Standards = Expectations

As the professional development ended the facilitator stated, “have fidelity to the curriculum and be sure your students are learning what they need to.” One hand went up and asked, “how do you do both?”

There is an oxymoron though in the opening statement. Fidelity to the curriculum means being on the designated page on the designated day. There is no opportunity for reteaching. And while we all know children learn at different rates and in different ways, no occasion for assisting a child having difficulty is afforded to the child or teacher. No days are scheduled so the teacher can give a quiz, a test, or retest.

Fidelity to the curriculum + rigorous education = hit the kids with new material every day.

Maybe it isn’t this way everywhere, but it is this way in Philadelphia where many children enter school for the first time already 2½ years behind wealthier students. So we take these kids already behind and challenge them to catch up without ever giving them the additional time they need. This is a standard for a dysfunctional school and Philadelphia has many of them. To really improve schools let’s start with a standard of identifying where children are academically, move them forward by acting like we are in a marathon instead of a sprint, and not force teachers and students to waste valuable time by learning what standard it is we are learning today. Standards and a dime won’t buy a cup of coffee, but if you actually solve that math problem you might get a good paying job.

For education to be real for students, expectations of and demands by administrators must also be real. For standards to be applicable, they reflect the classroom environment, not the cubicle they were written in.

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