States Have Set a Higher Bar for Their Students – and Students Are Meeting It

In an opinion piece published by the Huntsville Times, Samantha Rudelich, a University of Alabama senior, argues rigorous education standards are part of the reason states’ education systems “are failing our students.”

“Unrealistic standards we require students and teachers to hit contribute to a nationwide state of miseducation,” Rudelich argues. “We rob our students of a diverse education that gives them the tools necessary to succeed in life.”

Rudelich’s position – and the implication that states should lower the bar for students –  ignores the success that states like Alabama are having by setting expectations to levels that prepare students for college and careers.

This year, most states administered assessments aligned to higher standards for the second consecutive year. In a majority of states, students made improvements in math and English language arts proficiency. Some of the biggest gains were by third-grade students, who have spent the entirety of their academic careers learning to meet higher standards.

“More than 40 states have maintained high standards, and now that we have multiple years of results with high quality assessments, we can see that higher standards are leading to improved outcomes,” Collaborative Executive Director Jim Cowen pointed out earlier this week. “It’s now clear that [higher] standards have made an impact.”

“These findings send a clear message that it’s a mistake to retreat from high standards or go back to low-quality tests,” New Mexico’s Education Secretary Hanna Skandera explains – especially as states create plans to implement the Every Student Succeeds Act.

We agree with Rudelich that parents, educators and community stakeholders should be involved as states develop plans to implement the Every Student Succeeds Act. The law, which returns more power to state and local officials and permanently replaces No Child Left Behind, is an opportunity for families and teachers to support college and career readiness by building on states’ commitment to high standards and high-quality tests.

That is the message of West Virginia Parent Teacher Association President Janelle Sperry, who encouraged parents to engage with policymakers to ensure high standards “focus on the needs of every child,” and empower them “to reach their full potential.”

In Nevada this week, Daniel Weisberg wrote that high college remediation rates are a reminder of the consequences of putting optics ahead of high classroom expectations. Forty percent of college-bound freshmen require remedial coursework before they can begin credit-bearing classes. In Alabama, that creates about $51 million each year in out-of-pocket costs.

The Every Student Succeeds Act gives state and local authorities greater control over education issues. But, as Delaware Governor Jack Markell notes, “with that flexibility, states have a responsibility to remain committed to the success of our students.” We encourage parents and teachers to get involved and encourage policymakers to keep the bar high for students.