April 12: Educational Reform and National Standards

In Issue one of Evans (2008) national standards and testing are the central focus. Most of the conversation flows from the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) and the challenges our schools and our country face when it comes to education. The reasons behind the desire for a national standardized education are understandable; all students deserve the same educational experience and they should be held to the same “high” standards (Finn et al, as quoted by Evans, p. 7-8). These reasons are admirable, but there are other factors motivating national standards including globalization and competition (p. 8). Each of these points are of equal merit, but is the way to reform education by making a blanket decision for all of the states? The Constitution itself calls for state and local responsibility for education and this seems to be logical as each state and each local school district has a unique community and culture of families and students it is serving (p. 21).

I understand the value of setting a high bar for all children to achieve, yet I find it naïve to think that each student or even each community of students would have the same bar to work toward. Even within individual schools, students are placed in different levels based on their academic aptitude. Some take the standard courses while others are in honors or advanced placement courses. Each course has its own marker for achievement and teachers should always strive to encourage their students to continuously strive for the bar and then raise it again once it has been achieved. A great example is when it comes to required credits to graduate. If a student is able to place into a level 2 world language course as a freshman and is only required to take two years of a world language to graduate, but are clearly capable of continuing onto higher levels the teacher and administrators should encourage that student to continuously strive for more, not just the bare minimum.

Things like this lead me to believe that individual schools and communities know what is best for their population of students. It would be impossible to have one set standard for the entire population of American students because of the rich diversity the country has. How could one standard be agreed upon for all students, in all subjects at each grade level without being unrealistic or offensive? Rightly so, all students deserve the same opportunity for education and have a positive and quality experience as students. Yet there are so many other factors beyond education that directly impact the success of an individual student and even groups of students. There seem to be bigger issues at hand which could include redefining what poverty is rather than just a monetary line or even redefining what success looks like. There are so many stakeholders when it comes to education that it is going to be impossible to find one method to fix the problems within education, but that doesn’t mean that efforts shouldn’t be taken to support schools, teachers, families and students as well as improving the educational system nationwide. Maybe local and state decisions have a higher margin for success?

Evans, D. (2008) Taking sides: Clashing views of controversial issues in teaching and educational practice (3rd ed.). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.

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