National Standards Have No Basis In Reality

Alfie Kohn's response to the NYT article National School Standards, at Last:
To the Editor:

While it’s true that eight of the 10 top-scoring countries have centralized education standards, so do nine of the 10 lowest-scoring countries in math and eight of the 10 lowest-scoring countries in science. That’s according to data from the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study [TIMMS].

And if we’re interested in students’ depth of understanding or their motivation to learn, as opposed to mere test scores, there isn’t a shred of data to support a claim of superiority for countries with nationalized education systems.

It’s with good reason that so many thoughtful classroom teachers and education researchers are strongly opposed to this “core standards” initiative — which, let’s remember, has been driven primarily by corporate officials, politicians and testing companies.

To say that all students should receive a high-quality education is very different from saying all students should get the same kind of education. A one-size-fits-all approach to schooling doesn’t produce excellence, and it certainly doesn’t further the cause of equity.

Alfie Kohn
Belmont, Mass., March 15, 2010

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