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 Article of Interest - Education

State education standards frequently revised
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.

Dorothy Beardmore
Former member, State Board of Education
Rochester Hills

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