Arne Duncan’s Race to the Top is pushing states to sign on to proposed core standards, but some are pushing back.
Massachusetts, which spent six years creating successful academic standards, lost points in its RTTT application for refusing to commit in advance to “inferior national standards,” write Jim Stergios and Charles Chieppo of Pioneer Institute in a Wall Street Journal op-ed.
While educational fads come and go –the governor is pushing “21st century skills” like “global awareness” and “cultural competence,” they complain — the academic standards are a bulwark against backsliding.
The national standards may be better than most state standards, but they’re still dumbing down schools, writes Terrence Moore in Big Government. He wants students to develop “depth of insight into how human beings think, believe, hope, and act.”
I ran a K-12 classical charter school for seven years. Not once did I or any of the teachers look at a state standard in reading or writing (math is something of a different case). The students did no test prep. When our students took the state exams, all they did was complain about how easy and worthless they were and how they wanted to get back to real learning. Every year the high school ranked in the top three in the state, twice coming out first. . . . The way to teach literacy for the twenty-first century turns out to be the same way it has been done in the last thirty centuries of civilization: to hire the brightest and best-educated teachers (usually not those coming out of a school of education considered “certified”), to put in their hands the best works of literature and history and philosophy, to invite young people to have a conversation about what it means to be a human being, and to require those students to work hard and demonstrate good character while doing so.
Test-prepped in K-12, college students can’t read critically, writes Heather Kim, a remedial writing instructor at Berkeley, in the San Francisco Chronicle. Her students rely on strategies for guessing what a passage means. They all did well enough in high school to qualify for California’s flagship state university, which is supposed to be one of the best in the country.
If Moore’s students could ace state tests by discussing literature, I wonder if test prep really helps students pass tests. I was told once by a researcher that test prep didn’t produce higher test scores in Texas; what worked was time spent teaching writing skills.