Gimme One Good Reason

by Robert Pondiscio
October 2nd, 2009

I’ve been as critical of the squishy, content-free proposed national ELA standards as anyone, but over at Flypaper Eric Ulas reminds us that there is at least one good reason to support national standards: an end to the, er, impressionistic definitions of reading proficiency from state to state.  Ulas assumes we would have a single national test (I do too) to accompany national standards.  This would mean apples to apples comparisons and presumably an end to the race to lower cut scores.  The sunshine that would result from a national test would go a long way toward a sensible conversation about what’s working, what’s not working and why. 

Also well worth your time is Tom Hoffman’s take on the standards at Tuttle SVC.  Tom and I don’t always agree, but he knows standards, and  his point that the proposed standards are “narrower, lower, and shallower than the Language Arts standards of high performing countries” is very persuasive and backed up with good examples.  “No country with high reading scores in international assessments conceives of the discipline of Language Arts as being limited to literacy skills, or “college- and career-readiness,” as the Common Standards do,” he writes.


  1. Robert,

    National standards accompanied by national assessments are the only way to go. My fear? Even if Obama/Duncan in their re-authorization get these included, states like Maryland will roll over and play dead for the kids who for some reason can’t make it. They’ll allow them to hand in a report or a project to “demonstrate” proficiency in mathematics and ELA rather than deprive a youngste their high school diploma.

    The reason for our success here in Massachusetts (to this point anyway) has been the insistence that education is important and that a high school diploma is not a privilege, that it must be earned and will no longer be given away. While some will insist our state standards combined with MCAS have done the trick, they were merely what set the stage for our success. In fact, the state’s unrelenting adherence to the notion that every child is capable of learning in school has been the reason Massachusetts has once again been the trendsetter in public education.

    Early on, numerous camps called into question ed reform and the direction Massachusetts was taking. Two mayors in particular come to mind. They were going to allow their high schools to award diplomas to all seniors regardless of whether they passed MCAS or not. The Commissioner of Education at the time, David Driscoll, rallied the Governor and state legislature to enact legislation which stated if any city or town were to take this action their school superintendent and their high school would immediately loose state accreditation. Guess what? Both mayors backed down and have not been heard from since. As well, passing MCAS is still a requirement for earning a high school diploma in Massachusetts.

    Comment by Paul Hoss — October 3, 2009 @ 9:40 am

  2. Thanks for the link, Robert. ;-)

    Comment by Tom Hoffman — October 3, 2009 @ 2:06 pm

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