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School & District Management

Former ETS Researcher on Common Standards

By Sean Cavanagh — November 19, 2009 1 min read

Paul Barton, the former director of the policy-information center at the Educational Testing Service, takes issue with the draft common standards in written comments on the document.

Barton says the draft standards for college and career readiness seem “to be an extension of the current conventional wisdom seen in a number of arenas that there is a one-size-fits-all approach to public education, particularly at the high school level, and that all students need to acquire the same kind and level of knowledge for life after high school.” Barton, who now works as an education consultant, argues that this approach is “deaf to the differentiation of student interests, motivations, learning styles, and the greatly differentiated labor market they will enter, as well as the differentiated structure of postsecondary education, and the need to make a start on cutting the dropout rate.”

His observations in some ways echo the concerns of Stanford University scholar Mike Kirst, whose work Barton cites in his paper. Overall, Barton questions the wisdom of starting the standards effort with a focus on the end of the K-12 pipeline—as opposed to elementary grades—an approach that he describes as an effort to “bring uniformity to a wildly differentiated secondary school system.”

I’m offering just a brief synopsis. Once you’ve read the essay, let me know if you agree with Barton’s analysis.

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Curriculum Matters blog.