.. d vice versa. They both are heading toward the same destination so let’s get moving and we’ll argue on the way. It is time for the Federal Government to take the lead and start the nation down the road. One of the fundamental principles of our nation should be the paramount concern of this Government body.
EQUALITY! In this case equality is achieved through standards. STANDARDS IN EDUCATION General standards in education have existed formally for over a century but as time went on, local school systems have expanded their curriculum to meet the needs of the local community. National standards must be established to alleviate variances from community to community and state to state in order for all citizens to have an equal chance in the global society. THE NEED FOR CURRICULUM STANDARDS From the 1940s until the mid-1970s, the emphasis on serving the interests of individual children generated a expansion of the number of courses that constituted the high school curriculum. By the mid 1970s, the U.S.
Office of Education reported that more than 2,100 different courses were being offered in American high schools. The content covered and the manner in which time is spent was at one time fairly uniform in American education, today there is little consistency in how much time students spend on a given subject or the knowledge and skills covered within that subject area. THE NEED FOR EVALUATION STANDARDS Perhaps the most compelling argument for organizing educational reform around standards is the shift in emphasis from what schools put into the process of schooling to what we get out of schools that is, a shift from educational inputs to educational outputs. Chester Finn describes this shift in perspective in terms of an emerging paradigm for education. Under the old conception education was thought of as process and system, effort and intention, investment and hope.
To improve education meant to try harder, to engage in more activity, to magnify one’s plans, to give people more services, and to become more efficient in delivering them. Under the new definition, now struggling to be born, education is the result achieved, the learning that takes root when the process has been effective. Only if the process succeeds and learning occurs will we say that education happened. The U.S. Office of Education was commissioned by Congress to conduct a major study of the quality of educational opportunity. The result was the celebrated Coleman Report (after chief author and researcher, James Coleman), which was released in 1966.
The report concluded that input variables might not actually have all that much to do with educational equality when equality was conceived of in terms of what students actually learned as opposed to the time, money, and energy that were expended. In summary, the new, more efficient and accountable view of education is output-based. Outputs defined in terms of specific student learnings, in terms of specific standards. THE NEED FOR GRADING STANDARDS Most assume that grades are precise indicators of what students know and can do with a subject area. In addition, most people assume that current grading practices are the result of a careful study of the most effective ways of reporting achievement and progress. In fact, current grading practices developed in a fairly serendipitous way. Mark Durm provides a detailed description of the history of grading practices in America, beginning in the 1780s when Yale University first started using a four-point scale.
By 1897, Mount Holyoke College began using the letter grade system that is so widely used in education today. For the most part, this 100-year-old system is still in place today. Unfortunately, even though the system has been in place for a century, there is still not much agreement as to the exact meaning of letter grades. This was rather dramatically illustrated in a nationwide study by Robinson & Craver (1988) that involved over 800 school districts randomly drawn from the 11,305 school districts with 300 or more students. One of their major conclusions was that districts stress different elements in their grades.
While all districts include academic achievement, they also include other significant elements such as effort, behavior, and attendance. There is great discrepancy in the factors teachers consider when they construct grades. We have a situation in which grades given by one teacher might mean something entirely different from grades given by another teacher even though the teachers are presiding over two identical classes with identical students who do identical work. Where one teacher might count effort and cooperation as 25% of a grade, another teacher might not count these variables at all. CONCLUSION Nearly all countries we want to emulate rely on policies and structures that are fundamentally standards based in nature. For example, in their study of standards-setting efforts in other countries, Resnick and Nolan (1995) note that Many countries whose schools have achieved academic excellence have a national curriculum. Many educators maintain that a single curriculum naturally leads to high performance, but the fact that the United States values local control of schools precludes such a national curriculum. Although they caution that a well articulated national curriculum is not a guarantee of high academic achievement, Resnick and Nolan offer some powerful illustrations of the effectiveness of identifying academic standards and aligning curriculum and assessments with those standards. France is a particularly salient example: * In texts and exams, the influence of the national curriculum is obvious.
For example, a French math text for 16-year-olds begins by spelling out the national curriculum for * the year so that all 16-year-olds know what they are expected to study. The book’s similar table of contents shows that the text developers referred to the curriculum. * Moreover, the text makes frequent references to math exams the regional school districts have given in the past. Students practice on these exams to help them prepare for the exam they will face; they know where to concentrate to meet the standard. (p. 9) In a similar vein, a report published by NESIC, the National Education Standards and Improvement Council (1993), details the highly centralized manner in which standards are established in other countries.
For example, in China, standards are set for the entire country and for all levels of the school system by the State Education Commission in Beijing. In England, standard setting was considered the responsibility of local schools until 1988, when the Education Reform Act mandated and outlined the process for establishing a national curriculum. The School Examinations and Assessment Council was established to carry out this process. In Japan, the ministry of education in Tokyo (Manibushi) sets the standards for schools, but allows each of the 47 prefectures (Ken) some latitude in adapting those standards. According to the NESIC report, Most countries embody their content standards in curriculum guides issued by the ministries of education or their equivalents.
(pc-51) Additionally, A national examination system provides a further mechanism for setting standards through specifications of examinations, syllabuses and regulations, preparations of tests, grading of answers, and establishment of cutoff points. (pc-51) If our children are to survive and excel in the emerging global society, we must give them the tools they need to compete. Whether future generations receive these tools via the Standards movement or the OBE movement is irrelevant. It is how well our children can compete with other countries of the world that will insure the United States remains a world leader, a nation united and strong. If this is not a role for the Federal Government, I don’t know what is?.