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Feb. 12 2010 - 11:12 am | 86 views | 1 recommendation | 0 comments

Kentucky adopts standards before they’re written

Now here’s a leap of faith. Kentucky has became the first state in the country to adopt new common standards for K-12 and vowed to replace its current standards with the new benchmarks by September.

The only problem is, the finalized standards haven’t even been released yet, and the drafts that have been circulating in the education world have been widely criticized. That seems to me a bit like agreeing to a complete rewrite of, say, the Constitution without seeing the final draft first. Oh, and it’s written by the CEOs of major corporations, not constitutional scholars.

But education reform is au courant and probably other states will follow suit in the mad dash to “Race to the Top.”

The Common Core State Standards Initiative is an effort by the National Governors Association and the Council of  Chief State School Officers to develop national benchmarks that all students have to achieve, regardless of where they live. The impulse was an attempt to fix what happened after No Child Left Behind required schools to meet certain success rates, most easily measured on standardized tests. Natch, some states lowered their standards and dumbed down their tests, so that those states appeared to be progressing more than states that maintained high standards and tougher tests.

OK, so the intention was pure. Let me say categorically, everyone wants standards. We want our kids to learn. But the standards need to be achievable, they need to be lucid, and they need to be developmentally appropriate. And it would help if they were developed by educators, the people who are charged with implementing them. It would also be useful if teachers had time to study the new standards and, where needed, develop new curricula to go along with them.

How can that possibly happen in Kentucky between now and September? This from EdWeek:

The state education department plans to train teachers on the common standards this summer so they can begin teaching to them next fall. It plans to administer assessments designed for the common standards in spring 2012.

via Education Week: In National First, Kentucky Adopts Common Standards.

Let’s see. The next version of the standards is supposedly due out this month, although it’s more likely to appear in March. Then there is a 30-day period for public comment. So in all likelihood, the final document won’t be out until close to the end of the school year. And educators are supposed to revamp everything and be ready to roll by September?

Here’s what Brent McKim, president of the Jefferson County Teachers Association, has to say.

“They haven’t used a design that takes into account the amount of time we have available,” he said. “We’re jumping on a bandwagon we should not be jumping on.”

via Education Week: In National First, Kentucky Adopts Common Standards.

Couldn’t have said it better myself (although I probably wouldn’t have used the word “bandwagon,” just ’cause).

There’s also the problem of something called money, which one Kentucky lawmaker admits is “somewhat limited” because of the economy. But states who adopt these standards will be more likely to earn money from Race to the Top, President Obama’s $5 billion competition that awards cash to states that propose innovation and change.

What we teach our children should not be a function of the bottom line. Kentucky may be the standards bearer for the, um, standards, but what about the kids who go back to school in September? Will they thrive under this ambitious attempt to teach the oft-vaunted 21st century skills? Or will they be like lab rats testing the new flavor of education?


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    I spent a good chunk of my adult life as an arts reporter/critic/columnist for the Boston Globe. Among other things, I covered the cultural wars of the early 1990s (remember Mapplethorpe?), reviewed theater, and profiled all sorts of interesting characters. I also wrote an early column about online culture, which led me to become one of the first online war correspondents during the conflict in Kosovo, an odd but exhilarating gig for an arts maven. While I was a fellow in the National Arts Journalism program, a colleague handed me a gloomy article called “Print is Dead.” I eventually got the message and took a buyout from the Globe in 2001. I had vague dreams of saving the world, but instead had three kids in 17 months. Therein lies my newfound interest in public education. I am hoping to create a dialogue about what’s wrong, what’s right, and what’s up in our schools today.

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