I reported in a recent blog about the Kentucky Board of Education voting on February 6, 2019 to approve some highly problematic standards for the state’s public schools. But, I think before going into more details about the specific issues with those newly approved standards, it would be worthwhile to explain what high quality education standards really should look like.
On a very simple level, education standards outline what we expect students to know and be able to do once they complete a unit of educational instruction. But, there is more to the story than this simple statement covers.
For one thing, I see a fundamental flaw in the new social studies standards. Very simply, the standards don’t tell us much, if anything, about the performances expected. High quality standards not only tell us what students are expected to know and be able to do, but those quality standards also tell us how success in mastering those standards is going to be measured.
Unanswered by the new social studies standards are many key questions about what content is considered fair game for testing along with key answers to questions such as “How good is good enough?” and “How will we measure proficiency?”
Without answers to those “How” questions, curriculum writers and teachers are left in the dark about very important information that impacts the development of curriculum (the detailed roadmap for instruction in each class each day) and the actual instruction that results.
Even worse, lacking answers to those “How” questions, test developers are left to themselves to determine what proficiency actually looks like. Since the tests are generally kept secret, that keeps the answers to the critical “How” questions hidden from teachers, parents and the public, too.
Allowing testing groups to set Kentucky’s performance standards in secret is no way to run an education system. It is a recipe for yet another round of test-driven, not teacher driven, education.
There are more flaws. The law doesn’t require another revision to these social studies standards for another six years. That’s not right either. There should be a continuous feedback and improvement system so that if it becomes obvious that a specific standard needs changing, that happens now, not after as many as six classes of students suffer under the wrong stuff.
The issue of constant feedback and improvement is crucial to a really high-performance set of standards, too.
To get a more complete understanding of how really good standards work in a high-performance education system, spend five minutes looking at the video below. It discusses how high-quality standards are assembled and the crucial role those standards play in the overall education program.
Then, stay tuned. We’ll be returning with more specific problems in the just-approved social studies standards.