For several years, I have written about the National Standards Movement, and in general, have been critical of the movement, and suggested that in a liberal democracy such as our, common standards seems to the antithesis of our beliefs in the education of citizens.
Sometime ago, I wrote this about standards:
Standards represent the dogmatism of a particular group that actually writes and finally publishes the science standards. A very small group of people in the science education community are involved in this process. Yes, the directors of this project will tell you that the draft was put on line for review, and the same will happen with the draft of the actual standards by Achieve. But reviewing them does not mean that your views will be included. Review of the Framework was more of a survey, rather than an actual review of the Framework. To assume that one set of standards in science will be appropriate to every school, each community, and every student seems very undemocratic. The medical profession doesn’t even come close to having a uniform set of standards—physicians wouldn’t let that happen. But in education, we hire non-public and private school professionals, many of whom have never had any experience working with students or teachers in the K-12 environment, and this group writes the standards for the millions of professional teachers, none of whom are really involved in the process. Do you see a problem here?
The march to standardize and uniform the curriculum is a dangerous movement in a democratic society, and one that is so diverse in cultures, languages, and geography as America. How can we really think that one set of statements of science objectives written by non-practitioners can be truly be valid for all learners, all schools, and all teachers.
As Jay Mathews wrote in an article in the WashingtonPost, having national standards in each state is alive and well, and most states have made plans to implement the standards state-wide. The plan is to adopt a single set of standards, as has been done in mathematics and language arts, in each of the major subject areas. In fact, Achieve, Inc., is in the process of writing a new set of science standards based on The Framework for Science Education released earlier this summer by the National Research Council.
Why aren’t the national science standards a good think for learning?
Discipline Myopia. Using Dr. William G. Wraga’s (University of Georgia) terminology, you can see that I am extending this criticism to the Framework for K – 12 Science Education. He has suggested that
the standards devote insufficient attention to the need for an interdisciplinary curriculum, and represent a contracted view of the “common core” that disregards the role of schools in preparing students for citizenship.
The Framework promotes four disciplinary content areas, Life science, Earth/Space Science, Physical Science, and Engineering and Technology. As a result, the curriculum that is implied from the Framework is overly discipline oriented, and except for the addition of the area entitled Engineering and Technology, is no different than the 1996 National Science Education Standards. Even in elementary and middle school, there is little attempt of interrelate the content of science. Interdisciplinary science is not a structure in the Framework.
It probably Won’t Work. Jay Mathews has suggested that although common standards sounds good, it won’t work. He cites Jay P. Green’s Blog (University of Arkansas), who thinks that the tide has turned against nationalized standards primarily because that in order for standards to really work, they need to integrated with changes in curriculum, assessment and pedagogy, and changing all of these will take tons of money. We don’t have the money, and this could be a good thing reform of education that is more student-centered.
Digital Models of Learning. In this regards, it was once thought that having a set of national standards would be good for the digital learning movement. But research reported a recent conference on learning at Harvard suggests that having different sets of standards is not a barrier to digital learning teaching and learning materials developers. In fact, you know that digital environments thrive on innovation, and change, and for students, the digital world is ubiquitous.
Not in the best interest of students. The standards movement is not in the best interests of students, its in the best interests of the organizations and individuals behind the standards movement. Who are these organizations, and how close are they to what really happens day-to-day in the classroom. Many critics of the standards movement point to the idea that is a corporate led by a very elite group of wealthy individuals that really don’t want to have an open discussion on the merits of common standards. Authoritative demands were issued by the US Department of Education in its Race to the Top Fund insisting that if states did not adopt the Common Core Standards as part of their proposal for funding, then it could have negative impacts on the assessment of the proposal. Last minute deals were made in a number of states to accept this demand.
The standards movement sound like a good idea, but unfortunately it will lead to further eroding of schooling, especially with the increased demands to test the heck out of students. The recent cheating scandal in Atlanta was the tip of the iceberg of the corporate reform movement in U.S. education.
Even the Governor’s (Georgia) report revealed that a “culture of fear” took over the Atlanta School System, created by the dominance of the testing mentality of the Georgia Department of Education, and its demands for continuous increase on academic tests to measure student achievement.
Although the Georgia Department of Education has not been cited for having any part in creating the “culture of fear” in Atlanta, it appears that thoughtful educators point to the last decade of enforcement of the NCLB Act as creating this unfortunate environment.
The standards movement, if it continues to be the dominant paradigm in schooling, will only continue this downward trend.
You might want to read these articles on the Standards:
- In a Liberal Democracy, Can Inquiry Science Teaching Flourish with Common Standards?
- National Academy of Science Releases new Framework for K-12 Science Education
- Why do we teach science?
- Voluntary, nationwide education standards in science. Voluntary?
More importantly, we would very much like to hear your opinions on the standards movement. Write your comments here in the section, Speak Your Mind.
Tags: Common Core Standards, national standards, science teaching