Two-thirds of schoolchildren in America will return to class in coming weeks in states with mediocre (or worse) expectations for what their students should learn.
Five years after No Child Left Behind made standards-based education reform the law of the land, a new study finds that the subject-by-subject state standards that undergird this reform strategy remain inadequate in most jurisdictions. The State of State Standards 2006, the first full review of such standards since 2000, confers an average grade of “C-minus”-the same as six years earlier-even though most states revised their standards during that period.
Some 26 states earned a “D” or an “F” grade for standards and 11 performed worse than in 2000. Only nine states earned honors grades in all subjects, led by Massachusetts, California, and New York.
Another new Fordham report, To Dream the Impossible Dream: Four Approaches to National Standards and Tests for America’s Schools, suggests alternative plans for national standards and tests. Plans range from “The Whole Enchilada” — a federal accountability system — to “Sunshine and Shame” — state testing with more transparency.
“Big modern countries need big modern standards from sea to shining sea,” remarked (Fordham head Checker) Finn. “Most other nations have figured this out. In America, however, we’ve left standard setting to the states and most of them have bungled the job. This report takes our dialogue about standards, testing and accountability to a new level. I hope it brings closer the day when all our children and schools are held to the same rigorous expectations.”
The highlight of the standards report is: It Takes a Vision: How Three States Created Great Academic Standards by me. Working as a freelancer, I analyzed the development of standards — the politics, the players and the passion — in Massachusetts, California and Indiana, all of which got top ratings from Fordham.