What or Who are Educational Standards?
For over a century student learning in the United States could be best defined by the age old “standards” of reading, writing, and arithmetic. A student’s success, and indirectly the success of the teacher, was defined or graded by how well a student could read and write and do mathematical computation. This process of teaching and learning was easy to understand, whether you were the student, teacher, parent or superintendent.
Over the last two decades, public schools Superintendents have been caught in the middle of this national push to establish a more definitive expectation of what constitutes student achievement and instructional effectiveness. In more recent years this has become known as the Educational Reform Movement.
In order to have a consistent standard of educational measurement it became necessary to establish a more in-depth and descriptive explanation of what was to be taught and what was to be learned. This was the foundational underpinning of the new educational standards movement. Educational standards define the knowledge and skills students should possess at critical points in their educational career. Educational standards are the learning goals for what students should know and be able to do at each grade level. Educational standards help teachers ensure their students have the skills and knowledge they need to be successful, while also helping parents understand what is expected of their children. Educational standards are the new benchmarks for success or failure.
The goal of standards-based education is that all students receive a meaningful education that serves essentially as a road map to ensure that they can read, write, and do basic mathematics at a level necessary to become contributing members in our American society. To avoid a surprising failure at the end of high school, standards trickle down through all the lower grades, with regular assessments through a variety of means. Standards are now the guiding expectations in elementary, middle, and high school educational programs. \
If the truth be known, there is a very distinctive commonality between public school Superintendents and educational standards. In essence, both standards and Superintendents are in place to ensure that no student, regardless of socio-economic influence, age, race, gender, cultural background, disability, or family situation will be exempt from learning the required material, although it is understood that individual students may learn in different ways and at different rates.
Over the last 20 years, instead of being written by textbook publishers, education professors, or influenced by tradition, standards have been developed on a local, regional, and national level through a more politically influenced discussion process that focuses on what students need to learn to be competitive in the job market. Standards have become the academic expectation, but they have not addressed the issues of social or personal growth that are also critical to the development of well-rounded and productive students.
The most recent discussion on educational standards is more specific and has truly addressed the question of who should be responsible for standards – state or national agencies. The latest attempt to move standards-based educational practice and outcome expectations was focused more on a set of nationally defined standards. These are best known as the Common Core standards. The Common Core standards were developed almost exclusively by a nationally established group of education, business, and government stakeholders whose goal was to bring the American public education system into alignment. While the intent may or may not have been to improve educational practice and student achievement through a nationally established set of standards, the result was a minimum level of local or state involvement in the development process. This left the door open for criticism and objection about the lack of local control.
While initially 47 states signed on to use the Common Core standards to drive educational practice, over the last several years several states are reassessing to what extent, if any, the Common Core standards would be used. Indiana has just recently elected to move away from the Common Core and to move to a set of standards that are developed and endorsed by local business, education, and government stakeholders.
Through all of this discussion and continual banter as to right verses wrong, good verses bad, or national verses local control, I can promise you only two consistent outcomes. First, these discussions about which standards are most appropriate, developed by which group of concerned citizens, and used by which students will always be ongoing and spirited. Secondly, I can promise you that local educational leaders, such as the members of IAPSS, will continue to rise above the rhetoric of political posturing and diligently works toward insuring that teachers and students will have every opportunity to achieve at the highest levels in a culture that is based on an unwavering “Common Core of Care” which will always be a part the of IAPSS professional standards.
With Pride in Service,
Dr. Robert L. Taylor