Wednesday, January 14, 2009

What's in a Standard

Chris Lehmann didn’t want to write a post.

I didn’t either, but I wrote a comment. I just need to clarify perhaps.

The idea of standards has been popping up a lot lately. I guess with the appointment of a new secretary of Education and the promise of putting more money into schools, everyone wants to restart the conversation of how to find some accountability with teachers.

My original comment.

David Warlick wrote a blog a few days ago.
A quote from the blog
"You operate these devices natively, by approaching it with a certain frame of mind, not by method. There is absolutely no harm in this."

This I think might be the problem with the philosophy of standards and many so called "reforms" that seem to be popular these days. The focus is on the method or process while many 21 Century schools focus more on concept, or owning knowledge.

As Dan Meyer says in his blog New teachers teach procedure better than concept. Procedure is important — you'll never hear me suggest otherwise — but procedural knowledge is a lot easier to teach than conceptual knowledge, which demands of the teacher both a broad and narrow understanding


I've read and worked with many state standards and I think for the most part they could be mapped to each other. Though most states would have some unique to themselves. The point is most of the standards focus on process and not concept.


I think the idea of standards keeps coming up because it seems natural if you have high quality goals you can write good tests to measure those goals.

I don’t think it is true.

First of all most state standards are mostly a collection of skills. Skills are relatively easy to measure with a test. The problem is it is also very easy for students to just memorize, regurgitate, then forget. I won’t even get into the fact that far too many standards lump several skills together.

Second, not all states have what are often called process standards, Those standards that actually attempt to ask for a measurement, or judgment of what a student is thinking or what strategies he/she is using.

I think if we are going to use standards states need to have two standards. We need two sets of standards the skill standards and the concept standards.

The skill standards have a good start, but they should be more organized. One set of high-level skills that are measured on common assessments and a set of lower level skills that are the building blocks of the higher-level skills.

The second set of standards, the concept standards, should be written in a similar manner. They should be written as a smaller number of specific higher-level skills with building blocks underneath. The difference is that concept skills cannot be measured with an end of unit common assessment. They must be measured though observation, but teachers, and or others who frequent the classroom. They can and should also be measured through writing or journals made by the student. Finally, they can also be measured through the use of portfolios.

This isn’t really new information of course; it is just more expensive than creating multiple-choice test that can be measured using machines.

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