Common Core State Standards Initiative – Chapter 2
Hooray for NCLB! (read on to understand why I wrote that)
The hard work of creating rigorous and internationally benchmarked education standards continues (see my October 28 blog post). The Common Core State Standards Initiative (CCSSI) is a voluntary effort led by the nation’s governors and their highest-ranking education policymakers, state superintendents and commissioners. It has the Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan’s support, and best of all, Congress has stayed out of the fray (I guess they’re busy with healthcare and energy).
The declared intent is to identify fewer but more rigorous standards. If done well, this will set the stage for developing curricular materials and instructional approaches that focus on thinking and creating, not memorization and regurgitation.
With lots of educator training (retraining), this will permit student-centered learning (jargon for learning where students are actively involved and not listening to a teacher lecture or required to complete a mind numbing worksheet).
There is one final challenge. We can’t use a testing model created at the turn of the 20th century to measure success of a (jargon warning) student-centered and technology-driven instructional approach created over 100 years later.
Fortunately, policymakers within the U.S. Department of Education, the Council of Chief State School Officers, and the National Governors Association recognize this. That’s why the secretary has set aside $350 million to fund new approaches to measuring student achievement and holding schools accountable (YEA!).
Just as they’re doing now with the common core standards, this new assessment and accountability system must be voluntary and led collectively by the states. The U.S. Department of Education must fund it, but not lead it, and Congress must stay away.
Finally, we need to engage the best researchers at our nation’s universities and those working at the testing companies to devise 21st century student assessments that support a 21st century accountability model.
These efforts will help teachers create their own classroom tests that measure thinking, not forcing students to regurgitate facts. They will be of high quality, and will be linked to high-quality standardized measures that focus on performance, creativity and thinking skills. And the system will measure whether individual students are making needed achievement gains each year, because that’s the only way to really know that some children are not left behind.
For all the flaws in the No Child Left Behind legislation, one of its greatest legacies is that it demonstrated how our current system of 50 different sets of state standards and outdated tests undermined the best efforts of our teachers and other school leaders–and for that I say HOORAY.