Having a national system of academic-content standards and tests doesn’t mean that local educators lose their say in how schools are run, according to a report by a Washington-based group that has long advocated such a system.
The report released last week by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute draws its conclusions from an in-depth study of 10 countries with national standards and testing systems. The countries are Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, the Netherlands, Russia, Singapore, and South Korea. Three researchers from Michigan State University, in East Lansing—William H. Schmidt, Richard Houang, and Sharif Shakrani—conducted the study.
While all but one of the countries studied set curriculum at the national level, the authors write, most of those nations have multiple systems within them. In Germany, for instance, individual schools select their own staff members, and in Brazil, France, India, the Netherlands, and Russia, curriculum-policy decisions involve participants from all levels of the system.
The authors say their study offers lessons for growing efforts in the United States to devise common standards and tests. They recommend creating an independent, quasi-governmental institution to oversee the crafting of national standards; starting with English, mathematics, and science, and making the standards coherent, focused, and rigorous; providing federal support for standards development; administering tests based on the standards every other year in grades 4, 8, and 12; and holding students, teachers, and schools accountable for the results of those tests.
A version of this article appeared in the September 02, 2009 edition of Education Week