The implementation of the single set of national education standards has already turned into a never ending debate. Researchers and professionals argue whether the development and introduction of national education standards will lead to the creation of one-size-fits-all learning framework or whether it will ensure that all American students are able to meet the standards of education and learning in the U. S.
We must recognize the need for the development of single national standards in education; these will ultimately develop clear understanding of educational goals and objectives, and will supply teachers and instructional professionals with sufficient tools for the development and implementation of effective national curriculum. Background of the problem Since the beginning of the 1980s, the American students have been displaying worsening results in education and learning.
The situation risked threatening the welfare and social stability of the nation. “International comparisons of student achievement, completed a decade ago, reveal that on 19 academic tests American students were never first or second, and in comparison with other industrialized nations, were last seven times” (A Nation at Risk, 1983a). The growing number of the functionally illiterate population was indicating the need for the implementation of the standardized learning.
Since the 1980s, our educational system has been facing one significant problem: “when everyone needed to reach high levels for the first time in American history, we discovered that we had never come to any consensus on what the students needed to achieve” (Goals 2000, 1998). With the youth being economic and social hope of the nation, we cannot afford losing a chance to improve the quality of national education. However, this improvement is impossible without introducing a single set of K-12 education standards.
Single national standards: pros and cons In simple words, standards determine what each student must know at each level and in each grade. Standards determine the expected quality and level of student’s educational achievement and progress. “By matching what is taught in the classroom to the standards in each subject area students will know what teachers should be teaching, what students should be learning and what they will be tested on” (Great School, 2007). Standards have traditionally been the area of state responsibility.
“Education has always been the province of the state, and best delivered and directed at the local level, where the input of community, including parents and teachers, can be most meaningful” (Stotsky, 2000). The main problem is in that the standards vary from state to state, and do not promote high quality of learning at the national level. “Students who move from one end of the nation to another do not have to study in one year the same thing they learned in their old school. […] National curriculum works” (Tucker & Codding, 2002).
In many cases, national standards are viewed through the prism of “one-size-fits-all” framework which depicts education in unilaterally negative light (McDonald, 2005); that is why education professionals tend to favor the implementation of independent assessment strategies that would slightly vary from state to state, but would eliminate the need for implementing national education standards. In reality, the implementation of education standards will not eradicate cultural diversity principles in education.
“Because no textbook in any subject can be geared to the needs of all students, funds should be made available to support text development in ‘thin-market’ areas, such as those for disadvantaged students, the learning disabled, and the gifted and talented” (A Nation at Risk, 1983b). Stotsky (2000) fears that standards will threaten innovation and creativity in classroom. On the contrary, standards can set the proper direction and limits for innovation within the standardized learning framework.
In educational domain, innovation should be tightly prescribed to curriculum; otherwise the effects of such learning will hardly promote learners’ professionalism and knowledge later in life. National Standards: we must implement them Despite the growing concern about standardization of the American national education, the implementation of single education standards will benefit education and will improve the overall quality of knowledge and learning across all population groups and across all grades. “National standards will raise the level of expectations for all” (Great School, 2007).
Regardless the place of residence, the social status, or the cultural background, the students will be expected to display similar level of basic knowledge. They will be encouraged to go beyond the basics of standardized education but will be required to meet the minimal criteria of learning which national standards will establish. “Standardized tests of achievement should be administered at major transition points from one level of schooling to another and particularly from high school to college or work” (A Nation at Risk, 1983b).
Such standardization of knowledge will also let students apply to any college or university across the country. With the increasing globalization trends, American students must meet international standards of learning. The implementation of the single set of education standards will ensure that American students meet international achievement levels and do not fall behind their peers from foreign countries.
It is expected that the standards will also require students learning at least one foreign language since the elementary grades. Such approach will guarantee proficiency in foreign language and will serve the national needs in diplomacy, commerce, education, and defense (A Nation at Risk, 1983b). Undoubtedly, the implementation of single national standards will help those who move from state to state and will reduce the time required for adjusting to new educational environment.
“Salespeople will not have to travel the nation to find out what should be in textbooks because the nation will decide what should be in the textbooks” (Tucker & Codding, 2002). Single education standards offer more opportunities for checking the quality of education and determining the major educational gaps. “Improved governance, accountability and management of the State’s education system” are the three significant benefits which standardized education offers (Goals 2000, 1998).
Generally, the implementation of education standards will develop more systemic approach towards education. Single education standards will help develop indicators of student achievement, effective tools for evaluating the student’s progress at various stages of the learning process, instructional solutions for the improvement of school performance, sanctions for schools which fail to meet the basic education standards, and additional resources for low-achievement schools.
The single set of K-12 education standards will ensure better quality of secondary education and will prepare learners for the realities of higher education and professional career. Educational reform is the critical element driving the force of curriculum change; this change is the essential and integral element of successful national education and learning. Conclusion The opposition against and the fear of national education standards is natural. However, professionals tend to mix standardization with uniformity which depicts the whole education reform in negative light.
In reality, the implementation of the single set of national education standards is not even close to uniformity; it provides the basis for assessing the level and the quality of the students’ knowledge. Standards will raise the quality of the national education to make it fit into international system of education requirements. Standards will drive innovation and creativity tied to the pre-determined and approved curriculum. Ultimately, standards will make the life of students easier: they will know what to expect through the whole course of the learning process from the very first to the very twelfth grade.