Education Letter to the Editor

Standards Could Repeat Failed History in Education

September 13, 2011 1 min read

To the Editor:

While virtually all educators and policymakers support teaching to high standards, the article “Standards Writers Wade Into Curriculum” and the Commentary in the same issue titled “In Common Core, Little to Cheer About” (Education Week, Aug. 10, 2011) make me fear that the common-core standards for English/language arts will become this decade’s No Child Left Behind policy.

Under the principles of NCLB’s Reading First program, scripted instruction created by mega-publishing companies failed to make a significant impact on reading comprehension.

Now, publishing companies like Houghton Mifflin Harcourt are embracing the “publishing criteria” for common-core standards because these guidelines give them the go-ahead to create the next iteration of programs that will inevitably mandate specific texts, instructional methods, teacher-directed questions, and assigned written responses.

It is no surprise that district leaders also support these guidelines because they provide a rationale to purchase “teacher proof” programs that eliminate the need to fund professional development. The “program” approach disregards the body of research that shows it is the knowledge and skill of the teacher that make the greatest impact on motivation, engagement, and increased reading achievement for all students.

In addition, the Aug. 10 Commentary reports that the common-core standards “do not represent a meaningful improvement over existing state standards,” and that initial work to create new tests is not significantly changing current high-stakes tests. Sadly, we are re-creating our failed history.

Teach to high standards? Of course. But, let’s use the research to support professional development of teachers, rather than publish lists of standards, create programs that script instruction to address those standards, and use high-stakes tests to evaluate both students and teachers.

Michael L. Shaw

Professor of Literacy Education

St. Thomas Aquinas College

Sparkill, N.Y.

A version of this article appeared in the September 14, 2011 edition of Education Week as Standards Could Repeat Failed History in Education