Monday, July 20, 2009

Some Interesting Questions

Some interesting questions appear at the EduWonk Blog below.    As the common standards are about to be released, please keep these questions in mind.

When people talk about “what (students) know and are able to do” they seem to mean: what they learn in school. Does anyone study the knowledge and skills young people actually have; look at what’s been learned outside school? Have a look at this to get a sense for how much more there is.

Are there to be consequences, ‘high stakes’, for a student not meeting standards? If so, then the standards will be fairly low, won’t they? The politics of this public institution mean that K-12 realistically can’t deny success to more than a small proportion of students. (Probably this explains the interest now in ‘benchmarking’, which lets everyone see performance compared to others while imposing no sanction.)

Is there a concept of achievement, then, above the standards? Surely high achievement (as in the STEM areas) must be important, especially for the country’s economic success. Where and how is that assessed? Who works to encourage high achievement?

Beyond a ‘basic’ level is it essential that all students achieve the same thing? Why are standards set in terms of exit from high school rather than in terms of entrance into what a young person wants to do next? Would it be OK to differentiate ‘achievement’ for different groups of students; for individual students? Might that diversification better serve to produce the breadth of accomplishment the country needs?

Is it really important for all students to master algebra? What fraction of the occupations actually require knowledge of Algebra II? Might it be better to try to get students to understand something of statistics: probability, risk, rates, proportions and such?

Do schools achieve — or is it only students who achieve? Is the students’ achievement the school’s achievement? Or is Professor Raudenbush correct that one cannot properly use measures of student proficiency to draw conclusions about school performance?

Should achievement be treated as something adults do? That seems implied when we talk of education being ‘delivered’. But in the end who does determine what a student knows and is able to do?

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