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Topic: Standards and achievement
Replies: 22   Last Post: Sep 5, 1995 7:15 PM

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Posts: 95
Registered: 12/6/04
Standards and achievement
Posted: Sep 2, 1995 4:05 PM
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Jack Price wrote in this month's Math Teacher.

"...I spent one day a week for two years working with a dedicated faculty in
a middle school as they completely changed their curriculum and their way of
teaching to be in line with the concepts of the Standards....When the staff
started their project, the students' state test scores ranked them seventh
out of seven middle schools in the district. In the last year of the state
testing, they had improved to third in the district..."

I'd like more specifics about this case (I don't know why that was
excluded). But I salute Mr. Price and this school for their hard work and for
acknowledging that standardized tests actually measure something. Much of
what we hear from the radical reformers is that the power of the Standards
is indeed unmeasurable. I firmly believe some of them see a decline in
standardized test scores as some sort of badge of courage.

Portfolios, we're told, are the best way of assessing students, even though
a portfolio only shows a kid might have known something at sometime or
perhaps that he was part of a very smart group or that he has a smart mother.
Testing demonstrates retention and most importantly requires STUDY, the
forgotten word in American education. Study is the great equalizer.

Escalante, in "the Greatest Teacher in America" is quoted about the AP exam,
"This kind of test motivates the kids to do something. If you take it, it's a
good guage. It's the only way to do it....This is the only way to prove the
teacher is teaching, Say I'm preparing for the Olympics, You say I'm ready
for the Olympics, but the only way I can prove it is if I compete against the
Russians. We don't have anything in the District like that."

I am my school's sponsor of Students Run LA, a program dedicated to training
students to run the Los Angeles Marathon. This year twenty students from our
school completed the race along with 1200 other students from the LAUSD How
is this possible? Because 26.2 miles is a real standard; one you can't fake.

I can imagine how much success we'd have if I simply exclaimed to our
students "Hey, folks, let's start training so we can comply with the
California Framework on Running. It's really great fun and you'll feel more
powerful in a running sense and we'll document your training by compiling a
runner's portfolio which will prove what a great and "authentic" runner you
are. And we'll always run in groups, and you'll rarely run by yourself
because that might harm the self esteem of the slower runners."

Compare that to, "Folks, we're going to train to run the LA Marathon. We're
going to have some fun and make new friends, but mainly you're going to prove
to yourself and the world that you can meet one of the toughest standards in
the run 26.2 miles through the streets of Los Angeles. And when
you finish, you'll receive a medal and a t-shirt to impress those who haven't
done it. And if their self esteem is harmed by your success, too bad. We'll
invite them to run with us next year so they can experience the same feeling
as you. Through your desire, dedication and hard work you will achieve your
goal and you'll feel like you can accomplish anything else you desire. It
will be your effort and you will be the one who'll prosper." I wonder which
approach would work better?

Teachers know what educrats don't; it's almost impossible to teach a child
who willfully wishes to remain uneducated. And most teachers know, until we
implement concrete methods of motivating our students to take responsibility
for their own education, significant improvement is highly improbable. And we
also know real reform might occur if teachers see students finally required
to demonstrate competence. The malaise of the current situation would
improve as teachers help students achieve real standards.

As affirmative action disappears (whatever your politics, I hope no one
thinks it will be necessary forever), clear standards would mark the way
towards success. Students not making the grade would be directed towards the
largest volunteer tutoring program ever. Imagine how great it would be if the
whole State was motivated to help kids, particularly those who come from
difficult circumstance. With clearer measurable standards for kids, measures
to make teachers more accountable would be easier to implement and those not
producing would be driven from the profession.

If you've read this far you're a hearty soul indeed and you might be
encouraged by what arrived in my mail today, along with thousands of other
teachers. The AFT has taken the bull by the horns and called for real
standards in American education. It's called "Responsibility, Respect,
Results". This is a program that we who believe in real standards must surely

If you're not in the AFT, try to get a copy of the Sept. 1995 "American
Teacher". And if you still belong to the NEA, I ask you "WHY?"

Dan Hart
Los Angeles, the Gang's All Here!!

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