National Reform Efforts that Every Educator Should Know About

The responsibility of states for setting curriculum standards, as well as the assessment of those standards, led to differences among states that critics viewed as negatively impacting the quality of education in the nation. Education advocates suggested that some states reduce the rigor of their standards, to increase the number of students able to reach proficiency as required by NCLB. In 2009, governors and chief academic officers from the states (and the District of Columbia and the territories), along with educators, came together to develop the Common Core State Standards, which provide a reliable, lucid explanation of what students are required to learn, so teachers and parents know what they need to do to assist them.

The standards:

  • Are aligned with future education and labor expectations
  • Are lucid, comprehensible and unswerving
  • Include meticulous content and application of information through high-order skills
  • Build on potency and lessons of current state standards
  • Are informed by other top-performing countries, so that all students are equipped to thrive in 
our global economy
  • Are data-based

Standards in English Language Arts and Mathematics have been completed, and as of 2013, forty-five states, the District of Columbia, four territories, and the Department of Defense Education Activity have adopted the Common Core State Standards. Proponents of national standards maintain that a national standard provides all students with the same high standard of education, no matter where they live. This, they claim, ensures that every student in the United States would, in theory, receive a quality education. National standards would also allow educators across the country to share best practices, which undoubtedly improve teachers’ ability to more effectively serve the needs of their students.

The Common Core State Standards do not inform teachers how to teach but give them valuable insights into the skills and knowledge that students need to succeed in subsequent educational activities. The standards also help parents and students by mapping out a more realistic recipe for future success, regardless of where students end up residing.

Critics view the development of national standards as a step toward a national education system that would result in the federal government, which is not one of the stakeholders on the ground, having too much say in decision making.

Another notable nationwide reform effort is the American Diploma Project Network. In 2005, a group of highly placed individuals began a crusade to reform high school. The group believed that high school education had become archaic and needed to step into the 21st century. Among other reforms, the group called for an increase in standards, a stricter curriculum, and improved examinations to gauge a student’s competence for the workforce or future study. To date, 35 states are part of the network.

Are you teaching in one of those states? What has reform looked like in the educational system in which you teach? What progress has been made, and what landmarks still need to be achieved? As an educator, you need to know about the benchmarks of yesterday in order to help move your school toward the progress earmarks of tomorrow.

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