January 11, 2001

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Vol. 20, Issue 17
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Without a better balance among standards, tests, and support, the movement could fail.
Standards-based initiatives are reaching classrooms, but not all the results are positive.
One of the rallying cries of standards-based education is that all students can achieve at high levels--a point proven by a number of high-performing, high-poverty schools.
Education Week’s "National Survey of Public School Teachers, 2000" was conducted by Belden Russonello & Stewart, a Washington-based opinion-research group. The national survey of 1,019 public school teachers was conducted by telephone Aug. 28 through Sept. 17, 2000.
Tests were intended to be part of the standards system. Now, they dominate.
When Andrew Renner sat down to take his state's high school graduation exam this past spring, he had seen a copy of the writing test only once before the first time he failed the exam. A typical teenager, Renner did not write more than he believed necessary to pass the retake of the Arizona Instrument to Measure Standards. He failed the writing exam a second time.
States have come a long way in designing standards and tests, but not far enough.
Alignment between academic standards and student tests is critical to the success of standards-based school improvement. Traditionally, "alignment" meant going through a checklist to see if a test question measured a standard.
Though told to teach to the standards, teachers often aren’t given the tools for the job.
As states move deeper into standards-based reform, they are experimenting with a variety of way to help teachers improve classroom instruction. They're publishing manuals that explain how curricula should change, financing professional-development activities that support a standards-based approach, and operating Web sites that offer examples of lesson plans, curriculum units, and testing materials. Here is a sampling of what some states are doing to help make standards part of everyday life in schools. Each vignette represents a small piece of the state's overall standards strategy.
The expectations states have set for students run the gamut from low to high.
Experts look to the district as the focal point for bringing standards alive.
The San Benito district reaches out to parents and trains them to help their children meet the standards.
Educators in the Lancaster schools analyze students’ state and district test scores to improve instruction.
Fayette County schools offer professional-development opportunities geared toward academic standards.
With many students failing state tests, Kent County officials responded with extra academic assistance.
States have forged ahead with accountability systems, but not the infrastructure to support them.
Education Week examines the building blocks for developing a high-quality education.
FOUNDATION SUPPORT: Coverage of specific topics in Education Week is supported in part by grants from the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the CME Group Foundation, the Carnegie Corporation of New York, the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation, the Joyce Foundation, the NoVo Foundation, the Noyce Foundation, the Raikes Foundation, the Wallace Foundation, and the Walton Family Foundation. The newspaper retains sole editorial control over the content of the articles that are underwritten by the foundations. Additional grants in support of Editorial Projects in Education’s data journalism and video capacity come from the Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust and the Schott Foundation for Public Education. (Updated 1/1/2017)

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