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Education Letter to the Editor

History Should Guide Core-Standards Effort

January 19, 2010 1 min read
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Must this go on indefinitely? Whose opinion should prevail? Is it not possible to get away from personal opinion to an agreed-upon consensus of opinion? May we not replace the constantly conflicting subjective standards with definitely defined objective standards?”

Last month, I attended the National Academies’ Board on Testing and Assessment conference on “Best Practices for State Assessment Systems.” A recurring theme among many of the presenters was to be mindful of the lessons learned in our measurement history, in order to avoid the fate that some of our past innovations have experienced.

In their 1920 textbook How to Measure, G.M. Wilson and Kremer J. Hoke provide some historical context for today’s assessment planners:

“The college instructor blames the high school teacher, the high school teacher complains of the grade teacher, each grade teacher above the 1st grade finds fault with the poor work of the teacher in the grade below, and the 1st grade teacher in turn is chagrined at the shortcomings of the home training. Must this go on indefinitely? Whose opinion should prevail? Is it not possible to get away from personal opinion to an agreed-upon consensus of opinion? May we not replace the constantly conflicting subjective standards with definitely defined objective standards?”

The same issue is a principal driver in the Common Core State Standards Initiative. As the authors pointed out 90 years ago, the resolution of this morass is to have “definitely defined objective standards.” This time, let’s hope we get it right.

Malbert Smith III

President

MetaMetrics

Durham, N.C.

A version of this article appeared in the January 20, 2010 edition of Education Week as History Should Guide Core-Standards Effort

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