As educators, we are aware of the enormous value in setting clear, specific, obtainable, and measurable goals for our students. Making those goals transparent, and facilitating students' mastery of them, happens through early and effective teacher planning. Teacher organizations and entire nations plan and lay out standards as a map of guidelines to facilitate success in teacher's instructional planning and student results.
National standards have been in widespread use since the 1980's, and lately have earned mass media attention in relation to standardized testing and NCLB. However, at the root of it all, standards began with a simple set of goals and the mission to create a more meaningful, successful education for all students.
Goals of Standards:
- To outline and describe the key content objectives students need to acquire and understand
- To provide developmentally appropriate measures that facilitate students' achievement and meet high expectations of learning
- To provide a guide for instructors' curriculum mapping
- To ensure equity in education, providing all students in all areas with the content needed to become a literate citizen
-To provide a concrete measurable framework for curriculum implementation on a wide-scale
With such marked and ambitious goals, national standards are further broken down into state standards to meet local needs. These are implemented in curriculum mapping and play a large role in individual school's instruction and direction. Due to the prominent role standards play in curriculum planning, an array of critiques and concerns have been voiced.
Concerns and Critiques:
- Teachers cannot effectively incorporate all grade level standards into a school year's instruction.
- Content standards are not consistent. Some are far too specific, while others lack the specificity needed to provide proper guidelines.
- Students develop at different rates and cannot all be expected to master or proficiently perform all standards.
- Standards place unrealistic expectations on teachers and students and cause meaningful curriculum to be laid at the wayside.
Nationalized standards have become a polarized topic, with politically, socially and academically driven camps supporting and opposing their adoption and continued use. This topic is not unique to the United States. Parents, teachers, and administrators around the globe are grappling with the same issue. Amongst all school stakeholders the resounding question seems to be, "Is a unified and mandated set of standards and assessments needed or advisable in achieving the goal of a more efficient and effective education of children?" It is a complex query with many sides and valid points that promises to provide the education community with stimulating dialogue for a long time to come.
Questions for Reflection:
In what ways do you use standards in your teaching?
How would you reform or modify the use of standards nationally? Locally?
Do you find content standards useful as a guide for student development and progress?