseen by a committee of existing state education commissioners. All states wishing to participate would be encouraged to take part. All the feds would need to do would be to pay out the appropriate Title I funds as well as check the results at the end of each year to determine which states are, and which states are not, properly educating their students. No Child Left Behind implies these would have to be minimal standards attained by 2014. If reasonably successful and reauthorized in another five years it would be important to raise expectations and go beyond the original minimal standards, possibly renaming the new law All Students Brought Along (ASBA)...to a common, nationally agreed upon desirable level of "proficiency."

I think that national standards are a great ideas as long as their is statehood oversight and equivalent national testing such as the NAEP. Obviously each state culture is different and will differ in instruction when taught history/civics for their state, however national standards can benefit the basic academics: reading, writing and arithmetic. Perhaps, this national measure could be a step closer to equal education.

We already HAVE national standards. The National Council of Teachers of English, National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, and the National Council for Science Teachers ALL have long-standing national standards documents. We have a national test -- the NAEP.

Little is said about the consequences of meeting high standards. If all students are able to meet proficiency standards as set by either the state, federal government, or both, does that also mean that all students will be elligible academically to go on to a college or university? This is not, in and of itself, a bad thing. A well educated society is a very noble and wonderful goal, but there are barriers to extending education beyond the current, "mandatory" twelve years. Currently, and traditionally, about thirty percent of all students beginning kindergarten do not graduate thirteen years later. No school reform has, as yet, managed to change this percentage significantly. It is folly to believe that students meeting higher standards would continue in school for another four to six years, elligible or not. There is no current financial aid program that would make this possible for students that may want to attend college but for the costs. Pell grants do not come even close to paying for the costs of higher education, and student loans, federally insured or not, are not really financial aid.
Extending schooling also will have the effect of extending childhood, placing possible further burdens on families already struggling to stay solvent. Industry, though it calls for better educated workers is not currently able to abnsorb those same better educated workers.
It isn't the educational system that is broken and in need of a fix.

As a nation, we are bleeding our ability to focus on practices that impact accelerated student learning. Quite frankly, I would prefer we move to a national assessment. Each state is spending countless dollars to define standards, design assessments, validate alignment to federal requirements. Yet, few state departments are aggressively examining the intervention structures that sustain progress. We are so focused on compliance, we have lost focus on the ultimate vision. Each state will continue to focus on design elements, and then nationally will be chastised for not hitting the NAEP levels. We have significant work ahead to ensure each student is able to successfully transition to a demanding world market. We are having the wrong conversation professionally. We need to move past the assessment to what are we doing about it that will matter long term.

NCLB will help US education if there is a national standard. Why do readers object to a national test? NCLB evaluated by costly high stakes state tests is a nothing because schools that score well on a state controlled test and fail AYP are given a “Provincial” passing grade.

. Home schools use the Stanford 9 remember the test we took and school districts got rid of when state controlled tests took over? States that are poor educators dread a national standard compare. AYP will never close and be fairly evaluated without a national test for all grades. The NAEP tests 4, 8, and 10. Each year a different set of students is teased. Should test 4, 8, and 10 one year and 5, 9 and 11 the next to show how much a student has improved.

Bob B
[email protected]

Yes, we ARE having the wrong professional conversation. State and national standards and/or assessments will not have a significant effect on learning because these factors have little or nothing to do with how people learn. However, this is not to say that we are ignorant of those factors that DO influence learning. Most parents and teachers know them well. (If asked about the best way to learn about China, I'll bet most people would say "Visit China, read about it, talk to Chinese people, visit a museum, take a class." People would assume that the learner has normal cognitive ability and adequate vision and hearing. Few people would mention standards or tests.)

A publication entitled "The Early Catastrophe" (American Educator, Spring 2003) spells it all out for us. Children learn a great deal from their families and their environment during their first years of life. Cognitive growth is phenomenal during this time. During these critical years the "gap" is produced. For many children, it is never closed.

The conversation we should be having is this: How can we provide ALL children with many of the educational opportunities that are now available to a large number of affluent Americans? It should be obvious to all that tests and standards are not going to do it. However, healthcare, decent housing, infant stimulation classes, high-quality preschools, parent education, enriched after-school care, summer camps, experienced (and better paid) teachers and public school choice might begin to close the gap. The sooner our leaders and citizens admit to the real problem, the sooner we will begin to solve it.

I think that standards, testing and accountability are the best things that have happened to education in my life time. They have focused curriculum and answered the need for professional development among teachers. NCLB has taken the ideology out of education and put the focus where it belongs-science.

If that is the case, then the government will have to appropriate the same amount of funds for every single state to provide the same materials, training, etc., for each state in order to teach the same standards. How would that be possible when there is such a disparity in the cost of living sometimes even between individual areas in ONE state, let alone ALL states!

It is 38 years after the moon landing. In 2003 there were 230,000,000 automobile in the United States. How much did American consumers lose on depreciation of automobiles that year?

Double entry accounting is 700 years old. You can buy a used computer off eBay for less than $100 that is more powerful than a 1978 mainframe that cost $3,000,000, the IBM 3033. So why can't accounting be mandatory in the schools? It is really child's play.



We live in a small world. We live in even a smaller country. Plus, people frequently relocate from one area of residence to another.

In an age of instant information and in a country where family mobility is high, there is a need for a common curriculum across our nation: not how to teach, but the basic grade by grade content of instruction.

With a national curriculum, a fair assessment of individual states may then be made--but only if every student participates in the same national standardized test.

Think of the money that would be saved at both the state and local levels if these two "basics" (curriculum & standardized assessments) were covered at the national level!

It would, of course, be up to states and/or local school districts to implement the curriculum guides offered--in order to pass on and enhance the basic content--in ways that would best educate the children entrusted to their care.

Textbook-driven curriculum was replaced in many places by "balanced" curriculum (often with fuzzy grade-level content requirements). Perhaps it is a national board's turn to design a curriculum which will meet the needs of 21st century American society.

Some say:"Washington save us with 'national standards'!" Washington responds with diluted NCLB standards that make NAEP look like grad school. The states that had standards HIGHER than NCLB respond by trashing their own. NCLB has one decent element, the minimum teacher qualifications to teach a subject, BUT even this has been delayed and will, no doubt, be delayed again(2012? 2014?). The current Congress will reauthorize an NCLB with its teeth replaced by platitudes and state entitlements unrelated to student competency anywhere above rhythmic breathing. Incumbents will be safe, state ed-execs will be able to claim "meeting-or-exceeding", local ed-execs will join in with ever-more-meaningless "school report cards" and nothing will change in the public schools. As with any marketplace, parents who shop for competent schools will find them more often than those who do not. Children whose parents do not shop, for whatever complex of reasons, will continue to have a random chance at a good education.

I believe on the surface something like developing national standards sounds innocuous and even a bit like a grand idea. But imagine what these standards would look like when every lobbying group had their 2 cents worth input! Imagine what implementing these standards would be like when we try to make America a land free of local, regional, and state culture. For instance, I feel certain that students near coastal or mountain regions have enriching experiences and activities that are unique based on geographical proximity to such landmarks. I don't think students in coastal or mountain regions would think lessons about the resources of the heartland would be very enriching.

When politicians are gleefully considering MERIT-BASED pay for teachers (which would be based on test scores), this is one teacher who says, "Fine, base my pay on the test scores of my students." But, let me teach them the way I know works for me and for them. Let me develop my lesson plans for each unique group of students I have. Even though I have five class periods of the same subject matter with the same grade level of students, each of the class periods is unique and learn in their own ways and respond differently depending on what is asked. I can work with them if and only if I have latitude. I don't mind having my pay reflect my ability to do this. But I will mind having my pay tied to test scores if I have my hands tied behind my back.

National standards should begin with setting the standards for teaching and learning conditions. Otherwise, standards used for academic assessment are pointless. I worked in and continue to work with schools with oversized classes near 40 students much of the year, poor organization, few elective options, without functional libraries, poor air quality and inadequate maintenance. Ironically, these are schools serving students who are coming from the most challenging home and neighborhood environments where we know academic preparation is weak. Setting national curriculum standards while saying nothing of these disgraceful condition makes the process only another source of frustration and failure for teachers, students and their families.

Linda is exactly right. Since I sarted teaching 5 years ago with a education degree in my field, I was first told I was not highly qualified although 32K in debt for my degree. I agree I should be doubly certidied in the courses I teach. We are warned yearly about loss of certificate and /or jail if we make a mistake administering the High Stakes test. I'm reasponsible for educating children who come to 6th grade with a 2nd grade reading ability. Where have thier parents been? These kids come to school dressed like thugs and streetwalkers. They have no support from home. Many are reasponsible to take complete care of themselves, seeing their parents in passing. The school,the government, nor national standards won't help these students. accountibility is great, but let's start putting some of it on the parents. Parents come to school
in May and want to know "Why is my child failing? You know he has an IEP" "Yes." I answer. "I wrote it. Too bad you couldn't attend. I',m sorry but He got lost whe he was out on suspeneion, and then you moved out of the district and didn't attend school for a month." And then even more importantly almost 100% of my students don't test well, even when they know the information.
Another big problem I see is how these tests are used.In our state you can't pass 3rd, 8th, and 10th grade unless you pass the test. We as teachers do not get specific enough info on our students to use this info to address their specific weaknesses. At least not from that test.
Not to mention once the tests are finished both on the days they are given and after the entire state is finished, many students feel the year is ove and just quit working, for the next2 months.

There are many things that can be said, both positive and negative, in relation to having a set of national standards. On the positive side, it would assist in assuring that students are learning the same basic skills, no matter which state they come from. As stated above, this can be a benefit for those families that move around, particularly if they move from one state to another. It can also assist in determining which states are truly successful in their goals to ensure students are making adequate yearly progress and which states are not by allowing the "apple to apple" comparison, rather than the "apple to orange" comparison we have now. Others have also mentioned the cost benefits.

On the negative side, we do have a Constitution that ensures state control over education, and allowing more and more federal control over education violates our Constitutional rights. If there were national standards, then a few people would be deciding what all teachers would be teaching, and can we really be confident that those few people will have the foresight to meet everyone's educational needs? I think not. Additionally, I agree that having a set of MINIMAL standards is more likely to cause people to water down their individual state standards than it would be to encourage states to rise above. American children do not deserve the "dumbing down" of their education. They need to be challenged. Also, having a set of national standards still does not ensure an equal education for all. There will still be those states that have more resources, no matter what we do.

From my own perspective, if we look back to what students were expected to know in the 1800s and early 1900s all the way up to the 1950s and compare what they are expected to know now, it is shameful. We keep lowering our expectations and wonder why our students are falling behind other nations. Do we really think having a set of national standards would improve this? Maybe, and maybe not.

I realize that there are many, many factors which affect student outcomes. As a teacher, I cannot expect to fix every problem for every student that comes into my classroom, particularly considering that my students all have disabilities in addition to the obstacles other students must face on a daily basis. All I can control is what happens in my individual room. I have learned that if you have HIGH expectations, if you accept no excuses (okay, on rare occasions, I am flexible enough to accept a reasonable one), and that if you give students the necessary tools (critical thinking and problem-solving skills in addition to the standardized curriculum and materials), students will do far more than you ever thought they could. For what it is worth, having high expectations has resulted in my special education students outperforming anywhere from 20% - 50% of their general education peers on the standardized tests that they are expected to take. Whether we have national standards or not, I will still encourage my students to always to more than the MINIMAL expectations.

Thank you Leslie for your thoughtful comments--I read them as I was feeling stung by Dorothy's attack on parents. You are right to point out the Constitutional limitations to Federal Gov't involvement in education. However, I am guessing that a voluntary set of National Standards--with NAEP aligned to it, would grow in popularity, particularly if testing would be made available and didn't have to be created fifty times at the state level.

As a parent, I am grateful that you emphasize high expectations for your student with special needs--and back it up with their scores on standardized tests. My son had one such teacher a couple of years ago and it made a world of difference.

But back to Dorothy's comments. I really try not to play the good parent/bad parent game--simply because much of my life-work has been with populations whose gifts/skills/abilities and commitment are frequently overlooked when they are pigeon-holed as "single parents," low-income, minority, not caring, not literate, etc, etc etc. I can tell you that I have also written out whole IEPs--trying to model what measureable goals look like--although they are frequently discarded. I recently had to go back through school records to find some bit of needed documentation and was reminded anew of the many insults, battles and poor attempts have accompanied my son's journey through school. One was a "daily report," consisting of a check list of bad behaviors. Another was a letter from a teacher accusing me of hiding my son's homework log at home and not letting him do his homework or turn it in. Then there are the "functional behavioral analyses," each one completed (one the correct form) by someone who had never before heard of a functional behavioral analysis. While your struggle is for parents to attend IEP meetings, mine is to get the right teachers there. One general ed teacher (in whose class my son had a lot of difficulty) never did attend, despite multiple invitations through the year--culminating with the principle sending a messenger to "TELL X to come down to the meeting." X sent back a message that they were too busy. I see a lot of art and gym teachers, since they are the regular ed teachers who are usually pulled into the IEP meetings in order to comply with the law.

The assumption that many students who know the material don't "test well" has led our district--and many others I am sure--to meet their obligation for intervention by teaching students how to take a test. Some company puts together a workbook using questions from previous tests and walks through the process of choosing which multiple choice answer is correct. I make my son go (since he has moved on from the high expectations teacher, he is no longer passing the tests), and get up early on Saturdays to drive him there, because this is the only "intervention" that the district offers. In many cases he has not received any teaching of the tested material--but lots of review of the things that he never learned.

He is very frustrated and has about given up. Do I think that National Standards will provide an answer to his problems? No, I do not. However, until there were standardized expectations that included testing of students with disabilities, I was just the lone voice of one crazy parent who thought that her child could do better (denial!). With standards and testing, I can point to the teachers/schools/districts that are succeeding even with students with disabilities, even with students whose families have a low income, even with students who are assumed for other reasons to have limited potential (or to test poorly). Making them national is just a matter of efficiency and convenience.

Under NCLB the big gain is 4 th grade reading. WOW, just grade 4 why? “MONEY” if states fail to improve reading they stand a, (SMALL), chance of the feds reducing Title I funding and requirements to retain students if they can’t read. With big bucks from Title I that are all discretional states would have to increase school taxes for the operation budget and would have to build more schools for students retained.
NAEP tests ting 4, 8, and 10 was not a random decision. By testing grade 4 the feds can learn how well the students in grade three. The flaw is NAEP is used for AYP and should test 4, 8, and 10 one year then 5, 9, and 11 the next to measure performance of the SAME students.

National standards are mandatory if we are to remain competitive as a nation in our ever-shrinking global village. Since many of the jobs our students will hold ten years from now have not yet been imagined, and a large percentage of our students are geographically mobile -- employers need to believe that a high school diploma is a high school diploma -- leaving aside any concerns felt about the lowering value of associates and similar diplomas. Today, for most intents and purposes the "truth" of a hs diploma can be vetted by zipcode.

Consistency would allow comparison to be of apples-to-apples and not apples-to-oranges.

One consistent testing tool also...instead of
differing tests, differing editions of the same test,differing administration of tests, differing
preparation for tests, and differing curriculum.

I think we should have national standards for college as well. All college courses should have similar names, with identical syllabi, and tests.

Then we´ll lead the world.

Let´s also have standards for marriage, with quarterly report cards. We´re failing at relationships you know. There is a huge marriage achievement gap between the wealthy and poor in this country.

Let´s create national standards for behavior in marriage, held accountable with a standardized test. Leave no marriage behind.

Lehla and Peter, you´re hilarious.

I think I´m in agreement with both of you. There should be NO mandatory standards at all.

Free schools, home schooling, or Montessori seem to be the best options for anyone that cares about their child.

A key problem for those who imagine that parents can make informed choices about their children's schools is the lack of reliable information. All states claim (surprise, surprise) that "their" students are doing a really great job. This is just exactly what we would expect if we let students design their own exam, and then grade it. This is what we have done with the states--and they have given us Lake Wobegon. "All of our children are above average."

And yet, they score at or near the bottom of the industrialized world.

Perhaps we could achieve a voluntary national (not federal) system of standards and assessments put together but the states and the business community. The business community could "punish" those states who refuse to participate--just like they do now.

We could then start to address reality about how well our students do (or do not) perform compared to peers in other states and countries. When parents come to understand how poorly most of our students are doing compared to top performing nations (2-4 school grades behind) "enigmas" like outsourcing will suddenly become clear.

Once parents recognize what is really at risk--the economic and national security of our children--we can start to have the serious conversations that are so desperately needed.

Several people have mentioned the NAEP as our "national test." NAEP is held up by many in government and policy as the gold standard of educational testing. But more than a few experts in assessment and test design, including those who helped put together the NAEP are quick to point out its serious limitations. We can and should develop more sophisticated and varied methods of determining what our children know.

The amazing thing was that in my early grammar school years most of the kids were eager to learn but the teachers gave us boring idiotic crap. I accidentally discovered science fiction and quickly started ignoring the teachers.



If the federal government is going to require states to test their students to meet certain academic standards then the federal government should set those standards. An arbitrary standard of "at grade level" is different for each state throughout the country. There is no consistency with what each student is learning from state to state and the ability of local school districts to assess their students' to a national standard is becoming increasingly difficult.
Culture and population make it very difficult to compare across state lines the achievements of one student to another. Validity of test scores varies based on demographics of schools.
School Districts need the money that is tied to NCLB. School District will do what they need to do to gain access to that money, even if it means lowering standards to show improvement of test scores. Without a national standard to test to, states will continue to develop tests that will show success of students and not need of education of students.

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