Without Standards and Accountability, There Can Be No Innovation, Personalization, Flexibility — or Education Reform

Nov 26, 2018 by

Sandy Kress –

11.26.18 – The 74 Million

 

“Kress: Without Standards and Accountability, There Can Be No Innovation, Personalization, Flexibility — or Education Reform”

 

By Sandy Kress

 

 

[COMMENTS FROM DONNA GARNER:  I agree with Sandy Kress (his article posted below) that high [and doable] curriculum standards must be set so that teachers will know the high [and doable] goals toward which they must strive; and as miserable as taking state-mandated tests is for everyone involved, I have never been able to figure out a better way to hold students, teachers, and school systems responsible for teaching to high standards and for improving student performance.  History has taught us that left to their own design, schools will do exactly as Sandy Kress has stated:  

 

In the old days of ‘no questions asked’ it wasn’t good. Learning gains were flat, and gaps between the haves and the have-nots were pervasive…In turn, the schools in which poor and minority students are enrolled are likely to look better than they actually are.”

 

I only wish Sandy Kress had mentioned the all-important consequences of what is in the curriculum standards themselves.  If the standards are Type #2 Common Core (subjective, emphasize opinions/emotions/feelings, relativistic, and whose main goal is to indoctrinate students into the social justice agenda), then the assessments tied to the curriculum standards are useless because of their subjective nature – scores based upon some unknown evaluator’s opinion.

 

If the curriculum standards are Type #1 (traditional, academic, fact-based with questions that elicit largely right-or-wrong answers), then the tests based upon them can be useful to ascertain a student’s progress or lack thereof. The Type #1 test scores can be used to help guide teachers into establishing better methods of instruction; and Type #1 test scores also give parents a way to track their child’s academic growth and to make sure teachers are teaching and students are learning the Type #1 standards.

 

What parents expect out of their schools is for their children to learn foundational knowledge (i.e., high standards) that will open doors of opportunity for them. What parents do not want is for their children to be taught how to organize a protest rally to perfection but not to know how to word a complete sentence correctly.

 

I definitely agree with Sandy Kress about his concerns over the way “personalized learning” is currently being interpreted.  Yes, each student is unique with specific learning strengths and weaknesses; but all students must be taught the same high standards. Kress stated it well when he said:

 

The edu-fad that drew greatest attention at the conference was personalized learning. I certainly don’t oppose the use of reasonable personalized learning. But I became worried when the term appeared instead to be used to suggest something in lieu of the full diet each and every student should receive in the content expected by the essential standards.

 

In a related matter, I found it rather odd that one of the major speakers at the conference appeared to oppose general standards by arguing via analogy that doctors sometimes miss a correct diagnosis by failing to look outside the general toolbox for an extraordinary solution. Yes, that happens. But how could that justify abandoning teaching all to the same high standards? How ironic, after all, it is that the greatest single advance in medicine came with the Flexner Report, which set consistent high standards and protocols in American medical schools.

 

=====================

 

11.26.18 – The 74 Million

 

“Kress: Without Standards and Accountability, There Can Be No Innovation, Personalization, Flexibility — or Education Reform”

 

By Sandy Kress

 

https://www.the74million.org/article/kress-without-standards-and-accountability-there-can-be-no-innovation-personalization-flexibility-or-education-reform/

 

Excerpts from this article:

 

I think I got a peek last week into why student achievement has turned stagnant in America.

 

It was, ironically, at a conference sponsored by a fine education policy organization. Indeed, many of the attendees were solid policymakers and practitioners. Yet to my considerable surprise, several participants made worrisome comments that received little pushback.

 

I want here to describe and rebut those comments. Further, I want to suggest the hypothesis that when such comments are made in an ed reform setting without serious opposition, it’s no wonder reform itself is on the wane. Finally, I want to challenge those who are truly committed to improvement to get fully back on track with standards-based reform so we can return to the days of steady gains in student achievement.

 

The first surprise at the conference came when it became clear that some folks have become mushy about the meaning of high learning standards for all. Most still agree standards are important. But some now seem to believe that standards can vary and be set by providers in each community.

 

This position against statewide standards mostly gets expressed in the easier attack on tests: “We ignore the results of state tests.” “We measure learning in our own way.”

 

Of course, there is nothing wrong with schools creating their own learning priorities; indeed, they should.

In our nation, however, it falls to each state to set statewide core learning standards. And it’s absolutely vital that students — all students — learn effectively to those standards.

 

Leaders, citizens, and educators discuss what young people should learn at each stage, and, in a democratic process, they establish both learning and performance standards for students.

 

As to tests, they’re hardly perfect. But states work hard, with educators involved, to make assessments that are aligned with standards to indicate whether students are learning satisfactorily and to signal how instruction can be improved.

Are there other helpful measures that could be used too? Absolutely. But should state tests that have been crafted to assess all students to common standards be ignored? Absolutely not!

We’ve seen that horror flick before. In the old days of “no questions asked,” it wasn’t good. Learning gains were flat, and gaps between the haves and the have-nots were pervasive.

 

Here’s what Charlie Barone, policy director of Democrats for Education Reform, had to say about it: “If we revert to a patchwork of standards and assessments that vary according to political pressure or societal and community biases, or simply the lack of local capacity to create valid and reliable tests, we will no longer be able to make apples-to-apples comparisons about school performance. In turn, the schools in which poor and minority students are enrolled are likely to look better than they actually are. Badly needed investments in teaching and learning and in formulating and implementing fundamental reforms in chronically failing schools will then be at even greater risk than they are now.”

 

This is why Democrats and Republicans, liberals and conservatives, joined together to support standards-based reform in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

 

Accounting for accountability

 

…Yes, accountability could work better. I’ve written frequently on possible fixesas have others. But accountability has made a significant positive difference in improving student achievement.

 

…Here’s another baffling question: Why are reformers lambasting standards-based reform? Don’t they realize that without measurement and accountability, there is no effective way to show whether the status quo is succeeding and, thus, no basis to press effectively for reforms to the status quo?

 

Simply put, without accountability, there is, for the most part, no strong case for reform or reformers. The keepers of the status quo will happily hold power and exercise it fully, especially if there is little data-based pressure from the outside to force them to do better or face change.

 

Personalized to a fault

 

The edu-fad that drew greatest attention at the conference was personalized learning. I certainly don’t oppose the use of reasonable personalized learning. But I became worried when the term appeared instead to be used to suggest something in lieu of the full diet each and every student should receive in the content expected by the essential standards.

 

In a related matter, I found it rather odd that one of the major speakers at the conference appeared to oppose general standards by arguing via analogy that doctors sometimes miss a correct diagnosis by failing to look outside the general toolbox for an extraordinary solution. Yes, that happens. But how could that justify abandoning teaching all to the same high standards? How ironic, after all, it is that the greatest single advance in medicine came with the Flexner Report, which set consistent high standards and protocols in American medical schools.

 

A return to flatlining

 

Look, friends, we’re at a crossroads. We made very good gains and narrowed achievement gaps from the mid-’90s through the 2000s, at the height of the accountability era. Achievement was flat beforehand, and it’s been flat ever since.

 

It’s this simple: Either we get back to implementing smart accountability or we will continue to endure the stagnation we are currently experiencing.

 

We can and must say yes to innovation, personalization, flexibility, and choice. But we must never do so without clear, high standards for all students, assessments based on these standards, and accountability to drive and improve teaching and learning.

 

We’ve badly lost our way, but it’s never too late to return. If not now, when?

 

Sandy Kress was senior education adviser to President George W. Bush and was also instrumental in passing Texas’s pioneering education accountability system.

 

 

Donna Garner

Wgarner1@hot.rr.com

Source: Kress: Without Standards and Accountability, There Can Be No Innovation, Personalization, Flexibility — or Education Reform | The 74

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.