Correcting the Record: High Standards Benefit High- AND Low-Performing Students
High education standards are not the effective remedy for low-performing students many consider them to be, education researcher John Hattie tells NPR.
Rigorous standards have “a very nasty effect,” Hattie claims. “All those schools who take kids in difficult circumstances are seen as failures, while those who take privileged students and do nothing are seen as successful.”
In reality, challenging and consistent standards ensure all students have expectations that fully prepare them to succeed at high levels of learning – regardless of where they grow up or what circumstances they face.
High, comparable standards “raise expectations for all children, including those who are struggling,” former New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson wrote previously. “By raising the bar for our students, we are ensuring that every child has the opportunities he or she deserves.”
States are now beginning to see student proficiency improve, suggesting their efforts to toughen learning goals is working. This year a majority of states made significant improvements in math and reading proficiency. Some of the biggest gains came among third-graders, who have spent the bulk of their academic careers learning to achieve to higher expectations.
“These findings send a clear message that it’s a mistake to retreat from high standards or go back to low-quality tests,” explains Hanna Skandera, New Mexico’s Secretary of Education.
Nothing suggests, either, that higher standards should preclude states from developing accountability systems that focus on student growth, as Hattie indicates. Under the Every Student Succeeds Act states have greater flexibility to calibrate their systems to measure student growth using a variety of indicators.
States and districts “now enjoy far greater leeway to design a school accountability system that will work best for all students by turning annual tests results in reading, writing, and mathematics, and other information, into sound judgments of school effectiveness,” Mike Petrilli explains. And, he adds, states should use that freedom to ensure their programs serve both high- and low-performing students well.