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Where We Are is Not Where We're At and What We Need is Not What We're Getting

Posted By: Dick Schutz on February 26, 2003
I was encouraged to read that “some states” have benefited from “standards based reform.” Then I looked at the primary source data—the State Agency websites. The sites are readily accessible and remarkably informative. But I found nothing to support the article’s contention.

Look for yourself. Pick a random sample (random samples are in vogue these days) of states not mentioned, and I’ll bet a Smiley sticker that you won’t be able to distinguish the good and bad “strategies for change.” Kentucky will almost certainly trip you up. It proudly announces: “Kentucky’s accountability system is a high-stakes system with rewards and sanctions attached to results"—exactly the “change strategy” the article deplores.

Even the state singled out for exemplary performance, Connecticut, isn’t really connecting: ”Based on the DRP (state test assessing ‘the process of reading’) 52 percent of Grade 4 students possess the knowledge and skills necessary to comprehend textbooks and other materials used at Grade 4 or above. Other students need some teacher assistance on reading material below Grade 4. Over 68 percent of Grade 6 students, based on DRP results, have the skills to read a typical middle school textbook, but only 37 percent have the skills to read and understand an average article in a Connecticut newspaper. Over 58 percent of Grade 8 students demonstrated skill sufficient to read an average article in a Connecticut newspaper and about 70 percent demonstrated skills to read a typical high school textbook.” http://www.state.ct.us/sde/c23_press_release.pdf I doubt that kids in any other state would do much better on the test, but the statement is far from anything to brag about.

Although “Standards” are evident in all the SEA websites I looked at, they are of the same genre of “curriculum guides” that SEAs have been issuing since the 1920’s. The difference is that their preparation was fueled by a federally led “reform” movement, “Goals 2000.” “Goals 2000” was the last decade’s failure. It died a quiet death when 2000 came and went with none of the goals even close to being met. Goals 2000 is dead! Long Live NCLB! Rather than learning from the failure of the last decade, we, by law, have embarked on a course for this decade that has precisely the earmarks the article deplores. And every state has bought into it. Vermont submitted an application for NCLB funds on June 12, 2002.

Incidentally, the Wilson, Darling-Hammond, Berry monograph from which much of the Connecticut information derives is an interesting read. It can be accessed at

Dick Schutz
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 Where We Are is Not Where We're At and What We Need is Not What We're Getting by Dick Schutz on February 26, 2003
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