State education standards
by Dorothy Beardmore / Special to The Detroit News /
October 25, 2002
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The Oct. 1 commentary by David N. Plank and William H.
Schmidt, "Clear standards are key to school accountability,"
is excellent as far as it goes. I am pleased to see the state
Board of Education acknowledged as having a role in the
establishment of the standards for what Michigan students
should know and be able to do at the conclusion of K-12
education. Unfortunately, too often there is a disconnect
between the state Board of Education, the Legislature and
local school districts.
A case in point: In response to Public Act 25 of 1990, in 1991
the state Board of Education identified nine areas of
essential learning for all Michigan students. Subsequent
legislation included incentive funding for school districts to
work toward the outcomes the state board identified.
Two years later, July to December 1993, another reform of
curriculum content accompanied school finance reform. Proposal
A defined the finance reform. The "new" education reform
legislated an "Academic Core Curriculum" comprised of
mathematics, science, reading, history, geography, economics,
American government and writing. Ignored were such important
subject areas as world history, world languages, health and
physical education, arts and music, use of technology as a
learning tool, career and employability skills, etc.
In 1995, in compliance with the new law, the state board
established standards and benchmarks for the core curriculum
subjects so local school districts would know exactly what was
expected of them. That law also required that "State
assessment tests must be outcome based and consistent with the
core curriculum." The one thing the law did not require was
local school district alignment with state curriculum
standards. Raising student achievement has been slow in coming
because of that omission. It has taken many years for some
local districts to accept the importance of meeting state
standards through their local curriculum.
As noted in the commentary, Michigan was pointed to as a state
with more schools than any other state that would not make
"adequate yearly progress," as defined in the federal law "No
Child Left Behind." Nothing in that report indicated what, if
any, standards states had established on which to assess
"adequate progress." Michigan's standards are among the
highest in the country.
Standards must be clear and coherent. Plank and Schmidt are
valuable critics and guides to the state Board of Education.
Former member, State Board of Education