The Standards MacGuffin
Edudiva responds to Caitlin Hartsell’s standards post by arguing that Missouri’s education standards don’t come up to the difficulty level of the MAP tests. She predicts that joining the coalition of states will improve our standards, and that we have nothing to lose:
We won’t look bad when compared to states with easy assessments when they upgrade their tests. We won’t need to “dumb down” ours; instead, the rest of the country will need to catch up to our assessments.
This is wishful thinking. If other states wanted to improve their tests, they could do that right now without joining a group. A coalition of states won’t necessarily bring everyone up to the level of the best state. It will create new standards, which will be some kind of compromise among all the different participants. States with the worst standards may get a boost; other states might very well dumb down their standards, or they could leave the coalition — in which case, what will have been the point?
The discrepancy between state standards and MAP test content is clear evidence that standards don’t matter. We often hear about teaching to the test or schools engaging in excessive test prep. Standards are rarely mentioned outside of the context of the MAP. Standards don’t drive district behavior; this is apparent from the wide range of outcomes among districts, all of which are held to the same state standards.
We’ll see a similar result from national standards. One set of standards will apply to all 46 or 47 states that join, but outcomes will still vary greatly as some states apply them better than others, or ignore them entirely.