Bruno: High Standards Or The Right Standards?
"High standards" is one of those educational phrases that gets thrown around a lot without actually meaning much; if higher standards are always better then there's no reason not to start teaching calculus in preschool.
Nobody favors "low standards" in education, they just disagree about what standards are appropriate in different situations. Framing the debate as about "high standards" vs "low standards" only serves to gloss over reasonable differences of opinion.
And so it is with the Education Sector's new report finding that "High Standards Help Struggling Students."
Even if we assume that the authors have successfully identified more than correlation, what the report mostly illustrates is that talking about "high standards" in general terms is not very useful.
Much better, in my view, would be a look at specific standards to determine for which students they are - or are not - helpful. This sort of fine-grained analysis is harder and does not allow for broad generalizations, and it may undermine pleasant narratives about raising our collective expectations. Nevertheless, evaluating individual standards in context is likely to be of greater practical value.
What, for example, to make of California's requirement since 2003 that all 8th graders take algebra? This was an example of a "higher standard" for struggling students who previously would not have taken algebra until high school, but was it good for them? Arguably not, with one recent study finding that 9th grade algebra students were much better off having passed a pre-algebra class in 8th grade than having failed an algebra class.
From a policy standpoint, then, whether standards are "higher" or "lower" is probably less important than whether they are appropriate for the students being held to them. - PB (@MrPABruno) (image source)