National standards: Another chance to do the right thing

Our friend and deep thinker, Anthony Cody, has raised some essential questions about the new quest for national standards in education. Along with an insightful comparison of how the same political winds that fueled the original NCLB legislation are now carrying the siren call for standards, Anthony speaks some painful truths about the golden profits that may be the real prize of our political argonauts.

“…it allows the testing and publishing industries a chance to make literarlly billions of dollars of profit from revamping the curriculum and tests from coast to coast.” Ahhh, economic stimulus indeed.

He also shares my concern over who will and will not be involved in the development of these standards:

And what about a democratic process? We are apparently about to be handed a set of standards that will dictate what is taught in millions of classrooms across this nation. How will these have been arrived at? Who, besides the Gates Foundation millionaire’s club, and the standardized test companies and the publishing companies will have been engaged in this profoundly civic process?

Although he ends the article on a cautiously hopeful note, thoughtful educators can’t avoid skepticism towards these high profile pronouncements when our own long, sincere efforts at developing meaningful subject area standards have been alternately ignored and ridiculed by some of these same concerned leaders.

On the other hand, this new initiative which seems to have political and financial support (something the efforts led by the professional subject area organizations did not enjoy), could be an opportunity to take what teachers began and turn it into a true research and development project for American education. Something on the scale of how we have pursued advances in military technology or consumer products.

Grandmama used to say it’s never too late to do the right thing. The governors, Gates Foundation, and the Obama Administration could make this a truly productive, inclusive process by inviting those teachers who have long held their own students to high standards to be an integral part of the development process (not just token representation). As Anthony suggests, the surest way to kill a great educational reform is to ignore those who will be most directly affected by it.