I keep seeing a lot of posts and articles about the drive for national standards for literacy and math (and perhaps science on down the road). Recently, Washington state has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to revise its math and science standards (and recommend "aligned" instructional materials).
I can't help but be a bit mystified by all of this.
I understand the purpose of a standards-based education for every child. What I don't understand is the assumption that better standards (whatever that means) will equal increases in student achievement. It comes from another false conclusion that the reason scores on student achievement measures are low is because there must be something wrong with the current academic standards.
Sorry, but that dog just won't hunt. Standards are all well and good in their place, but they are not some sort of magic bullet for student learning. Even before the days of NCLB, standards, and standardized testing, there was an achievement gap. The presence of those things does not seem to be making much more difference than their absence.
I have to wonder how much greater impact on students we could have if all the money and energy was actually spent on supporting good instruction. Just imagine what could be accomplished if the focus on creating national standards was repurposed into instructional coaching, time/money for teacher collaboration, or other practices that have a direct impact on kids. What if we left the standards and assessments we have in place long enough to get the instructional pieces determined?
At some point, we have to look seriously at classroom instruction. To only focus Legislative attention on the framework (standards, instructional materials) and output (testing), neglects the most important part of the process: what happens in a classroom between a teacher and students.