Educational Standards - A National Perspective

By Case, Larry | The Agricultural Education Magazine, September/October 2004 | Go to article overview

Educational Standards - A National Perspective


Case, Larry, The Agricultural Education Magazine


Public education is a State responsibility. Public Education also has a considerable amount of Federal interest. The Federal interest stems from the Federal responsibility to assure and support a civil society, a functioning democracy and a strong economy. As such, Federal policy has a heavy influence on State educational programs.

Today, education is faced with many challenges as the public has become aware of an overall decline in student performance in the core academic areas such as math, science, and English. Basic academic skills are necessary for functioning in the workplace and in society in general. The lack of academic mastery coupled with the changing nature of work causes more concern when one understands that 85% of our workforce needs a postsecondary credential if workers are to achieve a sustainable wage. Additional concern comes from understanding that poor academic performance in secondary schools generally assures a poor postsecondary performance and thus the need for remediation. Not only is this time consuming and costly, poor student performance places into question the ability of the future workforce to withstand the rigors of international competition.

More concern is generated when one considers the evidence related to the US losing its educational edge when compared with other countries. Hans Meeder, Deputy Assistant Secretary, Office of Vocational and Adult Education, US Department of Education has stated that in the decade of the 90's China increased their postsecondary enrollment by 258%, India by 92% compared to the US at 19% (UNESCO, 2003). When comparing the percent of population stratified by age groups, the U.S. ranks 1st in the world in the percentage of 55 to 64 year olds who have completed secondary and postsecondary education. However, among 25 to 34 year olds, the U.S. ranks 8th in secondary completion, and 4th in postsecondary completion (Meeder Presentation, 2004).

If these indicators are correct, the US ability to compete in the world markets is diminished along with our domestic economy. Federal policy makers view this with great concern. It is safe to say that the Federal interest in education is here to stay and the domestic and international trends and comparisons will be the source of influence in determining the direction of Federal policy on education.

Educational Accountability

National, State and local leaders, as well the general population, believe that effective public education is essential in achieving a solid, internationally competitive economy. The public wants to be assured that schools are performing to World-class standards and that students will be successful in the future. As a result, local, state and national leaders are faced with developing policies and systems to support reliable measurement of student performance for the purpose of holding schools accountable for student achievement.

Developing student performance measurement systems is extremely difficult. However, Federal education policy is making an attempt to hold States and local schools accountable for student performance. Strong accountability provisions are included in the Carl D. Perkins Vocational and Technical Education Act of 1998 to assure that students in vocational and technical education attain academic and technical skills needed for success.

The most famous Federal authority is the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act. In general, NLCB requires State Agencies and LEA's to focus on academic achievement for all students and removing the achievement gap between groups of students. In order for States and local education agencies (LEA's) State education agencies to monitor progress, they must have academic standards and an assessment system to measure student progress.

Federal policy does not mandate specific educational standards. However, it does require States to have a standards/assessment system to monitor LEA's and generate reportable evidence of student achievement to the Federal level and to the general population. …

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