Making Standards Useful in the Classroom

Making Standards Useful in the Classroom

Making Standards Useful in the Classroom

Making Standards Useful in the Classroom

Synopsis

Has the standards movement in the United States led to improved classroom instruction and effective assessment? In too many cases, the answer is no. As authors Robert J. Marzano and Mark W. Haystead explain, two major reasons account for this situation: state and national standards documents typically identify far more content than teachers can actually teach during a school year, and the standards are not written in a manner that supports effective instruction and assessment.

Excerpt

The standards movement in the United States has a long and interesting history. Many trace its genesis back to the publication of A Nation at Risk, which sounded the following alarm: “The education foundations of our society are presently being eroded by a rising tide of mediocrity that threatens our very future as a nation and a people…. We have, in effect, been committing an act of unthinking, unilateral educational disarmament” (National Commission on Excellence in Education, 1983, p. 5). These ominous words sparked a flood of impassioned pleas to upgrade the K–12 educational system in the United States.

In September 1989, President George H. W. Bush convened the nation’s governors at an Education Summit in Charlottesville, Virginia. The summit identified six broad national goals that were to be reached by the year 2000. In general terms, those goals called for U.S. students to master complex academic content in English, mathematics, science, history, and geography. The goals were showcased in the 1990 State of the Union address.

That same year, the National Education Goals Panel (NEGP) was established; the following year, the National Council on Education Standards and Testing (NCEST) was established. Together these two groups were to deal with such implementation issues as which standards would be addressed, the performance levels that would be expected for these standards, and the types of assessments that would be used. Subject matter organizations were called upon to identify the knowledge that all students would be expected to learn within their domains. The National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) took the lead in these efforts by publishing its Curriculum and Evaluation Standards for School Mathematics in 1989. Other subject matter organizations followed suit. Figure 1.1 outlines the major events in the design of standards documents in the subject areas from 1989 through 2000, at which time the major national and state-level standards documents were in place.

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