Recommendations Regarding the Implementation of Standards

In 1990, the President and Governors agreed on national education goals and committed themselves to a decade of sustained action to meet those goals. With the Congress, they created the National Education Goals Panel to measure and support the nation's and states' progress toward meeting the goals.

To meet Goal 3, on Student Achievement, and Goal 5, on Mathematics and Science, a consensus has emerged that as Americans we must agree on our priorities -- the results we expect from students in core academic areas. In 1993 the Panel stated its support for "content" standards that are rigorous and challenging, reflecting high expectations for what students should know and be able to do.

The National Education Goals Panel now extends it past support for developing standards to the next steps in implementing clear, rigorous content standards. The Goals Panel applauds the many states and professional groups that have developed academic standards. The Panel believes, however, that the development of academic standards documents by states is a valuable first step in a longer process that must be accompanied by sustained efforts to support schools, teachers and administrators in their implementation. The Panel and representatives of the organizations working with it advocate the following set of principles, already in effect in some pioneering states and schools, as a sound basis for all states to implement their standards:

1. Linking Standards to Goals

    The Goals Panel believes that the implementation of challenging standards is properly the centerpiece of school improvement and education reform efforts. The Goals Panel supports the development and implementation of academic standards that help states reach Goal 3, student achievement of challenging subject matter; Goal 4, improvement of teacher education and professional development; and Goal 5, raising student achievement in mathematics and science to first in the world.

    The Goals Panel believes that the development of academic standards documents must be accompanied by sustained efforts to support school systems and teachers in their implementation. Together these supports should create an environment in which long-term goals are kept clearly in mind while mid-course corrections solve important problems as they arise.

2. Linking Professional Development to Standards

    The Goals Panel believes that all educators should have opportunities for in-depth professional development that will help them become better teachers and instructional leaders. These opportunities should be available on both a school-wide and individual basis. All school personnel need to develop skills in working with parents *, families, and members of the community. Educators should have multiple opportunities to undertake in-depth study of subject matter, pedagogy, and the learning of diverse students, directly tied to improving their teaching skills. Providing such opportunities is an urgent next step in implementing standards. The Goals Panel believes:

    2a. All school systems should provide professional development that is long-term, sustained and systemic, and that is focused on the combination of subject matter standards, how all students develop and learn, and how best to teach that subject matter to diverse learners. Such professional development should use data on student achievement and include how to assess student learning and discussion and evaluation of actual samples of student work.

    2b.To achieve Goal 4, the Teacher Education and Professional Development goal, the providers of staff development and teacher education in local school districts, state departments of education and institutions of higher education need to upgrade and renew their knowledge and skills in the K-12 content standards, how diverse students develop and learn, and how best to teach and assess subject matter to all students. Because parents' role is critical in raising standards of student achievement, teacher educators and other providers of professional development should also develop skills in working with parents, families and members of the community.

    2c. In the case of schools and districts without sufficient local capacity for adequate professional development, there should be alternative arrangements offered on a voluntary basis by such groups as state departments of education, institutions of higher education or regional consortia.

    2d. Accountability structures and regulations, as they apply to professional development, need to be overhauled to focus upon what makes educators better teachers. Among those structures, the accreditation of teacher education should be recast to focus on the demonstrated competence of its graduates. While recognizing the problems inherent in performance-based accreditation, ultimately the effectiveness of a teacher education program must be judged by the achievement of students taught by graduates of those programs.

    2e. Teachers and other school personnel should have opportunities for in-depth professional development. Acknowledging that funding for professional development is essential, funding should be directly tied to the attainment of state and local standards and pupil achievement. Redirected and reallocated monies can be used, in part, to meet these needs, but additional resources may be needed for these purposes. Supporting teachers and principals as they seek formal advanced certification and rewarding them for the attainment of such certification is an important new consideration.

    2f. Multiple opportunities should be available for teachers to undertake in-depth study of subject matter, pedagogy, and diverse students and their learning, directly tied to improving their classroom teaching skills, and qualifying them for a higher level of certification. These could include school-based staff development, graduate study that improves teaching, sustained discussions about teaching subject matter, and expanded subject matter teacher networks.

3. Linking Assessments to Standards and Instruction

    The standards that count are the standards that are assessed. The Panel believes that assessment systems define the operative education standards. State, local and classroom provisions for assessment should be directly linked to standards, by assessing what students should know and be able to do, and reflecting the level of performance defined as necessary for minimal competence as well as high levels of performance.

    3a. The results of the assessments should be reported to both educators and the public in a timely fashion, so that they will know how current school performance compares to education standards and to the performance of others. Timely information and support should be used to offer prompt help to students who do not meet minimum standards.

    3b. Assessment systems should reflect education standards, use multiple measures to assess students' knowledge and skills, prescribe consequences that are clear and fair, and undertake special efforts to communicate the results clearly to students and their families, teachers and principals, policymakers, media and the public.

    3c. Money and time should be reallocated for such testing, dropping tests unrelated to standards. Testing takes time, money and effort. Therefore the Goals Panel believes state assessment systems should focus on measuring all students' attainment of standards which are broadly understood by the public. Assessments should produce results that are clear and useful to educators, parents, and the public. Assessments should serve as tools in states attempts to meet standards and improve instruction.

4. Linking Instructional Materials to Standards

    Textbooks are where the students meet the standards. Currently textbooks have been called the nation's de facto curriculum. In science and mathematics, textbooks are said to be "a mile wide and an inch deep." The Goals Panel believes that students and their teachers should have instructional materials -- whether textbooks or other classroom materials -- that directly help students achieve challenging academic standards.

    4a. To select such materials, educators in local districts and states need in-depth processes, selection criteria that include alignment with standards, and training in their use.

    4b. An independent source should provide high quality narrative reviews of textbooks and instructional materials to schools and the public. These reviews need to address the overall merit of the textbooks and related instructional materials, how well they explain the underlying concepts in the subject area, how they balance depth and breadth and how well they represent the subject area standards.

    4c. Teachers should be provided training to select the textbooks and materials that will help them meet challenging standards. The time and training should allow in-depth examination of materials and their relation to learning goals.

    4d. Schools and teachers should be allowed flexibility and discretion in selecting, using and inventing instructional materials which, in their professional judgment, will best bring all their students to meet academic standards of the state and the standards and goals of the local school district.

5. Linking the Use of Time to the Achievement of Standards

    The Goals Panel believes that to reach challenging education standards schools will have to rethink and redesign the way they use time. Recognizing that students learn at varying rates, schools need new ways to use and extend the time available for student learning as well as time for professional development, textbook review, and professional efforts to improve school performance. Sustained efforts will be needed and can be informed by building upon prior work.

6. Linking Accountability to Standards

    The Goals Panel advocates setting challenging standards for all students, and monitoring the extent to which extra efforts are needed within a state to assist students, schools and districts to reach them. All stakeholders in schools, communities, and states, including students, need to be held accountable. Local districts should be held accountable for student achievement and for making changes in the program, staff development, and delivery of services associated with progress toward the desired level of performance. The Panel recognizes that there may be unique barriers in schools with persistent low performance and expects that state and local leaders will make special efforts to address and overcome those barriers.

7. Encouraging Public Engagement and Parent Understanding of Standards

    The Goals Panel calls for concerted efforts to educate and inform parents and the public about education standards. The Panel advocates an open process of development and implementation of standards, in which parents and the public are fully included. Special efforts are needed to regularly inform them of the progress of their children and schools towards the attainment of the education standards.

    7a. Local school systems should be encouraged to convene the community, including parents, local business leaders, media, teachers, principals, administrators, local school boards and other citizens to:

    * develop local consensus on what students are expected to know and be able to do, the performance level of accomplishment to which students should be held , and strategies for raising student achievement which the school system, with the community, will pursue; and

    * identify indicators of success, including indicators of local progress toward meeting standards, by which the school system and community can measure progress and guide future action.

7b. Governors or other prominent state leaders, legislators or Chiefs, should annually convene consortia of education organizations, representing teachers, principals, administrators, institutions of higher education, local school boards, with parents, business, media, civic groups and others in order to:

    * provide participants regular, comparable information and a forum to discuss the intended purpose and current status of state and local academic standards, student achievement, and program efforts to help meet standards;

    * identify consensus among the groups in the consortium and among others in the state; and

    * inform the membership of the participating organizations regarding standards, standards-based program initiatives and their effectiveness, pertinent state and local resources, opportunities for member organizations to cooperate and initiatives of relevance to each role group involved.

In engaging the public both state and local communities should:

    * promote public understanding of the importance of raising student achievement, the role standards play in this process, current standards-related initiatives and how current standards activities promote the long-term goals; and

    * encourage the contributions of parents, business, media, and others in the community and the state to raising student achievement.

7c. Governors or other prominent state leaders should convene business leaders, media, education leaders and other citizens to discuss the place of education in the state's economic future and the general level of educational performance the state will need to reach its economic goals. This discussion should be followed by a report, concerted public engagement effort by the participants and coordinated efforts with other concerned groups.

8. Maintaining Commitment on the Long-Term Goals of Standards Implementation

    The Goals Panel recognizes that implementing education standards is a multifaceted, long-term, collaborative enterprise. The Panel also recognizes the need to demonstrate results and rally public support for specific aspects of school improvement.

    The Panel therefore urges states and communities to maintain commitment to their own long-term standards goals, persisting in efforts to attain desired results through multiple policy and program initiatives and election cycles. The Panel strongly supports development of coherent and strategic long- range plans to promote the implementation of education standards, to which a variety of sound short-term initiatives can make significant contributions.

    However demanding this process, the Panel believes that the future of the nation's youth depends on raising students performance in the near as well as the long-term. The Panel therefore urges states and local communities to develop strategic and coherent plans, linked to appropriate benchmarks and accountability systems, that will both accelerate schools' effective use of standards and students' achievement of the standards.

* These recommendations use the National Parent-Teacher Association definition of parents as "the adults who play an important role in a child's family life, since other adults -- grandparents, aunts, uncles, step-parents, and guardians -- may carry the primary responsibility for a child's education, development, and well-being."

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