Saturday, January 08, 2005

Substandard standards

Joanne Jacobs links to a pair of new reports from the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation evaluating educational standards in English and Mathematics across the states. These standards have become more important since the passage of the No Child Left Behind act, and the foundation is none too pleased with the standards as they are now.

I spent some time reading The State of State Math Standards 2005 (PDF) and it's pretty interesting. If you can't find any good reality programming on television, but you still want some entertainment that is both humorous and disturbing, you might want to check out this report. The standards requiring that probability be taught to Kindergartners are amusing, but the prize for "funniest standard" goes to Missouri-- the Show-Me-State requires that high school students be able to:

Evaluate the logic and aesthetics of mathematics as they relate to the universe.

At the end of the report is the following suggestion, which I think makes a lot of sense:

A simple and effective way to improve standards is to adopt those of one of the top scoring states: California, Indiana, or Massachusetts. At the time of this writing, the District of Columbia was considering replacing its standards with the high quality standards from one of these states. That makes good sense. There is no need to reinvent the wheel. The goal of standards should not be innovation for its own sake; the goal is to implement useful, high-quality standards, regardless of where they originated.

I think there is a general tendency for educators to want to reinvent the wheel. Most of the hardworking, dedicated teachers I know write all their own lesson plans basically from scratch. Wouldn't it make more sense for someone who was especially good at writing lesson plans to write them for everybody?

The foundation reports that the new superintendent for the District of Columbia is, in fact, now planning to "simply jettison D.C.'s woeful standards and adopt the excellent schema already in use in Massachusetts." Good for him.

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