It’s a standards-based world, and we’re all just living in it. We all are looking for improvement in our schools. We want to see real results. To get there, we need strong standards by which to measure the results. As Yogi Berra said, if you don’t know where you’re going, you’re never going to get there.
Whether they be state, national, or international, standards are necessary to school improvement. We need yardsticks to know how our kids and our classrooms are doing. And we need to know how we compare to schools, both across the state and around the globe.
Personally, Eduflack would like to see a common national education standard. Yes, local control of schools is an important part of both our history and our future. But with a constantly evolving population, one that is more and more transient, it is just as important to ensure a quality education for all. From our urban centers to our rural heartlands, from New England to Appalachia to the Badlands to the Pacific Northwest, all children should succeed. A fifth grader is a fifth grader, wherever she is studying. A high school graduate is a high school graduate, wherever he receives his diploma. National standards ensure that equality, putting equally strong instruction and curriculum in classrooms across the country.
So why don’t we have such standards yet? Some still question why standards are needed. Others can’t see how to develop and implement them effectively. And still others see it as infringing on the rights of educators across the country.
The urban legend tells us that teachers are opposed to such standards, believing they stifle creativity and true instruction in the classroom. We hear that teaching is more art than science, and standards simply reduce us to teaching to the test. To some, teachers are one of the greatest obstacles to adopting meaningful education standards.
That’s the fiction, but let’s take a look at the facts. Good teachers actually embrace standards, seeing them as goals on which to focus. They ensure that curriculum and data collection and training and learning materials are being chosen wisely. They work to leave no child behind. And they empower teachers to strengthen the necessary linkages between meaningful standards, classroom content, and student performance.
Case in point is the latest issue of American Educator from the American Federation of Teachers.
American Educator has focused its spring 2008 edition on the need for clear, content-specific state education standards. Offering perspectives from both educators and researchers, it is an interesting read. It reminds us of the AFT’s commitment to standards, while helping us erase the fiction that has blamed teachers for blocking standards.
If our goal is national standards, then meaningful state standards are a necessary step. Today, we can look at standards like those developed by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, and say, “that state gets it.” Imagine if we had such strong standards in all 50 states. Imagine if those states then all got together, and agreed to a common national standard. And imagine if AFT was a part of such a discussion. It’s enough to instill just a little bit of glee in the heart of an ed reformer.