A colleague asked this question...
"....here are some things we can presume the current administration favors. What would work better? How would WE craft legislation on these issues?
Common standards for math and literacy across the nation, tied to common assessments. Are these a necessary step to improving achievement in our lowest-performing schools and states? If we don't think they're going to "raise the bar"--then what strategies would address."
I have written about common standards across the whole country. It's no secret that I oppose this because I don't believe that anything that is crafted in Washington DC will help anything in my local neighborhood. The policies will not know the subtle differences in the school 2 blocks from my house and the school where I teach.....and therefore cannot hope to be responsive to the needs of the students in either of those schools.
I always think that the call for national standards is because we don't know what to do about the lowest performing schools and states? How would having national standards begin to address the societal problems that many of these schools face....and I think it's irresponsible to ask schools to solve the problems that social programs have not solved.
News flash. You can fix a social problem educationally.
How I would go about crafting legislation is to
- commission the local teachers & community members to identify the problems in their schools...both educational ones and social problems. Wouldn't you bet that the social workers, community based physicians, neighborhood clinic staff et al know more about the people who live in that neighborhood...and I'll bet they know how to help them with some of the unsolvable problems way better than some politician sitting in Washington DC.
- At the same time, have the teachers compare the national standards to what the state already has in place. Where I come from the state standards are typically much higher than the national standards. Before NCLB, math state standards called for student tests' to be performance-based instead of multiple choice. Same for science standards. NCLB stripped all this away and now we are immersed in computational drill...not the kinds of problems that promotes kids into becoming engineers or scientists.
- Remember the old block grant programs. Big federal parameters that allowed localities to solve their problems in ways that suited their people....well, I'd appropriate federal funding based on that kind of idea.
- Then every year when the block grant comes up for re-funding, I'd make them show how what the locality spent worked, didn't work and start all over again.
- If we are going to do national standards, then classroom teachers should design classroom based performance based testing. We should fight hard to make those tests relevant to our kids and as real world based as possible....get rid of all this high stakes testing on computers for days on end.
I'd be amazed if student performance wouldn't improve just by doing things to support kids as they grow up. These are the "finger in the dike" kinds of things that schools can't do but are being asked to do right now. You can't raise the bar if kids are worrying about basic needs.