Nationwide Standards for a National Challenge

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It’s no secret that our nation is currently experiencing an unprecedented flurry of interest and investment in education reform, particularly within the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) disciplines.

Contributing to the widespread attention on our nations’ classrooms are reports from multiple sources in the last few decades that indicate that America’s public school systems are underserving their students on both a domestic and global scale.

How do ‘they’ know?  In 2001, Congress passed the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), a reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965. NCLB promoted a nationwide accountability system based on standardized measurements of student achievement. Title 1 of NCLB, which is officially named “Improving The Academic Achievement Of The Disadvantaged,” incentivized state adoption of standards-based reform by providing guidelines for federal financial support mechanisms. According to the Center on Education Policy, however, nearly a decade after the inception of NCLB, over a third of our nation’s schools are failing to meet adequate yearly progress (AYP) on state administered assessments.(*See sidebar below for more information on AYP & Title 1) 

Watch:George Bush discusses NCLB Remarks on No Child Left Behind

According the US department of Education’s website, Title I, is intended to “ensure that all children have a fair, equal, and significant opportunity to obtain a high-quality education and reach, at a minimum, proficiency on challenging State academic achievement standards and state academic assessments” (US Department of Education, 2011).

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One thought on “Nationwide Standards for a National Challenge

  1. Amy, I really like your overview of the history of reform currents that led to NGSS — could be especially useful for new sci. ed. grad students.

    Your most provocative argument, I think, is that arguments against high-stakes assessments should not count as arguments against Standards in general, or Common Core/NGSS in particular, because States can adhere to the standards without using assessments that fall prey to the downsides of many current high-stakes tests. Although I find your argument convincing in principle, I’m worried about how things will play out. If States all claim to adhere to NGSS but end up using different assessment, people will claim — with some justification — that the States aren’t *really* adhering to common standards, or at least, that we don’t really know for sure, since they’re all using different yardsticks to measure what kids are actually learning. So, there will be intense pressure for the States to use a shared assessment. The issue then becomes, what will be the nature of that shared assessment? When *so* many players have to agree on an assessment that must be graded in a very standardized way, the danger of its getting watered down and losing the “spirit” of the underlying reforms becomes intense.

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