March 15, 2010

National Standards in Education

From the NYT:

A panel of educators convened by the nation’s governors and state school superintendents proposed a uniform set of academic standards on Wednesday, laying out their vision for what all the nation’s public school children should learn in math and English, year by year, from kindergarten to high school graduation.

The new proposals could transform American education, replacing the patchwork of standards ranging from mediocre to world-class that have been written by local educators in every state.

Under the proposed standards for English, for example, fifth graders would be expected to explain the differences between drama and prose stories, and to identify elements of drama like characters, dialogue and stage directions. Seventh graders would study, among other math concepts, proportional relationships, operations with rational numbers and solutions for linear equations.

Yes, but here's the essential rub with standards: What happens to seventh graders who can't do those things?

Standards are great for, say, fighter pilot training programs. If by week X of training, you haven't mastered standards A, B, and C, then you don't get to be a fighter pilot. You go do something else. Maybe if you come close to meeting the fighter pilot standard, they send you off to transport plane training.

But what do you do with 7th graders who aren't smart enough to meet the standards?

Well, in European countries, they put kids of different intelligence on different tracks. But, our educational establishment hates tracking. So, we just put our fingers in our ears and close our eyes and assume everybody is equal in intelligence, and sue for disparate impact discrimination.

The new standards are likely to touch off a vast effort to rewrite textbooks, train teachers and produce appropriate tests, if a critical mass of states adopts them in coming months, as seems likely.

There is a lot of money in rewriting textbooks. By the way, one of the things that the proliferation of standards has contributed to is making children's textbooks so massive that many kids don't want to lug them from school to home to do their homework, so they don't do their homework.

But there could be opposition in some states, like Massachusetts, which already has high standards that advocates may want to keep.

And why shouldn't Massachusetts have higher standards than West Virginia? Massachusetts has been the academic capital of America since the 1600s. There is a reason that the most academically distinguished towns in both Britain and America have exactly the same name: Cambridge.

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

20 comments:

Anonymous said...

Like I said, white students should purposely fail all state administered tests to avoid persecution in the name of "closing the gap." If the Federal Government can't reliably measure a gap then it has no rationale for busing smart kids in the suburbs to Unified Ghetto High in a nearby urban center. Then the Department of Education would have to come up with some retinal scan method to measure kids cognitive ability, which would finally put the lie to the claim that the NAM/white achievement gap = white racism.

ASDF said...

I am 27. I went to elementary and high school with upper middle class whites and asians. We didn't even learn basic algebra until grade 8, and it worked out just fine. There is no way that normal Americans, be they black, brown, or working class whites, can master "proportional relationships, operations with rational numbers and solutions for linear equations. " I don't even know what those are...

Anonymous said...

"The new proposals could transform......."


Anybody else heard that phrase before?

Enoch Powell Was Right said...

More standards? I don't know about anyone else but watching Arne Duncan's P.R. stunt at the Edmund Pettus Bridge makes we want to scream til my throat bleeds and the neighbors call the cops on me. Why doesn't he "race to the top" of the nearest tall building and jump off?

Anonymous said...

white students should purposely fail all state administered tests to avoid persecution in the name of "closing the gap"

I wonder why students would put much effort into any test that doesn't affect their grades, graduation, or college admissions. Really, what's in it for them?

rightsaidfred said...

But what do you do with 7th graders who aren't smart enough to meet the standards?

Leave them in the 7th grade until they pass or retire. Womb to the tomb, baby.

Anonymous said...

Leave them in the 7th grade until they pass or retire.

I think that's called "reality".

[Unless maybe your point is that 7th Graders aren't allowed to possess AFDC/WIC/Section 8 direct-deposit debit cards?]

Melykin said...

ASDF said
"There is no way that normal Americans, be they black, brown, or working class whites, can master "proportional relationships, operations with rational numbers and solutions for linear equations. " I don't even know what those are..."
---------------------

I bet you do.

Proportional relationships:
1:3 = 2:6

Operations with rational numbers:
1/3 + 1/2 = 2/6 + 3/6 = 5/6

Solutions of linear equations:
2x - 7 = 5 --> 2x = 5 + 7 -->
2x = 12 --> x = 12/2 --> x = 6

silly girl said...

"I wonder why students would put much effort into any test that doesn't affect their grades, graduation, or college admissions. Really, what's in it for them?"


The tests are often used as promotion standards.

If the student doesn't achieve a minimum score, he is not promoted to the next grade and must attend summer school or repeat the grade. That is a bigger deal to most students than grades.

Anonymous said...

That comment about the size of the texts is so spot-on. When I was a kid I brought home 3 or 4 reasonably light hardbound books and had no problems. My kids books way about 30 lbs per student and I personally think they would have serious back problems if they brought each book to and from school each day.

ridiculous.

Anonymous said...

The son of a lady I worked with treated a state test that way.

The school suspended him.

Kent

Anonymous said...

The most academically distinguished town in Britain is Oxford. Cambridge, as an Oxonian friend once told me, is second in all things except for treason (Blunt, Philby, Burgess, Maclean, Cairncross, ands Straight were all at Cambridge).

Eric said...

This was my take on the whole standards fad. The implication is you're going to do something meaningful when students don't meet standards, but of course that's not going to happen in the real world.

What they should do is not allow students to go on to the next grade unless they've mastered the material. At least the kids who are trying to learn wouldn't be held back by the kids just marking time until they can legally drop out.

Anonymous said...

As far as keeping kids back till they master the subjects, I'm not sure that the government's solution to blending a class with normal seven year olds and a group of six footers still trying to learn to read is going to work real well.

Kent

e said...

Why not offer, say, an inexpensive daycare service for all children ages 4-12, plus 100 hours of instruction in basic math and reading? You could have more athletic daycare centers for more energetic kids, and more space/alone time for more responsible ones.

Smart poor kids would need some trusted test of their ability, at maybe age five, six or seven, which would sort them and send them to a more intellectually stimulating environment.

Also, why not give tax credits to homeschooling families, for relieving the system of over $19,000 in yearly expenses? Seems reasonable to me.

Curvaceous Carbon-based Life Form said...

"My kids books way about 30 lbs per student"

And at least half that weight is pictures of "diversity." Generally a girl doing something boys like (driving a backhoe or something) or a black boy at the blackboard solving linear equations.

Ronduck said...

And why shouldn't Massachusetts have higher standards than West Virginia? Massachusetts has been the academic capital of America since the 1600s.

That is one of the best arguments I've seen in print for Al-Qaeda to be allowed to acquire nuclear weapons.

Anonymous said...

If the student doesn't achieve a minimum score, he is not promoted to the next grade and must attend summer school or repeat the grade. That is a bigger deal to most students than grades.

Then that would fall under the category of affecting graduation.

When I was in junior high we took various state tests that purportedly measured our mastery of math, history, biology, etc. But since it had no affect on our grades, graduation, or college admissions, nobody bothered to do his best on them. I wouldn't say we deliberately screwed them up, but why sweat something that has no consequences for you?

David said...

> we just put our fingers in our ears and close our eyes and assume everybody is equal in intelligence <

But this is America, Steve. Here, anyone can do anything if they work hard. Anyone can be anything they want to be, even President.

Everyone is equal. The Founding Persons told us so. (This is my latest favorite saying and I plan to ride it for another couple days.)

Obzerv said...

In a way I sort of feel bad for these leftists. No matter what measures they take they will never close the achievement gaps. Eventually they will have to acknowledge the reality of racial differences. They're so idealistic and naive, its like a child finding out Santa doesn't exist.