Wednesday, March 10, 2010

This Seems Like a Good Idea

From today's NYT afternoon update,
Culminating a year’s work, a panel of educators convened by the nation’s governors and state school superintendents released a set of proposed common academic standards on Wednesday. The standards, posted on the panel’s web site, lay out the panel’s vision of what American public school students should learn in math and English, year by year, from kindergarten to high school graduation.
48 states participated in the development of these standards, and many are expected to commit to meeting them in the next few months. This is hugely important for standardized testing, textbooks, teachers' and students' ability to move smoothly between states or even districts, college admissions and so on. Reading and math are the two core academic abilities; without those two, everything else is going to be an awful struggle or just plain impossible.

Science is not directly addressed in the document, but literacy with respect to science and other disciplines is. And as I've mentioned before, there are already two sets of science standards that were developed in the early to mid-90's, one from the NRC, and the other from AAAS. I personally like the AAAS standards, Benchmarks for Science Literacy, better, but the bottom line is that there is far more overlap between the two than not. The model for the new standards, though, getting state participation up front, makes those states more likely to buy in to the result without feeling as if the new guidelines are being imposed from above. Oregon's science standards (400 kb PDF) were based on both the documents, and the new 2009 set is an improvement over the last attempt maybe 15 years ago. What's at issue, though, is consistency of goals and expectations across the US; other states are unlikely to simply adopt Oregon's standards, just as Oregon at this point is unlikely to adopt another's.

BTW, the two states that didn't participate in developing the new language and mathematics standards? Need you ask?
Alaska and Texas are the only states not participating in the standards-writing effort. In keeping his state out of the movement, Gov. Rick Perry argued that only Texans should decide what children there learn.
Followup, March 11: Jenn Kepka at Salon points out the critical thinking and presentation skills mentioned, and suggests it'll lead to better blogs and blogging:
To be ready for college, workforce training, and life in a technological society, students need the ability to gather, comprehend, evaluate, synthesize, report on, and create a high volume and extensive range of print and nonprint texts in media forms old and new. The need to research and to consume and produce media is embedded into every element of today’s curriculum.

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