A “Broader Yardstick”

Yesterday’s Washington Post continued the public debate on how we measure the efficacy of our public schools.  Under a headline of “Calls Grow for a Broader Yardstick for Schools,” the Post’s Maria Glod fan the flames of high-stakes testing and NCLB mandates.  But if we peel back the clamoring and positioning, what is the Post really poking at?  http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/12/15/AR2007121501747.html

Eduflack will try to look past the American Society of Civil Engineers’ calls for national science testing.  Last I saw, science was one of the three subjects NCLB is slated to test, with those fourth through eighth grade exams coming online shortly.  There’s one demand that has already been met.

So let’s look at the broader picture.  NEA’s Reg Weaver is right when he says student success should be more than just one test score.  And CCSSO’s Michael Casserly is dead-on when he states that different audiences have different answers to the question of how to best measure our K-12 schools.  But instead of looking at “multiple measures” and examining how one state’s proficiency measures stand up to another’s, there has to be a simple way.  Oh, wait, there is — national standards.

If we look at the hand-ringing in the Post piece and in public and private discussions these past few years about accountability and the measurement of student, teacher, and school achievement, there is rarely discussion of national standards.  It’s as if it is the third rail of education reform (or maybe the 3 1/3 rail, after teacher accountability).  We’re afraid to talk about national standards, not knowing what might be behind the curtain if we allow that show to truly take the stage.

But isn’t national standards the rhetorical solution to all of these criticisms?
* It offers a bold solution that demonstrates that we, as a nation, are committed to strengthening our schools and ensuring our students have the skills they need to succeed in the workplace and the community
* It provides a strong fix to the notion that some states may be lowering their standards to appear proficient
* It states that every child, regardless of their home town or economic standing, has the right to a strong, proven effective public education
* It brings equality to our expectations and measurement of classroom teachers, whether they be in urban, suburban or rural settings
* It may just be the only “fair” approach to measuring our schools – with one common yardstick

Earlier this year, Gov. Roy Romer — now heading Strong American Schools — suggested we bring together many of the nation’s top governors and let them hatch the plan for adopting national education standards.  Eduflack said it then, and he’ll say it again, it is a visionary approach that may be just what the ed reform community is in search of.  http://blog.eduflack.com/2007/10/05/the-next-great-ed-reform-idea.aspx

Most still bristle at the notion of national education standards.  We reflect on the belief that education is a local issue, left to town councils and local selectmen.  While that may have been true a century or so ago, results from NAEP and PISA tell us a very different story.  If we are to maintain a thriving economy, if we are to be home to the world’s top industry and innovative thinking, we need to get serious about how we measure our successes.  It just doesn’t get more serious that national standards.   

One thought on “A “Broader Yardstick”

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