Retreating from High Standards Would Spell Significant Disruptions for Schools, Teachers and Students


In his latest “Capturing the Spark” blog, Education Week columnist David Cohen highlights several key policy issues under the incoming Trump Administration. While Cohen points out that education will be more in the hands of states, he makes a gross understatement when he asserts replacing high, comparable education standards “would primarily hurt publishers and consultants, while merely causing some discontinuity for teachers and students, so that’s less of a concern.”

Frequent changes to academic standards doesn’t “merely” cause “discontinuity” in the classroom – it wastes financial resources; undermines the time and energy teachers use learning the standards and crafting effective classroom instruction; and unnecessarily makes the goals students strive to meet a moving target.

As a recent RAND study observes, the more that teachers understand state standards and receive support to teach to them, the more likely the state was to see an increase in academic achievement. Discontinuity, by contrast, has the opposite effect. It requires teachers to become familiar with the new goals and to realign instruction, which can impact the quality of instruction students receive.

The president has little control over education standards; that’s a decision left up to state and local officials. The Every Student Succeeds Act ensures state policymakers are firmly in the driver’s seat. But as states implement the new education law, it is critical they continue to keep the academic bar high for students. Turning back would do a real disservice to students, teachers and families.