"The Standards Movement in Education: A Part of Systemic Reform,"by Dr. Peter Negroni July/August 1997 issue of Poverty & Race
If we believe that setting standards will solve the ineffectiveness of American education for poor and minority students, we are doomed to failure. Standards reflecting curriculum learning outcomes provide the goal, the "star" that must be reached. The journey to reaching that star for all cannot be the traditional curriculum, instructional strategies and factory-system production schedules that have dominated our education system. Although some can still excel in this system, today's and tomorrow's global economy requires higher thinking skills, problem solving, team approaches to fulfilling tasks and invention of solutions to new needs and circumstances.
The journey towards the goal is influenced by time. The navigators may be slow and direct by ship or fast and direct by airplane. In either case, determination and desire to reach the goal are essential. It does not matter ultimately if there are detours or delays. The system must be flexible in allowing for detours and delays, in providing alternative routes to the same destination.
The journey is influenced by appropriate funding. Students who face multiple issues - poverty, learning disabilities, second language learning - need different and, often, more
costly interventions. There is a difference in results if one assumes the journey on a raft or a cabin cruiser. Money makes the difference. National, state and local governments must make education the priority in allocating funds.
The journey is influenced by the leadership, the implementers and support personnel. Money must be spent wisely. There must be a connection between what we do and how successful children are in the learning process. Leaders must identify the needs of the "voyagers"; they must have a
variety of strategies to ensure success for all. Teachers need to know their students, to know how children learn and what impedes and what accelerates student learning. All involved in teaching must be continual learners, must work in a collaborative model, must extend themselves beyond the traditional school hours.
The journey can be successful for all, minority or majority students, males or females, rich or poor, when we recognize that our work is to develop ourselves continually so that we can develop our students' skills. Standards must place the responsibility of learning on teachers and principals; those who teach the children to reach the standards must be capable of accomplishing the standards themselves.
Therefore, colleges and universities must prepare top teacher candidates; communities must compensate educators in a competitive market; and government must provide appropriate funding for education to ensure the best educators are hired and retained, to support instruction with instructional materials and modern facilities that support the educational programs.
And so, I view the movement towards standards as an essential beginning to ensure quality education for all. The means involve ongoing professional development, alternative teaching strategies, innovative programs, flexible schedules, updated and modern facilities, quality staff and accountability for the design of the educational program. The end is approachable; the star must always be before us to direct and to affirm the direction.
Dr. Peter Negroni Dr. Peter Negroni is Superintendent of Schools, Springfield, MA (P0 Box 1410, 195 State St., Springfield MA 01102-1410, 413/787-7087).
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