"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Monday, September 20, 2010

The standards movement is a colossal mistake

The entire standards movement is a colossal mistake.

In the discussion about standards and tests over the last year, it has been assumed that we must have national standards and all we need to do is get the right ones.

Rarely mentioned is the view that the entire national standards (and national testing) movement is a colossal mistake, a diversion of energy and money from the real problem in American education: poverty.

Our schools are facing tremendous financial problems: In high poverty areas, science classes lack equipment, libraries lack books, and even bathrooms lack toilet paper. Students in high poverty areas suffer from inadequate diets, toxic environments, and lack of books in their neighborhoods and homes. The US has the highest percentage of children of poverty of all industrialized countries (http://www.epi.org/economic_snapshots/entry/webfeatures_snapshots_20060719/
), now higher than ever, and it is children of poverty who do not do well on standardized tests.

Susan Ohanian has pointed out that providing standards to students who do not have the means to meet them is like handing out menus to starving people who have no access to food.

Debate about the content of the standards is simply discussing what will be on the menu.

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