Standards: What are they good for

Standards, what are they good for umph, say it again yeah. Oh what a great song it

would make.

Frederick Hess of the American Enterprise Institute recently wrote that “we are shortchanging America’s brightest students” (Hess, 2011, p. 1).  The story below is an example of what Hess is referring to. It is told by Yong Zhao who was educated in China and now lives in Michigan.

One day my son told me that he had figured out how to get a better score for his writing on the MEAP, the standardized test Michigan uses to satisfy NCLB requirements. I knew he had always been a good writer for his age but he did not receive a great score on the MEAP that year. The essence of his strategy was to stop being creative and imaginative. Instead he would follow the scoring rubric which was analyzed and taught by his teacher. Indeed his score improved the next round.

(Zhao, 2009, p. VIII).

Because of this experience Zhao removed his child from public schools and moved him to an educational setting not influenced by NCLB (Zhao, 2009).

This experience is not just limited to Zhao. Researchers such as Andy Hargreaves, a Boston College professor writes of diminished teacher morale, a decrease in teaching creativity, and higher retirement rates amongst experienced teachers (Hargreaves, 2003). The result is diminished learning (Hargreaves, 2003).

What’s at risk

Our educational system is at risk of losing its credibility. How can parents have faith in public education when we teach to minimal standards instead of maximizing an individual’s potential? We have standards but we always have had standards. Take a test get a 90 get an A, an 80 a B and so forth. But now the standardized exam is what is used to rate teachers. Essentially it is pass or fail. As a result students like the young Zhao are taught what to do to make their teachers look good, which is not working to the best of the students’ own individual ability? Standards belong on curriculum development: Not in the classroom.


Hargreaves, A. (2003). Teaching in the knowledge society. New York, Ny: Teachers College Press.

Hess, F. M. (2011). Are top students getting short shrift. Retrieved from<ahref&#8230;

Zhao, Y. (2009). Catching up or leading the way. Alexandria Virginia USA: ASCD.




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