November 4, 2020

Having Standards is NOT the Same as Standardization

The Standards

Parents, educators and students alike have demonized the standards. Parents took to social media to advertise their frustration with "the new standards" when Common Core State Standards were released. Consider this though, standards in and of themselves are not inherently bad. Having high standards for our schools and our children is a good thing; this is how we achieve equity in education. How do you ensure that students in New Mexico are getting an education equitable to students in Rhode Island or Florida, etc? If every state has its own standards do we have the same high expectations of all students in all parts of the country?

Standardization

Unfortunately outdated pedagogy has given standards-based instruction a bad name.  Afterall, standards-based instruction is NOT the same as standardized instruction. While we do want to hold our kids to high standards we don't get there by teaching everyone the same thing in the same way. Standardization refers to teaching to the average and treating all students as if they are the same. You can hold everyone to high standards, but offer choice and variability in how to get there. With respect to Universal Design for Learning we often refer to this as having a clear goal but flexible means to reach that goal.

In her book Let Them Thrive, Katie Novak explains, "Standards are merely the destination on a journey. If learning is a road trip, the standards are merely the end-point, but they do not determine the route a student takes." The problem is that the curricula that is purchased by school districts is often not aligned to the actual standards, and moreover it isn't designed with flexibility and variability in mind. If we use a standardized curriculum that is not aligned to standards, who are we serving? You can check out another blog post I wrote specifically about the negative PR around the math standards. 

Key Takeaways:

  • High expectations for all is a good thing
  • Standards make education equitable for all
  • Standards are a destination, not the journey
  • Standards are the curriculum....textbooks are just a resource used to teach the curriculum
  • Standardizing education is not the same as having standards

Variability is the Rule, Not the Exception

All learners are different. We can hold our students to a standard and offer variability in how to reach that standard. Shelley Moore explains in the 5 Moore Minutes video below.

Consider This...

  • How can we change the adoption of instructional materials so that Universal Design for Learning is considered in the process?
  • How can educators inform parents about the "why" behind the standards to get buy-in and build understanding?
  • How is standards-based instruction different from standardized instruction?

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