Setting Effective Standards: Online Resources Make Alignment with Standards Easy and Effective. (the Online Edge)
Dyrli, Odvard Egil, District Administration
This fall I worked with a K-12 school system to align its curriculum with state and professional education standards, including those from the International Society for Technology in Education. This required labeling existing curriculum objectives and developing new learning activities to comply with directives such as having grade 3-5 students "use telecommunications efficiently and effectively to access remote information, communicate with others in support of direct and independent learning, and pursue personal interests." This ISTE standard led us to evaluate and select online student research resources, sources for collaborative projects and access to content area experts.
I have now aligned programs with new curriculum standards numerous times through the years, prior to seeking accreditation or submitting proposals for funding. For example, when the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics developed math standards in the `80s, graphing calculators were in their infancy and the Internet was largely unknown, and these technologies became prominent in the new standards of 2000. Although aligning the curriculum with standards was always painstaking and time-consuming work, the results were worth the effort in comparing what we did in our classrooms with other states.
UNQUESTIONABLE STANDARDS But the downside of the current standards movement is that there are now multiple standards in every state and content area, and these are sometimes in conflict. For example, after agonizing about whether specific curriculum components met one standard or another, no one ever questioned any of my decisions, so I often wondered if the labels were more important than their accuracy. And, no funding or accreditation agency ever visited our classrooms to see if our purported compliance had any relationship to practice. Furthermore, almost every commercial program now claims to be "aligned with education standards" in some way, yet hardly anyone questions what that means. As Secretary of Education Rod Paige stated, "The highest standards in the world mean nothing if we do not also ensure that students are learning."
Although the selection and use of curriculum standards will always be polarizing issues in education, the federal government and most states have committed to standards-centered rewards and sanctions based on school evaluation data. And "pay for performance" concepts are gathering momentum (see the Education Commission of the States Web site, www.ecs.org). It's time to check out the online resources and join the debate. …