Why Education "Standards" Don't Work

By:  Sam Blumenfeld
Why Education "Standards" Don't Work

While intelligent CEOs had thought they had found a way of reforming American education, they were totally unaware that left-wing, progressive educators were creating their own “reforms” designed to make things worse. With all our standards, tests, and accountability, and with No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top, our literacy continues to decline. Only parents who are informed enough to teach their children to read at home can save their children from school-induced illiteracy.

Jesse H. Rhodes’ new book, An Education in Politics: The Origin and Evolution of No Child Left Behind, provides us with much detailed information on how our great business leaders got involved in the education reform movement but failed in the end to improve our public schools. Unfortunately, Mr. Rhodes, an assistant professor of political science at the University of Massachusetts (Amherst), wears the usual liberal blinders, and thus gives us a skewed history which, nevertheless, is useful to anyone interested in why even high-powered business CEOs haven’t been unable to improve our public schools.

For years, business leaders had been complaining about potential employees unable to write or think mathematically. They lacked the skills needed by our high-tech economy, and something had to be done about it. Finally, the Business Roundtable, the National Alliance of Business, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce decided to act. They said:

We need a clear national strategy for addressing education reform ... to ensure that every student leaves compulsory school with a demonstrated ability to read, write, compute, and perform at world-class levels in general school subjects as well as to learn, think, work effectively alone and in groups and solve problems.

In April 1983, the National Commission on Excellence in Education had produced its famous Nation at Risk report, which said that low student achievement was pervasive and threatening the nation’s economic and social well-being.

It was President Reagan’s secretary of education, T. H. Bell, who created the Commission in August 1981, directing it to examine the quality of education in the United States and to make a report within 18 months of its first meeting. The final report contained some practical recommendations for educational improvement, but it also contained some very harsh criticism of American educators. It said:

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Sam Blumenfeld (photo)

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