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The Plan Is Revealed: Study Advocates National Standards

Surprise. Surprise. Ever since Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton worked with Lou Gerstner on America 2000, which transmogrified into Goals 2000 and then into NCLB, national standards and a national test have been what this is about. That and turning the disreputable NAEP into the national test.

This New York Times article fails to mention all the partners in the American Diploma Project: Achieve, Inc., The Education Trust,The Thomas B. Fordham Foundation and The National Alliance of Business. On their website they describe themselves as "four leading national educational organizations," with
"vast experience in PreK-12 and postsecondary reform."

Partner states in the American Diploma Project are: Indiana, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Nevada, and Texas. The plan is that "Building on the work of the partner-state policy panels, the national policy panel will develop new high school graduation benchmarks in reading, writing and mathematics that all states may use to analyze the quality and rigor of their high school graduation standards and assessments."

Study Says U.S. Should Replace States' High School Standards
Karen W. Arenson
The New York Times

A patchwork of state standards is failing to produce high school graduates who are prepared either for college or for work, three education policy organizations say in a new report. The solution, they say, is to adopt rigorous national standards that will turn the high school diploma into a "common national currency."

"For too many graduates, the American high school diploma signifies only a broken promise," the groups, which favor standardized testing to improve education, say.

Working through what they call the American Diploma Project, the organizations Achieve Inc., the Education Trust and the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation consulted with higher education officials and business executives in five states to develop standards they say will ensure that high school graduates are equipped to move into either college-level work or a decent-paying job.

"For many kids, the diploma is a ticket to nowhere," Kati Haycock, director of the Education Trust, said. "In this era, where some postsecondary education is essential, that's no good."

Ms. Haycock said half the students who went on to four-year colleges ended up taking some remedial course work because their preparation was inadequate.

The report charges that employers and postsecondary institutions "all but ignore the diploma, knowing that it often serves as little more than a certificate of attendance," because "what it takes to earn one is disconnected from what it takes for graduates to compete successfully beyond high school."

The diploma project comes as others are looking for ways to improve high schools. A commission appointed by the National Assessment Governing Board is studying whether national 12th grade tests should try to measure high school seniors' readiness for work and college. The board sets policy for the National Assessment of Educational Progress, or N.A.E.P., the nationwide examinations given in 4th, 8th and 12th grades and referred to as the "the nation's report card."

"We are considering looking beyond high school to be more predictive about how they would do in the workplace and in college," Charles E. Smith, executive director of the governing board, said.

The diploma project recommends that the N.A.E.P. tests be realigned based on standards in the report.

Some critics of high-stakes testing say the challenge is not determining what students ought to know, but in teaching them.

"They're saying that if we have one set of standards, students will meet them," said Monty Neill, executive director of the National Center for Fair and Open Testing in Cambridge, Mass. "But if you are not going to provide the resources to help students meet the standards, they're not going to meet them, whatever the standards are."

Mr. Neill said many states already had standards that were far beyond what their students were achieving. If some states have standards that are too low, he added, they should re-examine them, rather than impose a common national standard.

In English, the diploma project calls for mastery of spelling and grammar, communication skills, writing, research and logic, as well as the ability to read and interpret technical material, to view media critically and to understand and analyze literature. In math, it calls for mastery of numerical operations, algebra, geometry and data interpretation, statistics and probability, and provides sample problems.

— Karen W. Arenson
New York Times
Study Says U.S. Should Replace States' High School Standards





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