Standards-Based Reform: A Powerful Idea Unmoored

Lauren Resnick, University of Pittsburgh

Tuesday, September 23, 2008 (All day)

In this talk, an overview is provided for the goals of excellence and equity, tracing the societal conditions that gave rise to them and how they became entwined with the standards movement. Next, a step-by-step history of the events leading up to NCLB is offered, focusing on both the tension between national and local control and the maneuvering to resolve that tension. Then, the two overarching goals of excellence and equity are addressed again to consider whether they were accomplished and at what cost. Finally, a set of recommendations is offered for adjusting our standards-based efforts to improve American education.

Dr. Resnick's presentation is entitled "Standards-Based Reform: A Powerful Idea Unmoored" and was presented at the Learning Policy Center on September 23, 2008.

Abstract: "No Child Left Behind" is the current expression of a twenty-year drive to use a "standards" strategy to steer American education toward higher levels of achievement and greater equity. The idea, as it developed over the last two decades, was that a standards-based system could combine the positive aspects of centralized curriculum guidelines with the individuality and energy of the American local-control system. Standards and assessments would be set by public entities such as states, but the details of curriculum, teaching, and professional development would be left to districts and schools. Student performance accountability systems, rather than detailed regulations, would structure the priorities of schools and districts and press them to make the changes necessary to deliver effective teaching to all of their students. Broadly, the goals of the standards movement, beginning in the late '80s, were to promote both equity and excellence in education.