What Debate?

The marketing campaign to FIX No Child Left Behind began back in January with announcements that there would be debate.

A draft of the Every Child Ready for College or Career Act of 2015 was released and many newspapers and education associations picked up the story including the American Educational Research Association.

“The draft bill contains several provisions related to research. If enacted, the bill would task the Institute of Education Sciences with evaluating Title I activities. In addition, state plans submitted to the Department of Education would be approved unless the department presented “substantial high-quality education research” that demonstrated that a plan would be ineffective or inappropriate. The bill does not define high-quality education research.

Alexander has made it clear that he hopes to have a substantial discussion about ESEA.”

Discussion? Debate? Both are important and citizens should have been included to help shape and direct the debate about “fixing” the law. After-all, we were the ones who were subjected to the consequences of bad ideas being passed by congress and signed into law, in this case, by then President Bush. And there was never an official parental complaint process!

But instead of the anticipated discussion, Senator Alexander immediately directed “the debate” to the topic of Testing and Accountability while avoiding the topic of national standards themselves by pacifying people with his standard “no national school board” meaningless rhetoric. And the marketers changed the law’s name to get away from the identifying language of the controversial Common Core Initiative (College or Career Ready). The Every Child Achieves Act proved to be more palatable.

Screen Shot 2015-07-19 at 4.32.20 PMHow did the so-called debate go? Both the House and Senate bills to replace NCLB maintained the yearly standardized testing for accountability purposes in math and language arts just like in NCLB. What they did do, to sell this fallacy of test-based accountability again, was shift the responsibility for accountability mechanisms to the States. Does that change the problem with high-stakes testing? No. Resources focused on testing are spent. They can’t be used for other things.

But to appease the arts groups, the Senate threw them a bone.

“By naming music and arts as core subjects in the Every Child Achieves Act, the Senate has acknowledged and begun to address the national problem of the narrowing of the curriculum that has taken place under No Child Left Behind (NCLB) for more than a decade now.”

How that will “work” in already underfunded and under-performing schools is questionable but these groups base their feeling of success right now on hope. And they now feel their voices have been heard —one group appeased.

The next topic Alexander approved for a “hearing” was that of Supporting Teachers and School Leaders. Screen Shot 2015-07-19 at 4.32.28 PMAfterwards, Senator Murray delivered statements that sounded much like what we have heard for years —expressing things upon which we generally agree.

But in the bill itself, although teacher residency programs are prominent in the “definitions” section, it is other elements of teacher and school leadership development and evaluation that dominate the law. Federal “incentives” for teacher and school leader certification and licensing (aligned with challenging standards), alternative routes to teaching, and “reforming” tenure systems are all included. These things are not supported by research as being effective “to ensure that ever child achieves” —the purpose of the law.

And looking at the bigger picture, both the House and Senate versions claim to be shifting the control to the States. In the very real world of D.C. politics, certain organizations that represent the States stand to greatly increase their influence. Take the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO, chief creators of the Common Core Standards System) for example.

CCSSO has a teacher and principal preparation program ready to go. They have included multiple new elements requiring the expansion of technology and data collection systems including….Screen Shot 2015-07-19 at 10.25.04 PMand…Screen Shot 2015-07-19 at 10.26.45 PMThey have it under CONTROL. Kept in mind, CCSSO is a non-governmental organization that has no responsibility for being responsive to the public’s desires. They are in no way accountable to us. And they have had their sights set on ESEA reauthorization for years —the same number of years as the Common Core State Standards Initiative.

They have a “new deal” for us and for themselves it looks like. We should debate who’s goals they represent.

Screen Shot 2015-07-19 at 10.34.00 PMScreen Shot 2015-07-19 at 10.34.48 PM

 

 

 

 

 

Did we get to debate any of this? No, it was set in motion years ago with no public participation. Remember, there was no official complaint process for No Child Left Behind and these actions don’t fix that.

No record; no accountability. No debate, only a very controlled dog-and-pony show.

The House and Senate bills passed their respective houses proving that On The Hill, “We mean business on K-12 education.” Those in the education industry know that to be the truth!

Here’s how the market-based reformers see it….

Screen Shot 2015-07-15 at 9.19.33 PMExpanding charters and retaining annual testing ARE in both bills. But wasn’t that federal mandate at the heart of the problem?

Charters? Never debated. Never research proven to be an improvement over existing public schools. Not a reform.debate

“Streamlining” is a questionable term since programs are actually being CUT and we can’t debate whether or not that is a good thing since we don’t know specifically which ones are being cut other than the School Improvement Grants (which had some useful but never openly discussed results).

Transparency? Increased transparency? I don’t see it. Do they mean like we saw with Common Core<sarc>? Do they mean like we might get if the media covered what is really happening instead of what information is released? Do they mean transparency like we might develop if topics were openly debated in public and the alternative view WAS allowed to be heard?

Have we even had public officials openly debate what was wrong with No Child Left Behind? How do they know if they “fixed” it if the problems was never fully exposed?

Obviously the marketers know what people want to hear; on that, they did their research.

We want to hear that education reform was honestly discussed and debated. But, the question remains…

JFKdebate…what debate?

Turn Around Schools?

The whole point of standards, testing, school choice, school closures, and mass firings of school personnel was to turn around schools identified as failing to serve children — MOST of whom are disadvantaged by poverty. Right? These were the chosen school transformation practices of No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top.

Common Core just happens to be the planner’s choice for the next generation standards upon which this scheme will go forward in state and federal laws. But should it?

Like the song says “Stop… Everybody look what’s going down.”

These strategies are not reforms. They didn’t improve schools. They didn’t improve opportunities across the board for children. They didn’t provide kids with an even start. They didn’t come close to giving them all a fair shot. They didn’t give children hope for a better life. If they had, we shouldn’t see rising suicide rates for black children.

The question is; what will we do? Be realistic?

Realistically, will a quality education lift all children out of poverty? No. But, it will provide that opportunity for many more. Can education make life better for all? Yes, it can. The correlation has been well documented. Education is a common good.

“Education is about more than just better jobs and bigger paychecks, important though they are in making families and individuals more financially stable. More education is also linked to better physical and mental health, longer lives, fewer crimes, less incarceration, more voting, greater tolerance, and brighter prospects for the next generation.”

So is school reform the silver bullet for all the misfortunes poverty can bestow on our American pursuit of happiness? No. But we have to do it anyway. And in the process, we can adopt policies and practices that support families and their children — but only if we make the choice to do so. Enters, The Elephant in the School Failure Debate by Joan McRobbie.

“Common sense tells us that improving child health and nutrition, making it so the family doesn’t have to move frequently to find affordable rent, and reducing family stress make it easier for children to learn.”

Don’t other people find it very disturbing that The Land of Opportunity doesn’t have a better social safety-net for children? We won’t even make equality in educational opportunity a national priority?

“The United States stands out as the country with the highest poverty rate and one of the lowest levels of social expenditure —16.2 percent of GDP, well below the vast majority of peer countries, which average 21.3 percent (unweighted).”Screen Shot 2015-05-20 at 1.34.41 PMBut I don’t see Mexico included in this graph and I know their poverty rate is higher than ours, so we’re alright? No, we are not! And enters the argument that money isn’t everything. There is some truth to that.

lyndon-b-johnson-president-quote-education-is-not-a-problem-educationMoney isn’t invested wisely in education reform unless we understand the concept of community support for disadvantaged children and the schools they attend. That was the basis of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) that was written through the efforts of many including President Johnson (D) and his Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare, John W. Gardner (R) —the founder of Common Cause.

This is how we turn around schools.

This is how we turn around schools.

 

McRobbie gets it.

“Heroic efforts by excellent educators can only make a dent. Their efforts are swamped by concentrated poverty; by the daunting numbers of low-income students and the magnitude of the needs those kids have, through no fault of their own. And each year, more children with similar needs continue to pour in.

This isn’t a school problem. It’s a societal problem imposed on schools,…”

I’m not saying money is the total answer; it isn’t. But wise investment is. Strong communities and the social safety net they build for children is the foundation for excellent schools.

The chief architect of the 1965 ESEA, Frank (Francis) Keppel, saw federal appropriations of money for education like this; the way forward should not be seen as “aid” but as “federal support for special purposes . . . an investment in education . . . investment in people and therefore in the nation.”

Right now, the U.S. Senate version of the reauthorization of ESEA —up for a full vote of the Senate as S.1177, called “Every Child Achieves”— is set to invest heavily in standards, testing, and charter school start-ups. We know these things did not reliably, consistently, or in any statistically significant way improve the lives or education of children of poverty.

We get it. We now need to do something about it.

We get it. We now need to do something about it.

Is this the investment we want to make? Speak up. If the law isn’t about helping to turn around the schools that need our help by providing a better social safety-net for our youngest citizens, we have to stop what we are doing. We can simply say “Vote No” AND go back to the drawing board – NOW!

We need to decide.

Update: The bill came out of committee and in 10 days flat was approved and signed into law during the Thanksgiving/Christmas holiday (Dec. 2015, now titled Every Student Succeeds Act). Parents, you didn’t have a chance!….We should all be mad as hell!…The alternative is never considered. Why not?

The Post-Election Politics of Education

In the 1980’s, corporate-politicos and the National Governors Association waged a silent coup in taking over this nations public schools improvements. Their actions unraveled improvements of the 70’s, devalued the teaching profession, and further limited learning opportunities particularly for underprivileged children.

These “reformer’s” actions culminated in the 2001 national policy dubbed “No Child Left Behind” (NCLB) with its reliance on the theory of standards and testing.

www.mhmarketingsalesmanagement.com

www.mhmarketingsalesmanagement.com

Costs have risen dramatically as more tax dollars enter the pockets of private testing companies, publishers, supplemental service providers, charter management organizations, and “non-profits” (good and bad). Meanwhile, true “achievements” changed very little.

The original version of this blog was an article written post-2010 elections. Update: 2014

The truth? NOTHING HAS CHANGED. Politicians are directing public education. The bonding of politicians to corporations, and entrepreneurial and political interest lobbying groups puts our children squarely at the mercy of politics.

The true indicators of the quality of our system — rates on dropouts, graduates, adult literacy, college enrollment, degree completion, and the financial efficiency of the system — are what we must know to be fully informed. Test scores are not relevant. That whole “process” is corrupted.

Our “leaders” have set the wrong goal for the American education system.

Fixing Our National Accountability System

Part 2: Propaganda With a Purpose?

Like all the official Marc Tucker position papers I’ve read, “Fixing Our National Accountability System” begins with testimonials.

This round of accolades begins with former Massachusetts Commissioner of Education, David Driscoll, who is urging us to “stay the course” with Common Core without being clear about any good reason for the yearly testing associated with it. But there is no doubt that his opinion continues to be revered based on his former position even though Massachusetts winning standards were developed before his reign and he left that job before Common Core came into play there.

In endorsing Common Core, Driscoll seems to have changed his tune a bit from the time when he thought testing in 4th, 8th, and 10th grade was enough AND that it was important that everyone be able to see the tests (2001).

“We released the entire test so that everybody can see the test….And we think this is enormously important.

Why?

The Parents know what’s expected of kids. Teachers know. Schools know. There are no secrets. You can look at the questions. You can debate them.”

Driscoll clearly supports test-based accountability and supports Tucker’s positions. Is he unaware that teachers are not allowed to see the Common Core tests? Has he not thought about the “adaptive” nature of the online testing system limiting the ability for any adult to know for sure what the testing companies have decided to ask?

But Driscoll speaks in favor of Tucker’s plan by calling it a “fact-based way forward” on accountability. Jump aboard the bandwagon! Time for action!

The theme of “Fixing” is based on taking teachers from being treated like “blue-collar workers” to a “professional system of accountability.” But neither of Tucker’s analogies resonates with me. Actually, they struck a sour note.

I was raised in blue-collar country and I’m now a professional. Tucker missed the mark on understanding the essence of either of these groups of people but his words do have that certain “plain folks” appeal when read superficially.

For me, his words are condescending and insulting. My “blue-collar” friends are hard-working honest people that know what its like to put in a good days work. I’m glad I was brought up with those values. Tucker seems to think hard workers need to be “held accountable.” He seems to lack any comprehension of how productive American workers are in general. Rarely must they suffer “consequences” for their actions.

And to have Tucker go on to talk about how other countries “manage” their professionals? WOW! He has not deviated from his view that we are all just human capital ready to be molded to suit the needs of “the economy.” Oh Dear Hillary, some things never change!

It is repugnant to think that this country — this government — would follow the idea that “they” –  the government of the People – must “hold professionals accountable.”

Professionals hold themselves to a professional standard of practice. It is an internal human trait that the selection process, education and training, and continuing education of a profession are designed to identify, firmly establish, and foster. Rarely is government needed. The “bad apples” are the exceptions and the professions have their mechanisms in place to address those relatively rare issues.

Missing ?

Missing ?

Mr. Tucker obviously doesn’t understand good old fashion work ethics — blue-collar or “professional.”

And this Tucker paper did not start off looking like a “fact-based” plan. It reads like it was meant to give the impression that Tucker is against test-based accountability. The stage is set by bad-mouthing No Child Left Behind (not that it doesn’t deserve it). Tuckers’ words flow with the prevailing winds and if people don’t know any better, it reads as if Mr. Tucker himself had nothing to do with any of this. It is patronizing.

“It is particularly ironic that we are holding our teachers accountable, considering
 that it was not the teachers, but rather the public, school boards and the Congress that maintained for years a schools policy based on the use of cheap teachers, a policy that placed little value on teachers’ skills or mastery of subject matter, and deprived teachers of any hope of a real professional career in teaching and of any chance of gaining the kind of status enjoyed by high status professionals in the United States.

We got what we deserved.”

No! Children did not get what they deserved. Testing tests and taking tests limits their precious instructional time. Mr. Tucker pushed the outcome-based theory and pushes for “better” testing. So what is truly ironic is to see him now blame everyone else. Ironic, pathetic, or just a ploy?

This reeks of propaganda with a purpose. I hope people will see through the new soft sell PR for Common Core and test-based (outcome-based) accountability.

But to give Driscoll the benefit of the doubt about this being “fact-based,” I’ll dig further into the “facts” behind “Fixing Our National Accountability System”…. another day, soon.

 

What Is the Diagnosis?

As a veterinarian, when I’m presented with a sick animal my first step in problem solving is a good history. Of course, there are always exceptions to the rule. For example, in a crisis I skip the history taking and go directly to doing what’s necessary to save a life.

The objective of a good history is to gain clarity as to what happened that may have contributed to or created the problem. A good history guides us in deciding the proper tests to run — always with the goal of making the correct diagnosis.

In education reform, we have been “reforming” at a steady clip for over 30 years. The patient —the public education system—has not been cured, has been given prescription after prescription all of which have made it appear clinically sicker, and the main diagnosis we are working off of is that the standards aren’t “high” enough plus we have now added that the tests aren’t good enough.

So let us go back to the time when a crisis was declared and the history of standardization of instruction, which had been tried in America in the early 1900’s and mid 1930’s, was skipped over in the process of making a diagnosis. Let’s pick up where we left off.

Ronald Reagan’s National Commission on Excellence in Education reported that we were “A Nation at Risk” and ever since, the general public has believed that standards were both the problem and the solution. So we set our course of reforms on standards and testing.

We misdiagnosed both the problem and what that famous report said.

It is important that we know this because when we look at the patient today, the initial problems still exist but our misdiagnosis and the wrong cocktail of prescriptions have made the system worse.

Now, the country is addicted to the treatment; dependent on tests to tell us how the patient is doing versus looking at the patient itself. We are monitoring our system into destruction.

A wise old vet school professor once advised,

“if you see a patient back three times for the same thing, you need to get a new set of eyes on the problem. You’re missing something.”

Well, it turns out that another set of eyes was put on the problem and their diagnosis was quite different. The Sandia National Laboratories gave good explanations concerning both the interpretation of test scores and the proposed (now in action) “reforms.”

Censorship is as detrimental as a lie.

Censorship is as detrimental as a lie.

Some powerful somebodies silenced the report

#TruthBeTold ? Only if we demand it.

My prescription to revive the dying patient is this:

  • Demand Congress remove the No Child Left Behind federal mandate for yearly standardized testing and replace it with checks on the system at 4th,8th, and 12th grades only in addition to the random use of the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP).
  • Reopen the wound of national standards. Air it out. Is it what we want or do we want national guidelines (benchmarks) around which we tailor standards to fit our needs? That discussion needs to happen in the open.
  • Let’s get new eyes on this issue and start with a full and truthful history. If there is a good reason that the Sandia findings should not be heard, let’s hear it.

New Testing Makes No Sense

Two “Super Supers” came to Idaho to bring us their wisdom. It is always good to listen to the voices of experience; it helps clarify things. It certainly threw light on some issues for me.

Dr. David P. Driscoll (MA) and Dr. Eric Smith (FL) were brought to Idaho by the Albertson Foundation, which has been financially supporting standards development in Idaho since 1997.

In describing their visit here, the Supers indicated that they were given some of our state data to review. It showed a couple of things that many across the country have known for years; we have a lack of consistency in the quality of our schools and those schools that show up on the bottom of the performance pile tend to do so repeatedly. This we have known.

These experts came to their conclusions by reviewing the data they were given; some of us have lived the reality, shouted it from the rooftops, and been brushed aside — because our observations were anecdotal, we can’t do our own research, attempt to draw logical conclusions from data, or we didn’t graduate from the right colleges? (I have no idea what the answer to that question is but Harvard was mentioned more than a couple of times during the evening.)

Anyway, now because of The Common Core “You will see for the first time in history, millions and millions being tested on the same level,Driscoll said. “We will have strong standards and strong assessments and finally we’ll know what we need to work on.”

… O.K., so here is the point where I revert to my upbringing and talk straight.

Dude, you just said we had the data to pinpoint the problem schools, why do you need another set of standards and another new test to point at the same old schools that were already identified? We already knew! This is EXACTLY what we did when we started with this whole standards-based accountability scheme that became the No Child Left Behind disaster.

“We” (as in we observant people) never NEEDED to prove it again. I walked away from this mess before – briefly around 2001 – by giving into the idea that “well, if ‘they’ must prove it one more time, one more way, well…O.K.”

But not again! NO. STOP.

Listen to ALL the Reasons Why.

Listen to ALL the Reasons Why.

The principles, policies, and practices we have right now were created by the very same people now saying that this time they have it “right.” How can they?

Those still pushing the standards and assessment theory of reform aren’t making sense. They say The Common Core should be used to compare to other states. Why? We already can compare, contrast, and deduce which schools need help….S.O.S. Send help.

Dr. Smith did give mention to Ronald Edmonds work. I’d advice he listens to himself and to Edmonds original research. Edmonds noted that schools he investigated — which were high-poverty, high-“minority” schools that had successfully improved beyond “expectations” — all saw the local school as the focus of analysis and intervention.

Given the tools and the chance, we local yokels can pull on our boots and “kick” … We need to start by kicking some you-know-what out of the way!

The “experts” got it wrong.

P.S. Mr. Rodgers got it right.

Public Education: Is It Broken?

Depends on your perspective. If you are a parent or concerned citizen finding your efforts to improve your schools blocked, it is a broken system that allows that to happen. It’s a case of no one being responsible for inaction where and when action is needed.

What's broken?

What’s broken?

When “the system” becomes a barrier to improvement—through unacceptable policies and practices — the system is broken.

That doesn’t mean that all pieces are broken (not all schools, all teachers, all places), but it does mean the system failed to serve, protect, and educate ALL children as well as we can. So this is a place where my perspective differs from Diane Ravitch’s; she continues to say it “is not broken.” Where we do agree is here: “What began as a movement for testing and accountability has turned into a privatization movement.”

The result is unacceptable policies leading to unethical testing, scoring, and reporting practices furthering the already existing inequality of opportunity, segregation, and privatization. I hope people everywhere can agree on this; this is a cycle that is dismantling the system, piece-by-piece, policy-by-policy. Those openly aiming to privatize the public education system are boasting over the strides they have made in transforming the system.

One way the Friedman Foundation measures success is…

“the increase in the percentage of public dollars going to fund private school choice compared to the overall funds going to all K-12 education.”

This is the data they track! Comparing to overall funding!!!! Success is when that decreases?

My theory, speaking as a parent with children in the system during the first big take-down (the No Child Left Behind policy), is that privatization never would have gotten this far if policymakers AND the public had been listening to the multitude of people trying to stop the political machine driving the movement and driving our children over the cliff in the process. But we can’t go back and change what happened; we can, however, change policies.

What we can do is move forward determined not to repeat the mistake of ignoring the crucial voices of people wanting to do the right thing for the right reason. We have to sort out those who are offering real, good, practical solutions to existing significant problems—true reformers —and those wishing to transform the system to fit their ideology or to profit the education-industrial complex.

A Common Enemy of Public Schools

Common Core, and its foreign and domestic associates, has become the common enemy of American public schools.

This is not a conspiracy theory; this is our reality.

There is nothing right about our public school children’s education standards being set and controlled by a private, non-profit organization that holds the copyright. “Associations” are not public institutions.

There is nothing right about a foreign entity like Pearson Education Corporation (with all its many “divisions” and names) lobbying Congress for passage of laws that benefit them — it shouldn’t matter if they do have their own 501(c)(3) non-profit, tax-exempt Pearson Foundation to dole out trinkets as part of their public relations campaign.

Check out the chart on the Center for Responsive Politics site and think back to the major education laws passed. The pattern indicates that the heavy lobbying occurs just before and even harder after the major laws “make it.” Think it might get harder once more people actually get a chance to read the laws Congress passes?

The year 2009 is of particular interest; it is the claimed birth date of Common Core. Out of the ashes of financial ruin — the seed money for Common Core testing was ours. H.R. 1 Act is the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

This is the education-industrial complex at work on the federal level. The states are targeted also.

It has become a dirty business but worth doing.

The testing addiction is killing education. FORCED to pick our poison?

The testing addiction is killing education. FORCED to pick our poison?

I found this comment from Joanne:

“Scripture states that ‘The LOVE of money is the root of ALL evil.’ 1 Tim. 6:10 (Caps mine for emphasis.) And so it is and easily seen in our education system, that same system being used to brain wash America’s children en mass.

I’m amazed and disheartened by parents who choose to remain uninformed concerning these issues, who are so busy being entertained by electronics & social media to watching television nearly non-stop or perhaps extremely involved in their kids extra-curricular activities to the point of being UNINTERESTED or uninvolved with the very heart of the system forming their children’s impressionable minds. Our children are the FUTURE. If the direction in which our nation is being taken isn’t halted and REVERSED soon I’m concerned that America’s future will be very bleak indeed.

America…. what has HAPPENED to you?” (Thanks for asking Joanne)

When people know about what is happening, how can they not get it? I think they will…share what you learn with those that may not know what you know.

Answer for yourselves, is Common Core a Tool or Weapon?

Testing, Testing…1,2,3…

Tests have always demonstrated that when it comes to educational achievement, a socioeconomic and racial inequality exists in this country. That is our educational legacy — to date.

The obvious was clearly stated by the National Advisory Council on the Education of Disadvantaged Children in 1966 in saying that some children “have not lived in a world of books, or of ideas” and consequentially, “they have not understood concepts in tests devised for the majority of the children of our schools.”  These tests better measure “the results of the child’s opportunity for learning more accurately than his capacity for present or future learning.”

Said another way, standardized tests are one indicator of equality of opportunity, not necessarily the quality of education.

As Douglas B. Reeves, in 101 Questions & Answers about Standards, Assessment, and Accountability, stated in discussing standardized tests, “What these tests can never do is measure a broad concept such as ‘educational quality’ of schools and teachers, and the tests certainly do not measure the general knowledge of students.” But how are we using them today?

We are failing to follow the “Code of Fair Testing Practices in Education” which includes “the recommended uses” for tests and the necessity for understanding “the strengths and limitations of the test” we are using. There are ethical and unethical uses of testing and the data they produce. But no one is being called into account for misuse and abuse of tests and the data they produce.

The whole foundation of the national education reform movement has been based on “OUTPUTS” as judged by standardized achievement tests.

Equality in opportunity cannot be built upon a foundation of sand.

The shifting sands of  modern education reforms.

The shifting sands of reform haven’t produced what we need.

Part 7 of ten blogs on The Road to Educational Quality and Equality that started with The March Begins.

 

What Do YOU Mean “Standards”?

Our modern-day standards movement can roughly be marked by the release of A Nation at Risk in 1983. And “standards” crept into federal law under George H. W. Bush with the help of Assistant Secretary of Education Diane Ratvich who promoted the use of “academic” standards.

We use descriptors of every kind when we talk of standards: academic, performance, process, content, curricular, core, opportunity-to-learn, and always “higher.”

But let’s talk about how to use standards. As Charles M. Reigeluth explained in “To Standardize or to Customize Learning?”—“If not properly conceived, standards can do far more harm than good….They can be used as tools for standardization—to make all students alike. Or they can be used as tools for customization—to help meet individual students’ needs”

We can look at it this way: There is no standard way to drive; there are rules, there are guidelines, but when it comes to getting behind the wheel, it’s an individual thing with decisions made based on variables. Reigeluth provided this —“To use a travel analogy, standards for manufacturing are comparable to a single destination for all travelers to reach, whereas standards for education are more like milestones on many never-ending journeys whereby different travelers may go to many different places.

Who chooses the road for our young travelers?

Who chooses the road for our young travelers?

As long as we offer all of our education traveler’s quality opportunities along the way, we have fulfilled the promise of equal opportunity. But we have not.

The process for using standards is not simple. It seems reasonable to have content standards developed in cooperation with experts in the content areas; that is where “experts” can help “locals.” And after that (again quoting Marzano & Kendall,1997) “standards-based approaches must be tailor made to the specific needs and values of individual schools and districts.”

So, the Mid-continent Research for Education and Learning (McREL) regional educational laboratory long ago developed a data base of content standards along with advice on how to use them to develop classroom curriculum to meet the needs of the community. My advice is to use what we know.

This controversial and divisive topic of “standards” comes down to the fact that we can take a “content” standard, which is a description of what the student should know and be able to do (as defined by experts in a given subject) and turn it into a “curriculum” standard which takes into account how a subject is best presented along with suggested activities. This produces a usable instructional framework.

Ultimately, what is “best” for students in any given classroom can only be decided right there in the classroom, in real time, with much prior planning. This is a starting point in the travel toward excellence.

But we must be clear — standards for academic achievement are not the same as standardization of instruction.

And as was pointed out in A Nation at Risk, standardized tests of achievement should be “administered at major transition points from one level of schooling to another and particularly from high school to college or work.”

We sure as shootin’ blew that advice to hell and back!

Part 6 of ten blogs on The Road to Educational Quality and Equality that started with The March Begins.