Another Standards Anniversary

I stumbled upon a government website that has a few things to say in support of the move to develop standards.

It opens by pointing out that in airplane piloting and Olympic athletes, we want people who have been trained to the highest standards. Ditto with students.

When we do not hold all students to high academic standards, the result can be low achievement and the tragedy of children leaving school without ever having been challenged to fulfill their potential.

But fear not . Hope and change are coming–

But a historic change is now taking place in American education: the development of model standards that will clearly identify what all students should know and be able to do to live and work in the 21st century. These standards will be designed to be internationally competitive.

So why do we need these standards at all?

Establishing high standards lets everyone in the education system know what to aim for. They allow every student, every parent, and every teacher to share in common expectations of what students should know and be able to accomplish. Students will learn more when more is expected of them, in school and at home. And standards will help create coherence in educational practices by aligning teacher education, instructional materials, and assessment practices.

How did the movement begin? With a meeting between the President and many governors just five years ago, and a series of grants made to various scholarly and professional organizations. The standards framework is voluntary on the state level, with states retaining the ability to adapt the standards as they see fit.

Wait! What?

Here’s the punchline. The President at the earlier meeting in question was George H. W. Bush. One of the governors at the meeting was Bill Clinton. The website is archived information from October of 1994.

There isn’t a huge point to make here, other than we didn’t get into the current mess overnight or with one particular set of leaders. But our leaders, over the last twenty years, did change their minds about just how coercive the standards initiative needed to be, and just how useful some rich corporate partners might be in selling the whole thing. Goals 2000 also had the lofty idea of setting standards for many subject areas and not just math and English. Guess we decided that would be too hard as well.

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