Educational Testing Service
Those polled were asked to choose between the view that all students, teachers and schools should be held to the same standard of performance because it is wrong to have lower expectations for students from disadvantaged backgrounds, and the contrary view that they should not be held to the same standard because we should not expect teachers working with disadvantaged students to have them reach the same level of performance on standardized tests as teachers in more affluent schools.
More than half of the parents favored the single standard, but only one-quarter of the high school teachers agreed.
Broder suggests that this divide is troubling for the Administration since it could lead to more opposition to minimum standards. This weekend, Broder points to two teachers responses to his June piece:
One Pennsylvania educator called the legislation "a wonderful concept, but woefully inadequate when dealing with the realities of public education. Yes, I believe in standards, high standards for my students. I am also realistic enough to know that not all students have the natural ability, the desire or the family structure to succeed at the highest level. While I believe my brightest or hardest-working students can compete with anyone, I also know that I have many students who struggle just to get through life daily. Yet 'educators' expect these students to still excel on a standardized test?"
Another teacher, with 20 years' experience teaching third and fourth grades in Ohio, questioned the notion that parents expect more of the students than teachers do. "I just cannot fathom where or how you obtain data that supports the thesis that parents are more likely than teachers to believe expectations and standards are set too low. I can say that certainly in my suburb of Sylvania, the exact opposite situation exists. Frequently teachers express the opinion that expectations and standards need to be raised, but the parents' complaints would cause the phones to ring off the hook!"
First, standardized tests are designed to ensure that students attain a floor, a minimum performance level. They are not designed to determine if a student can excell or not. Second, why is it so surprising that parents want one standard and believe that the standard is too low. Note that the survey found only about half, which leads me to believe that the issue is split in the minds of parents, leading to an obviously different viewpoint when you move from survey data to anecdotal stories.
Multiple standards are confusing to many people as well as confusing the issue. If there is a single standard, then parents can determine if their kid is meeting the standard in an easy to compare manner. If their child is not meeing the standard, they have the ability to ask why. Is it the school, the curriculum, my child, what? If there are multiple standards, then the parents have no facility for determining whether their child meets the standard.
Additionally, multiple standards provide an out for teachers and schools. It becomes easy for a teacher, a school or a school system to say, "well you kid didn't meet the "standard" for his subgroup, but don't worry about it, his subgroup has a different standard." Then comes the questions of what subgroups and the conversation has devloved into minutiae that does not serve the child's interest in a quality educaiton.
If, as a society, we seriously intend to improve the quality of education for our children, we need to have some method of determining "standard" behavior. I know each child is unique, with their own distinctiveness. In any population, there are always outliers, children who do not meet or drastically exceed the norm, but there is a norm--it is a statistical fact. There is no shame in admitting it, finding it and trying to improve on it. But you have to have a norm or all other measurements are useless.