There has long been this ying and yang about national testing and national curriculum (BAD!) and local testing and locally designed curriculum (GOOD!) that, with the efforts of No Child Left Behind, has now amplified the debate.
This point was eloquently articulated by the great educational thinker Diane Ravitch in a November 7th New York Times OP-ED titled: Every State Left Behind.
While in office, Presidents George H. W. Bush and Bill Clinton both called for national academic standards and national tests in the public schools. In both cases, the proposals were rejected by a Congress dominated by the opposing party. The current President Bush, with a friendly Congress in hand, did not pursue that goal because it is contrary to the Republican Party philosophy of localism. Instead he adopted a strategy of "50 states, 50 standards, 50 tests"%u2014and the evidence is growing that this approach has not improved student achievement. Americans must recognize that we need national standards, national tests and a national curriculum.
I think she has a very valid point. I know this is heresy to some but let’s think about it. Think of all the redundancies that exist with testing mandates. Each state has their own tests, their own standards, their own way of tracking school performance – most of which cannot be compared between states.
My favorite points she makes is this:
We will be stuck with piecemeal and ineffective reforms until we agree as a nation that education—not only in reading and mathematics, but also science, history, literature, foreign languages and the arts—must be our highest domestic priority.
A must read: Every State Left Behind