Standards for Schools Essential, Too, Lawmakers Say

By Robert Rothman — February 12, 1992 3 min read

WASHINGTON--National standards for schools and school systems are essential if students are to attain new performance standards set forth in a recent report, members of a House subcommittee said here last week.

Speaking during the first of three scheduled hearings on the report of the National Council on Education Standards and Testing, subcommittee members indicated that they intend to scrutinize the report closely before considering legislation to implement its recommendations.

The council late last month recommended national standards and a national system of assessments to measure student performance against the standards. (See Education Week. Jan. 29, 1992.) In questions to council members,

as well as to two critics of the proposal, subcommittee members expressed concern that the report appears to give a “lower priority” to school standards than it does to standards for student performance.

In its report, the council recommends national standards for student performance, but says that states should develop “school delivery standards” to measure the capacity of schools to bring students up to the standards.

“There are national standards for everything else, but school-delivery standards they leave up to states,” said Representative Dale E. Kildee, the Democrat from Michigan who chairs the House subcommittee on elementary, secondary, and vocational education.

Yet, said Mr. Kildee, who served on the standards council, the school delivery standards may be the most important.

“I can predict in certain schools what students can do if the school delivery standards are not high,” he said.

Council members responded that they agreed that the school-delivery standards are critical to improving student performance.

But, said Lauren B. Resnick, the director of the Learning Research and Development Center at the University of Pittsburgh, such standards are of equal, not greater, importance to the standards for students.

“School-delivery standards without [student standards] will not be enforceable,” she said. “They will have no meaning.”

Congressional Action ‘Critical’

The report by the standards council, a 32-member panel of educators and public officials led by Gov. Roy Romer of Colorado and Gov. Carroll A. Campbell Jr. of South Carolina, called for a new governance system to oversee the development of national standards in school subjects and a system of assessments tied to the standards.

Although the National Education Goals Panel has approved the council’s recommendations and could set up such a mechanism on its own, council members said last week that the Congress should adopt the proposal as well.

“It’s absolutely critical that Congress be a part of it,” said Marshall S. Smith, the dean of the graduate school of education at Stanford University. “It would be a mistake if only the goals panel adopted this. We need the efforts of the nation.”

The Senate last month--even before the council’s final report was released--approved legislation to implement its recommendations.

But members in that chamber “didn’t know what they were voting for,” said Representative William F. Goodling, Republican of Pennsylvania and the ranking minority member of the subcommittee.

“I guarantee you,” said Mr. Goodling, who served on the standards council, “by the time we get through with it, the House will know, and it may be more difficult” to enact the recommendations.

Representative Kildee added that, despite their concerns, most subcommittee members support the general thrust of the council’s report.

He predicted that legislation to implement it could move through the House next month, perhaps as an amendment to the omnibus school-reform bill awaiting action by the full House.

“There may be some opposed to the entire idea,” he said. “But I don’t think it’s anywhere near a majority.”

A version of this article appeared in the February 12, 1992 edition of Education Week as Standards for Schools Essential, Too, Lawmakers Say