School change: The use of National standards is not research-based

by Steve Wyckoff on May 12, 2010

I recently listened to a podcast from the Cato Institute on National Curriculum Education Standards. This is an extremely interesting podcast in spite of the fact that the first segment is done by a politician. Neil McCluskey, of the Cato Institute, has a very interesting take, and also interesting data.

Several points stood out to me, given my repulsion to national standards and standardized tests. The first point that Dr. McCluskey made was against the argument that a modern country should have one set of educational curriculum standards. The evidence that has always given is that India and China are gaining on us. Therefore we need national standards. But wait a minute, both India and China have realized that they need to de-centralized their educational system not centralize it more. Why then are we centralizing more?

Furthermore it is always pointed out that the countries that do better than us on standardized test all have national standards. What is never pointed out is that 33 of the 39 countries that ranked below us all have national standards. In 11 of the bottom 12 countries have national standards.

Which leads to another point that I found very interesting. There is no empirical evidence that national standards produce better results. Isn’t that interesting? In no Child left the use of research-based practices is mandated. Yet conspicuous by its absence is the research on national standards. Yet no research has been done on the use of national curriculum standards.

Call me a skeptic, but I think national standards are more about control than they are about improving educational opportunities for our children. In the 21st century it’s all about individualization and customization, national curriculum standards are just the opposite. If we want real school change we should be focusing on customizing and individualizing the educational process to meet the individual needs of every child. Otherwise we are doing a great job of further preparing kids to work in the factories that no longer exist, doing jobs that no longer exist. – Steve Wyckoff

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