“No more pencils, no more books…” When I was a kid, we sang that ditty every year at the end of school and we sang it before that in hopes to bring summer on sooner. Now that it’s mid-May, I expect students are expressing this same sentiment, which in many localities will be fulfilled in the next several weeks.
However, while schools and their students and teachers are winding down, forces in Washington, DC, and elsewhere are winding up for radical changes that will affect what we teach, how we teach, and how we assess our students. In particular, a movement is afoot to establish national standards for student achievement.
Just last week Secretary of Education Arne Duncan began his travels to at least 15 states to ask teachers, students and parents about what they’d like to see changed in the No Child Left Behind Act ("White House to Seek Input on Controversial Education Law," USA Today, May 6, 2009).
1. Look for his arrival in your state and try to attend the meeting.
2. However, if you can’t attend a meeting, please comment online on his listening tour blog. Right now, he’s inviting comments online about raising standards As time goes on he will be asking other questions.
At the same time last week, the Council of Chief State School Officers and the National Governors Association's Center for Best Practices began looking for states to sign letters of intent to develop "fewer, but clearer and higher" standards for what students should know and be able to do. This brings to a head their efforts to restart the push to have national standards ("Standards To Receive Fresh Push," Education Week, April 21, 2009). They’re joined in their efforts by The Alliance For Excellent Education (AEE), The College Board , ACT Inc. ,and Achieve with its American Diploma Project standards. Lawmakers seem to agree with the standards movement ("In Standards Push, Lawmakers Cheer States’ Initiative," Education Week May 12, 2009).
What does this mean for us? Well, change if nothing else. But how can we make sure this change is for the better? How can we keep up with and participate in these standards conversations and decisions?
1. Review the NCTE/IRA Standards for the English Language Arts .
3. Get involved with your state’s standards revision process. Find your state’s standards and your state’s education agency's website . See what’s afoot and respond online and/or offer your services on a committee.
4. Join with your local NCTE affiliate, your school or district, or your teachers' union for a group response to standards proposals.
5. Respond to this blog with your thoughts on developing national standards and your suggestions for more ways to get involved in the discussion.