The standards are irrelevant…

Neal McCluskey thinks that national standards are, if I may put words in his mouth, so much lipstick on a pig.  My favourite part:

Finally, no matter how brilliant the draft standards, there is no reason to believe that they will drive meaningful educational improvement. Government schools will still be government schools, and the people employed by them will still have very little incentive to push kids to excellence, and every incentive to game the system to make the standards toothless.

He makes some very interesting points, and most of his ire seems to be aimed at national standards in particular.  But to the extent that he argues against national standards on the basis that all students learn differently, it seems like he might be making an implicit (and possibly inadvertent) argument against fixed standards at any level of education — federal, state, district, or even school standards.  I take it this isn’t what he wants to do… but it is an interesting thought nonetheless.

I mean, really… what if the idea of putting students in large groups to learn together is itself deeply mistaken?  I don’t think it is, but I’ve been wrong about things before.


  1. “Putting kids in large groups” is an economic necessity. It doesn’t have anything to do with educational efficacy.

    As for national standards, state standards, accountability measures, merit pay, AYP, etc., it’s pushing on a rope; trying to do by top-down mandate what a bottom-up, market-oriented approach would do naturally.

  2. Large groups may be necessary, but what about the current methods for selecting those groups; are those dictated by economics also, or by something else?

  3. Roger Sweeny says:

    To the extent that school is educational day care, giving kids a safe place away from their parents where they engage in pro-social age-appropriate activities, present methods of grouping are pretty much dictated.

    If school were primarily about learning, kids would be grouped by what they’ve learned, and they’d be in different groups for different things. But it isn’t and they aren’t.

  4. what if the idea of putting students in large groups to learn together is itself deeply mistaken?

    Grouping students of different abilities together? Expecting them all to learn a particular amount in the same amount of time? Deeply mistaken.

  5. tim-10-ber says:

    Well said Roger Sweeny!

  6. Nice job, Roger and Allen.

  7. Standards that are overly prescriptive or content based are not a good idea. Standards for what teachers and students should be able to do, if flexible enough, are helpful.