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Topic: Guest essay: New standards are flawed
Replies: 1   Last Post: Dec 20, 2013 6:01 AM

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Jerry P. Becker

Posts: 16,576
Registered: 12/3/04
Guest essay: New standards are flawed
Posted: Dec 3, 2013 1:24 PM
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From the Democrat and Chronicle, Rochester, NY, Sunday, December 1, 2013. See
[Our thanks to Jeffrey Choppin for bringing this
piece to our attention.]
Guest essay: New standards are flawed

By Stephen Uebbing

Historically, the performance of U.S. students on
the Trends in International Mathematics and
Science Study (TIMSS) has been mediocre. In 2011,
18 states took the test as independent entities,
comparing the performance of students in their
states with countries around the world. Many
individual states did very well in the
international comparisons. (New York did not
participate.) In particular, North Carolina's
results prompted U.S. Secretary of Education Arne
Duncan to state: "North Carolina's students are
doing as well as, or better than, their peers in
most high-performing nations in math, and are
even ahead of their counterparts in Finland," one
of the highest performing nations on Earth.

So, I suspect the citizens of North Carolina were
confused to read this month's headline, "New N.C.
exams paint bleak picture of skills in state"
regarding the performance on the first rendition
of Common Core tests. The story said that "fewer
than half the students in North Carolina Š have
the reading and math skills they need to be on
track for college and skilled jobs, based on
results of new state exams."

New York had a similar "bleak picture." Even in
Pittsford, the top-ranked school district in
upstate New York, where they consistently have
close to a 100 percent graduation rate and most
kids going to college, 30 to 40 percent of
students fell below proficiency on the Common
Core tests. And Pittsford had the best results in
the area.

For years we've been told that American kids lag
behind their international peers on all sorts of
educational measures, and that we as a nation
need to do something different. The answer: new
standards, rigorous tests and teacher evaluations
based on test scores - all part of our national
strategy to "race to the top" of the global

I worry, what if we are wrong? What if the
standards or the tests that measure them are
flawed? Based on TIMSS results, North Carolina
(along with other states) was doing well against
the rest of the world. Now, however, if the
standard and test makers are right, N.C. has a
lot of work to do. And, apparently, so does

This issue is too complex for a short essay, but
one thing is clear. At least in North Carolina,
there are kids who were "doing as well as, or
better than, their peers in most high-performing
nations" who are now "lacking the skills
necessary to be on track for college and skilled
Uebbing is a professor at the University of
Rochester's Warner School of Education
Jerry P. Becker
Dept. of Curriculum & Instruction
Southern Illinois University
625 Wham Drive
Mail Code 4610
Carbondale, IL 62901-4610
Phone: (618) 453-4241 [O]
(618) 457-8903 [H]
Fax: (618) 453-4244

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