It seems as though every decade there are reforms, new curriculums or so-called higher standards coming out of Washington or Albany to make our schools and students perform better. They have been going on in earnest for 30 years now with no end in sight.
When the only constant is a flux mandated from on high, you have to wonder if all the changes are instituted prematurely and are at least partially misdirected.
The latest “new” standards, the Common Core, originated with bureaucrats in Washington, were sent to the states and adapted by bureaucrats in capitals such as Albany. It is not surprising the standards are controversial with parents and educators, because the latter (you know, the people who actually work in classrooms) had little to do with devising them.
There is nothing wrong with trying to do better with schools and education. Clearly, teaching and learning cannot be a static process, and they require constant evaluation and adaptation.
In the late 1950s, it took the launching of Sputnik by the Russians to lead to put math and science education into sharper focus. A quarter century later, the “A Nation at Risk” study illustrated that our schools had achieved a level of mediocrity that was placing our student achievement below that of many other countries.
While math and science remained a major emphasis, the experts also began asking “why Johnny can’t read.” Or write. Or find places on a world map. Or understand some basic events in U.S. or world history. The report called for higher standards, longer schools days and years, better teacher pay, and, to achieve all this, more school funding.
At that time, the fledgling federal Department of Education was not in the business of telling states or locales how to teach and run schools. In New York, it was up to the state Education Department to document student achievement and raise standards. So began the focus on standardized testing, from elementary school to high school Regents exams, which now has become so controversial.