How Well Does the Standards Movement Measure Up? An Analysis of Achievement Trends, Academic Course-taking, Student Learning, NCLB, and Changes in School Culture and Graduation Rates

Lawrence C. Stedman

Abstract


This is the first of two papers examining the standards movement. In it, I review data from NAEP, the SAT, the international assessments, transcript studies, and NCLB assessments, as well as surveys and case studies of changes in curriculum and pedagogy. The picture is a bleak one. Over the past quarter century, achievement has stagnated, dropouts and aliteracy have grown, and large minority achievement gaps have persisted. The quality of student learning remains poor. School changes, stratified by class and race, have constricted instruction and harmed students and teachers. NCLB has made things worse, not better. Even in the two areas where the movement has achieved some success—lower grade math achievement and high school academic enrollments—the gains were largely superficial, other forces such as teaching-to-the-test and social promotion contributed, and serious deficiencies remain.

In the second paper, “Why the Standards Movement Failed,” I examine the educational and political reasons for the failure—including its misconstruction of pedagogy and links to the neoliberal reform project—and propose a progressive alternative.


Keywords


Standards Movement; Achievement Trends; No Child Left Behind; NAEP; Achievement Gap; SAT; Testing; Education Policy; Legislation

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ISSN 1920-4175 Critical Education