Debating the Future of American Education: Do We Meet National Standards and Assessments?

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Diane Ravitch
Brookings Institution Press, 2010 M12 1 - 192 pages

What is the outlook for educational reform in the United States? One of the most striking proposals has been to establish a system of national standards, which has raised many complex questions: Is it possible for the United States, with its history of extreme decentralization, to establish and enforce national standards for what students should know? Who will create these standards? What would be the role of the federal, state, and local governments?

While the idea of national standards has been widely supported, many respected educators doubt their value from fear that such standards will institutionalize the lowest common denominator. Others cite the poor performance of U.S. students on international tests and insist that the U.S. will suffer because of this poor performance. The debate becomes even more intense when the question of assessment is posed. Is it possible to develop a national examination system tied to new standards? Should such tests be used to influence entry to colleges and jobs? Would the motivation of students to learn be increased if they knew that their performance would be reviewed by colleges and employers? Is it fair to set standards for students without setting standards for schools?

To address these and other questions, this book, the result of a Brookings conference, brings together representatives of various viewpoints on the utility and equity of increasing the use of tests for students, teachers, and schools.

The contributors are Chester Finn, Jr., the Edison Project; Daniel Koretz, RAND; Andrew Porter, Wisconsin Center for Education Research; Lauren Resnick, University of Pittsburgh; Roy Romer, Governor of Colorado; Albert Shanker, American Federation of Teachers; Theodore R. Sizer, Brown University; Marshall C. Smith, U.S. Department of Education; and Donald M. Stewart, The College Board.

Brookings Dialogues on Public Policy


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The Clinton Agenda
Will National Standards and Assessments Make a Difference?
The Uses and Misuses of OpportunitytoLearn Standards
Explaining Standards to the Public
General Discussion
Holding onto Norms in a Sea of Criteria
Standards for Education
Whos Afraid of the Big Bad Test?
The Case for High Stakes and Real Consequences
Sometimes a Cigar isOnly a Cigar and Often a Test Is Only a Test
General Discussion
Conference Participants

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Page 2 - By the year 2000, the high school graduation rate will increase to at least 90 percent; 3. By the year 2000, American students will leave grades four, eight, and twelve having demonstrated competency in challenging subject matter, including English, mathematics, science, history, and geography...
Page 2 - US students will be first in the world in science and mathematics achievement. 5. Every adult American will be literate and will possess the knowledge and skills necessary to compete in a global economy and exercise the rights and responsibilities of citizenship.
Page 2 - English, mathematics, science, history and geography, .and every school in America will ensure that all students learn to use their minds well, so they may be prepared for responsible citizenship, further learning and productive employment in our modern economy.

About the author (2010)

Diane Ravitch, former Assistant Secretary of Educational Research and Improvement at the U.S. Department of Education, is the author of numerous books, including The Language Police: How Pressure Groups Restrict What Students Learn (Knopf, 2003), Left Back: A Century of Battles over School Reform (Simon & Schuster, 2001), and National Standards in American Education: A Citizen's Guide (Brookings, 1995).

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