Who Should Control The Standards In Our Schools?

Education "Reform" in America

It seems more and more people are getting on the bandwagon racing away from national standards, Common Core “State” Standards, and the associated high-stakes testing.

As the writer of the Tulsa-based education blog Blue Cereal Education states:

To be sure, nationalized tests and oppressive curriculum requirements are a disaster. Forget Common Core – ANY standardization of what every child in every situation everywhere must know and be able to do as measured by bubble fillinnery, based on their chronological grouping is, well… insane. In a “you’re a very bad man” kind of way.

I think quite a few of us are headed in the same direction. But what is an alternative? Should it be local control? As in, should every school district be completely free and clear to come up with its own standards? While I think that my district is, and would, rise to the occasion and make every human effort to ensure that each child receives the best education he can, not all districts are committed to the same academic levels.

Blue Cereal is pretty convinced that local control would not work in many areas of our state.

But while I love my state, rural Oklahoma is full of districts who don’t much cotton to them big city ideals. …there are numerous districts where the toughest thing about teaching high school is convincing families there’s anything out there bigger than the local poultry processing plant or Assistant Manager at Dollar General.

So, assuming that Blue’s assumptions are correct, what is the answer?

  • I am not a fan of the federal government telling us what, when, and how I should teach my students.
  • I do agree we should have some standards.
  • I agree that corporate raiders in education reform clothing should not be in charge of them.
  • I also agree with Blue Cereal Education, who says that local control isn’t the answer either.

I think I have an answer. How about we we ask the experts to come up with standards? No… not the self-proclaimed education reform gurus who will be happy to test your child and then publicly label your school a failure for a few million dollars… but the actual experts, those people who went to school to study (GASP!) education.

I think we should ask the teachers — and their teachers.

How about we ask the professors and graduate students at university education schools to devise standards — they could even collaborate across the nation — and then teach those standards to the people in their teacher preparation programs? Then, those teachers could go out into the schools of our nation and use their best professional judgement to teach, remediate, or build upon those standards based on the abilities of the children in front of them.

The professors and graduate students have educational theory fresh on their minds; current teachers are knee deep in the trenches putting those theories to work; retired teachers have years of experience and the perspective to go with it; parents and students are the ones who are most directly affected by the decisions made: These are the people who should be leading the charge to create standards and accountability. Sure, we can include business leaders and other stakeholders. but they should not be running the show.

I bet this group of people could even figure out a way to tell if kids are learning without frustrating, discouraging, and humiliating children.

Just think about it. You wouldn’t ask your plumber to consult on your heart surgery, or your building contractor to advise your dentist on best practices (I am now attempting to exorcise image of dentistry by chainsaw from my mind…). So why are we letting business owners tell us how and what to teach?!

Let’s let the professionals do their jobs!

About the author 

Michelle Boyd Waters, M.Ed.

I am a secondary English Language Arts teacher, a University of Oklahoma student working on my doctorate in Instructional Leadership and Academic Curriculum with an concentration in English Education and co-Editor of the Oklahoma English Journal. I am constantly seeking ways to amplify students' voices and choices.

    1. Exactly! I spent some time investigating how fire codes are created and enforced. They have committees setup of people in the industry. Who’d have thought?

Comments are closed.

{"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}