Linking Innovation to Education Standards

With the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) pending, educators and politicians are mulling over how standards, either national or state-by-state, will deliver results and raise student achievements.

Earlier this week Secretary of Education Arne Duncan attended the Virginia Governor’s Education Summit where he addressed the need for stronger innovation in teaching.  While addressing the crowd, he gave a personal anecdote about his how his children, who attend Virginia public schools, learn of the solar system through song instead of a textbook, an example of innovative learning techniques that move away from the “teach the test” mentality.  He went on to argue that this type of innovative teaching will help the country regain its status as an educational powerhouse.

Secretary Duncan has become a strong advocate for advancing national standards as a means to increase student success across the country, as they are pushing for legislation that is supportive of reform.  However, some local officials are objecting to setting national standards.

Virginia governor Bob McDonnell, who hosted the event, argued that he “would prefer that federal rules allow a choice between the national standards or equivalent state test,” Governor McDonnell made the decision not to let Virginia compete in the federally funded Race to the Top program earlier this summer.  Despite the differences in opinion between the two, McDonnell praised Duncan for his “relentless focus on setting high standards.”

At a Wilson Center event earlier this year, a group of Distinguished Einstein Fellows gathered to discuss this very issue.  One panelist, Kirk Janowiak argued that a balance must be found between standards.  “If they are made high enough to be meaningful, then we end up squashing the innovation of teaching, and we end up providing our teachers with scripts,” but continued by adding that if standards are too low  “we open up ourselves to the current trend we have of mediocrity.”

In an attempt to raise the bar in education, Janowiak argued that compromise must be reached between local and federal officials in order to ensure America’s educational success for the future.

Posted by: Michael Darden

Sources: Richmond Times-Dispatch

Photo credit: David Hawxhurst, Wilson Center

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