In the discussion about ESEA reauthorization, people on both sides of the aisle have recognized the importance of setting rigorous standards aligned to college- and career-readiness expectations. The Obama Administration has, for instance, required that states adopt college- and career-ready standards as part of its ESEA waiver process. Similarly, Republican-sponsored ESEA reauthorization proposals (which Mike wrote about in a post yesterday) also ask states to set college- and career-readiness standards for students.
While this focus on setting clear and sufficiently rigorous standards is important, it is also insufficient. After all, if we’ve learned anything from 10 years of NCLB implementation, it’s that the act of setting standards doesn’t translate to increased student achievement unless those standards are meaningfully implemented in the classroom. And, one of the most important things for states to do to ensure strong implementation is to hold students accountable for actually learning the content laid out in the standards.
While the focus on setting clear and sufficiently rigorous standards is important, it is also insufficient.
Unfortunately, over the past 10 years, too many states—even those with reasonably rigorous standards—have asked very little of students on statewide assessments. In fact, Fordham’s 2007 “Proficiency Illusion” report found that “the central flaw in NCLB is that it allows each state to set its own definition of what constitutes ‘proficiency.’” And so, as we look towards NCLB reauthorization, we should seek to right this wrong.
In 2005, Andy Rotherham gave two pieces of advice to education reformers struggling with the issue of variability in state content standards and proficiency levels:
First, to those worried that the new NCLB accountability provisions
Two months ago, Apple celebrated the 10th anniversary of the release of the iPod. Sunday, we will “celebrate” the 10th birthday of NCLB.
The iPod is universally seen as a game changer—something that not only transformed the way we listen to music, but that changed the music industry itself.
Few would say the same about the transformative power of NCLB.
Yet, what if the iPod hadn’t evolved in the ten years since its initial release? What if, after Steve Jobs released the 2001 version—the first-generation iPod—the different divisions at Apple couldn’t come to agreement about how it should evolve?
As one tech-expert explained:
[The iPod] debuted in the fall of 2001 as a Mac-only, FireWire-only $399 digital audio player with a tiny black-and-white display and 5 GB hard disk. The iTunes Store didn’t exist until April 2003. The Windows version of iTunes didn’t appear until October 2003—two years after the iPod debuted! Two years before it truly supported Windows! Think about that. If Apple released an iPod today that sold only as many units as the iPod sold in 2002, that product would be considered an enormous flop.
The transformative power of the iPod was unleashed not by its first iteration, but by the way Apple constantly evaluates, reevaluates, improves, and changes its products. And that’s why, ten years later, the iPod is seen as a
About the Editor
Bernard Lee Schwartz Policy Fellow
Kathleen Porter-Magee is a Bernard Lee Schwartz Policy Fellow and the Senior Director of the High Quality Standards Program at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, where she leads the Institute’s work on state, national, and international standards evaluation and analysis.
May 16, 2013
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