Things you should know about: Opportunity to Learn Standards


I remember now why this return-to-blogging thing didn’t work out so well last time. And that was summer. So making an attempt in the final weeks of the semester probably wasn’t the wisest thing to do, but the spirit moved me, so what the hell. It’s possible that I’ll be able to keep this up fairly regularly if I do some mini-posts, so with that in mind: a Thursday-night quickie.

The first thing you should know about OTL standards, and the most maddening thing about them, is that they don’t really exist. But back in the mid-90s, they were on the table, or at least a part of the discourse. [Cue harp, dream sequence]

Recall that Goals 2000 (not an ESEA reauthorization, but developed simultaneously) was one policy step in many leading up to the eventual passage of NCLB: its big push was toward creating national content/academic standards and a system for student assessment. This wasn’t a mainstream idea yet, and there was a lot of pushback from LEAs resistant to the feds getting in their business to what was then an unprecedented extent. There was also a lot of pushback from people who recognized the inherent unfairness in holding all students to the same standards without giving them all a decent educational experience. Hence OTL standards, which would have mandated silly little things like making sure all students went to school in safe, clean spaces, had access to adequate books and other materials, had knowledgeable teachers, and so on. Even the report of the Congressionally-commissioned National Council on Education Standards and Testing acknowledged that many schools lacked “the human and material resources necessary to deliver to students a curriculum based on a challenging conception of content” (NCEST–yes, that’s right–p. 75).

[End dream sequence.] In 1994 the political rhetoric was.. well. You know. The Goals 2000 legislation made the creation of these standards voluntary, and while in a way it’s amazing that they made it in at all, not surprisingly, many states declined to invest the time and money–and this would’ve cost real money–necessary to approach something like equity in their school systems. Widespread adoption of OTL standards never happened.

But it could’ve.



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