News: News Archives
Educators Discuss Challenges
to Implementing New Standards
The "No Child Left Behind Act" of 2001 encourages states to develop and implement content and performance standards and to align their tests with those standards. Implementing that directive has not been easy, however, as was illustrated in a series of case studies presented at a recent AAAS conference.
"For many states, achieving alignment has been difficult," according to Ann Caldwell, research associate at AAAS's Project 2061, a nationwide initiative to improve K-12 education in science, mathematics and technology. "Case studies show the problem is more severe in science than in mathematics."
At a 3-day conference, 15 - 17 May, AAAS convened state education officials-those responsible for setting statewide standards-and curriculum developers, textbook publishers, and national policymakers to confront a range of issues that are critical to the education reform process. Presenters used case studies from several school districts to illustrate the challenges of implementing standards-based curriculum, assessment, and professional development. The third in a series sponsored by AAAS's Project 2061, this conference confirmed the need to tackle the problem of low student achievement in science at multiple levels.
"Effective reform requires change throughout the education system. Textbooks and tests must both be aligned with standards," said Dr. Alan I. Leshner, chief executive officer of AAAS. "We can only move forward if curriculum designers and textbook publishers are on the same page as the state leaders who are setting standards. Right now they all operate in different realms. We're bringing them together to help set the stage for productive collaboration."
As state departments of education rewrite their standards, they will also need to overhaul the list of approved textbooks that school districts can choose from. Unfortunately, only a few of the currently available texts align with state or national standards. A study by Project 2061 of middle- and high-school science and mathematics textbooks found only a handful that would help students learn some of the key ideas that most state standards include as essential. And all of the satisfactory textbooks found were in mathematics. "Most science textbooks today provide a lot of technical detail but no coherent articulation of the big ideas described in the learning standards," reported Caldwell.
Throughout the conference, presenters and attendees alike questioned how the new standards would be met and how student achievement could be tested if instructional materials weren't updated to match the rigorous requirements set for students at each grade level.
For more on the conference, see related article, "Consistency, Coherence Key to Implementing Reform."
30 May 2002