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Finding the Sweet Spot Between Defeatism and Utopianism When Setting School Standards

Education Next – Michael J. Petrilli

“I do support the Common Core, which is designed to get students to “college and career readiness” by the end of high school. But I also see that goal as aspirational; I don’t believe we should actually deny diplomas to young people who gain basic skills and pass their classes but don’t reach that lofty level. Nor do I think that we should force all students to take a college-prep course of study all the way through twelfth grade. How do I square this circle? Am I hypocrite for claiming to support high expectations while not being willing to enforce those expectations when it comes to crunch time?” (more)

Have States Maintained High Expectations for Student Performance?

Education Next – Daniel Hamlin and Paul E. Peterson

“The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), passed into law in 2015, explicitly prohibits the federal government from creating incentives to set national standards. The law represents a major departure from recent federal initiatives, such as Race to the Top, which beginning in 2009 encouraged the adoption of uniform content standards and expectations for performance. At one point, 46 states had committed themselves to implementing Common Core standards designed to ensure consistent benchmarks for student learning across the country. But when public opinion turned against the Common Core brand, numerous states moved to revise the standards or withdraw from them.” (more)

Worried About Risky Teenage Behavior? Make School Tougher

The New York Times – Austin Frakt

“Like all parents of teenagers, I worry that my children will engage in risky behavior, including drinking, smoking and drug use. The more time they spend doing healthier extracurricular activities — soccer, piano, cleaning their rooms (ha!) — the better. But it turns out that what they do in school can also affect their choices outside the classroom.” (more)

Standards-Based Assessment in PBL

Edutopia – Matt Weyers

“If there’s one thing I’ve learned in my 10-year teaching career, it’s that designing valid and reliable assessments in a project-based learning classroom is a time-consuming process—at least it is for me. Like most teachers, I want to engage my students in dynamic, real-world learning experiences that require authentic knowledge application. Unfortunately, I discovered quickly that aligning the type of learning experiences I desired with the standards-based grading practices required by my district required significant changes in my practice.” (more)

Get rid of the education bureaucracy and kids’ hearts will sing

News Herald – Juliann Talkington


It’s technology married with liberal arts, married with the humanities, that yields the results that make our hearts sing. – Steve Jobs, founder of Apple

Steve Jobs made highly technical machines user-friendly and beautiful by blending mathematics, science, and art. More importantly, he started a wave of innovation that made products that were once only accessible to scientists and engineers readily available to the general public.

During this period of innovation, the education sector was stuck in a time warp. Most primary and secondary students today are educated in about the same way that they were in the 1980s.

Counselors continue to place students into STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math), humanities, and trade tracks rather than encourage a broad education. Teaching credentials are still more important than an amazing understanding of the subject and schools are still accredited by personnel from other schools rather than by the market. Also, the majority of U.S. students attend schools run by the government.

Regulations and peer review accreditations may have been necessary in the middle of the 20th Century. However, the same regulations and accrediting bodies that protected our kids then are forcing schools to operate in ways that are inconsistent with 21st Century realities. In short, this means kids are wasting years of their lives on things that no longer matter.

For education to keep pace with the times, there must be a complete paradigm shift. Instead of regulating and delaying change, we need to encourage the education sector to innovate.

To make sure new ideas make it into the education system we need to encourage more private schooling options. Then we need to urge these schools to try radical concepts and provide concrete information on what students are learning. Finally, we need to make sure all students have access to these innovative schools.

The easiest way to make all this happen is to issue education vouchers that can be used at any school and require schools to publish third party test results each year.

With this type of competition, all schools should become better. When the schools become better, our kids will be better prepared. When our kids are better prepared, the country will be more vibrant. When the country is more vibrant, the economy will be better. When the economy is stronger, everyone will be better off.

It is time to get rid of the bureaucracy and allow our schools to innovate so our kids’ hearts can sing.


What Happens When School Is Too Easy?

Excel in Ed – Jacqueline Pace Swigler

“What happens when high school standards aren’t quite high enough…Right now, it seems there are too many kids walking out of school—just like I did—with a high school diploma but unprepared for the challenges and opportunities they will face. And this crushing reality can have serious consequences for students. For many students, the immediate consequence is remediation…For other students, the consequence is joblessness…There has been a disconnect between school and the real world, resulting in serious negative consequences for young adults. Too many states have had low expectations for K-12 student learning, misleading parents and teachers into believing kids are performing better than they actually are…What does all this mean for the children in your state? How can you know if your state is preparing students to graduate ready for real-world challenges?”(more)