In these days of accountability and AYP, it’s difficult to compare 50 different states and the District of Columbia when each has its own tests and standards. And now the heavy hitters are weighing in with a solution that calls for a national school test. The Washington Post is running the editorial from former Secretaries of Education William J. Bennett and Rod Paige, that calls for “better and more efficient ways to produce an educated population and close the achievement gaps in our education system.”
Bennett and Paige start off with a bit of the obligatory “money doesn’t matter” and “down with the monopoly” Babbitry—an expedient dose of rhetorical sweetener for an argument that amounts to the unceremonious dumping of what has been a non-negotiable principle of American conservatism:
Out of respect for federalism and mistrust of Washington, much of the GOP has expected individual states to set their own academic standards and devise their own tests and accountability systems. That was the approach of the No Child Left Behind Act—which moved as boldly as it could while still achieving bipartisan support. It sounds good, but it is working badly. A new Fordham Foundation report shows that most states have deployed mediocre standards, and there’s increasing evidence that some are playing games with their tests and accountability systems.
The remedy? As both of us have long argued, Washington should set sound national academic standards and administer a high-quality national test. Publicize everybody’s results, right down to the school level. Then Washington should butt out.
States that prefer to cling to their own standards and tests—and endure the rules and meddling of federal bureaucrats—would be free to do so. Some surely would. But many would welcome a new compact with the Education Department.
AASA recently compared the U.S. to Britain in an article which notes, “Perhaps most interesting is the fact that our critics tend to beat up on our school systems, comparing them to world standards. The criticism comes in spite of the fact that many of the countries that we do not favorably compare with on achievement tests do have national standards, curriculum and testing.”
On the other side of the coin (and this side of the pond), an article we found in the ERIC Digest, based on testimony presented by FairTest’s Monty Neill to the House Subcommittee on Select Education, argues, “that current efforts to establish a national test to measure progress toward the nation’s educational goals will inhibit, not advance, educational reform.” The article goes on to recommend that “federal government should assist states and districts with the development of performance assessments; teacher education and staff development; and the development and dissemination of model curricula, standards, and assessments. All these should be integrated into comprehensive reform strategies.”
The article concludes by saying, “U.S. students need school reform, not more testing. More test scores will not magically produce educational improvement. Resources should be spent on helping teachers teach and students learn, not on further sorting and ranking students, schools and states.”
So is a national test a worthy solution, or an example of the goverment usurping local school governance and ignoring school reform? BoardBuzz invites you to weigh in with a comment.