Standards …often the topic of conversations, but seldom the final destination of most.

I, for one, have always been a champion of standards-based curriculum and testing.  When I was young in my career, I was very miffed that my students worked hard to meet my school standards, but when they entered a neighboring district, those very standards hurt them.  Honor society was based upon a report card grade standard.  So, students who couldn’t even do the math for sixth grade level, but who were given a grade of “A” made the honor society.  My students who were working on advanced concepts in pre-algebra and pre-geometry and made a “B” were not able to be inducted into the society.

That situation caused me to lobby hard for compatible standards across the state for all schools.  That was several state superintendents ago, and I have seen standards change several times since we first adopted PASS skills.   Even those first attempts were less than we had envisioned.  Perhaps the biggest let down was how political the standards game became.

I still teach and plan curriculum for our private school based upon standards.  We are more likely to use the term benchmarks rather than “skills” since we view education as a continuous progress model.  No two students will ever be exactly alike in their educational needs.  Thus, it is noteworthy to celebrate benchmarks reached and to set new goals for attainment.

My greatest fears, however, are that standards will continue to be lowered in our nation’s schools.   In these current times, we seem more interested in making students feel good than we are in teaching them to put forth some grunt to reach a goal.  It is obvious from talking with many students that there isn’t a lot of “grunt” available these days.  Now, I will admit it still exists on the sports fields!

I learned in my Masters’ program that when a teacher has risk involved along with the students, the results are usually more positive.  Thus, music teachers and coaches had the best relationships with their students and usually had the most positive accomplishments.  Why?  Both had something to lose if it didn’t go well in performance.  So, to be equally successful in the standard classroom, teachers must risk something, too.  One cannot just “do” or “give” education to their students.  They must have a vested interest along with the students.  Articles I’ve read in recent years seem to extoll lessons learned from very stern teachers.  Perhaps the reason they were looked upon as very stern teachers, was that these teachers had standards which made students reach and accomplish great things.  So today, I take my hat off and salute all those teachers with vested interests in their students.   

-           Kay