Friday, April 25, 2008

The Speed of School Reform

There is a public evil of great magnitude in the multiplicity and diversity of elementary books. They crowd the market and infest the schools. One would suppose there might be uniformity in rudiments at least; yet the greatest variety prevails. Some books claim superiority because they make learning easy, and others, because they make it difficult. All decry their predecessors, or profess to have discovered new and better modes of teaching. By a change of books a child is often obliged to unlearn what he had laboriously acquired before. ... It would seem, beforehand, that no duty of school committees should be more acceptable to parents, than that of enforcing a uniformity of books in all the schools of a town.
Horace Mann in the First Annual Report of the [Massachusetts] Board of Education in 1838.
At the present time educational standards in Massachusetts lack definition. The schools of the various cities and towns are organized without particular reference to any general or State educational program. To say, for example, that a child is rated in the fourth grade of any school system does not at all imply that he would receive the same classification in any other school system in the State, or that he would be pursuing the same subjects or the same courses if he were attending school in another town. In a State, a large part of whose population is so constantly shifting, this lack of reasonable co-ordination brings loss to thousands of our youth, to say nothing of the confusion it creates in the minds of parents and of citizens with reference to the educational accomplishments of their children as measured by teachers and school officers. No one would argue for an absolute uniformity of education throughout the State, and no one would desire any system which would eliminate individual or local initiative. These can unquestionably be preserved at the same time that general standards can be better defined and secured.
Payson Smith in the Eighty-second Annual Report of the Board of Education, 1919.
The board shall establish a set of statewide educational goals for all public elementary and secondary schools in the commonwealth. The board shall direct the commissioner to institute a process to develop academic standards for the core subjects of mathematics, science and technology, history and social science, English, foreign languages and the arts. The standards shall cover grades kindergarten through twelve and shall clearly set forth the skills, competencies and knowledge expected to be possessed by all students at the conclusion of individual grades or clusters of grades.
Massachusetts Education Reform Act of 1993.

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