Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Common Standards and Test Mania

The country is talking a whole lot about common core standards for our nation's children. The idea is that if you study math as a sophomore in Texas, you should be able to be a junior in New Jersey and be o.k. Your learning should be rather portable, allowing you to feel confident that what you are learning is being learned all around the nation.

It's easier said than done.

But the Common Core Standards Initiative has been working hard to make this happen and this spring, we've seen some major results. "The Common Core State Standards Initiative is a state-led effort to establish a single set of clear educational standards for English-language arts and mathematics that states can share and voluntarily adopt." Folks want to be able to say what a student knows and is able to do and there needs to be clarity around this from state to state.

"Who is leading the Common Core State Standards Initiative? Parents, teachers, school administrators and experts from across the country together with state leaders, through their membership in the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) and the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices (NGA Center) are leading the effort to develop a common core of state standards."

For anyone who wants to weigh in on the topic, it's possible to do so on corestandards.org where there is also a great deal of information on the standards.

On my New Jersey Teacher of the Year interview last September, I was asked what academic standards meant to me. I said that they were a beacon for us to follow, a goal to move towards in instruction.

I think it's important to understand that believing in standards does not mean that one is signing up for every high-stakes test out there. It does mean that we have to come to a better shared understanding of what we teach and how best to evaluate progress and proficiency.

Most people I know say that this needs to be done by using a variety of assessment methods. I think of it as casting a wide net to see what knowledge is in there. It certainly doesn't mean that kids should submit to a single multiple-choice test, get a number and have that number be the deciding factor that says a child has reached the stated goal.

The other thing about standards is that they aren't supposed to invade classrooms and take away that teachable moment. "Standards do not tell teachers how to teach, but they do help teachers figure out the knowledge and skills their students should have so that teachers can build the best lessons and environments for their classrooms."

I see the standards movement as a good thing which gets us working together to create more goal focused programs, with a wide range of teaching strategies and experiences in each individual classroom. To think that standards are equal to the very worst in standardized tests is just wrong.

(all quotes taken from http://www.corestandards.org)

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