Education is an important subject in the world that it changes with time. Education reform refers to the changes in the processes by which society passes on and builds its accumulated knowledge from one generation to another (Lewis, 1995). It also involves the passing on of skills and values that are relevant to the next generation. There have been various changes in the methods and meaning of education throughout history to the present day. Standards are a major medium through which education has reformed. Academic standards drive education reform in the United States since the early 1980s. Standards stipulate the quality of education in its reform.
Education before academic standards
The field of education changes with time and circumstances. There have been major changes in the field of education since the implementation of academic standards. Before the implementation of standards, outcome-based education was in use. This method was student centered and it measured the performance of the students depending on the outcomes (Borthwick, & Nolan, 1996, p.15). This method requires students to show what they learnt i.e. the content, and the skills they acquired in their learning process. It discourages direct teaching of facts and standard methods like the traditional way of education. It involves measuring results from clearly set observable standards. Therefore, outcome-based education major goal is on results produced rather than the inputs.
Traditional education also characterized the field of education before establishment of academic standards. This way of education involved the amount of resources available to the student, also referred to as inputs. In this system of education, content taught in class is the basis for performance. The traditional system of education passed the knowledge and skills of the previous generation to the current generation. This is the main aim for this type of education. Everything done in the past duplicates to the future systems killing any reforms made. The students learn in an environment, which allows little concentration. There are no results measured at the end of the session to determine the achievement the students make. However, this system expects half of the students to perform above average without considering standards.
Changes made by standards
Academic standards rank the performance of each student based on a definite standard. This is different with comparing a students’ performance with that of other students in the same level. Academic standards are an effective tool in implementing educational reforms in a country (Lewis, 1995, p.744). Creating standards within a locality will involve the input of community leaders, parents and educators to determine what students should learn.
Various changes occur because of setting academic standards. The curriculum now includes only the relevant material that student require to know. Teachers teach only the relevant content that students should learn and be of use in the practical world. Publishers will include relevant terms and content only in the school textbooks they publish. This ensures that the curriculum is in line with the right academic standards. Standards ensure that the curriculum development teams focus on one or two key areas while developing the curriculum (Lewis, 1995, p.747). Ideas from various sources will enhance the creation of an effective and efficient standards-based curriculum.
Standards change the way of carrying out an assessment. Aligning standards and assessment brings about a coherent approach to educational reform. Assessment materials will determine if standards are measurable. Standards are measurable if they assess all students in the same way without discrimination. In an assessment, all students in a certain locality take a similar exam. Their results will then appear against a definite standard to determine the students’ performance based on that standard (Schmoker, & Marzano, 1999, p.99). This method improves students’ assessment because it involves a uniform measure, which is more accurate than comparing students’ performance with each other. Therefore, aligning assessment, curriculum and instruction with standards is an effective and crucial way of implementing reforms in the education sector.
Effectiveness of standards
Standards are an effective tool for education reform. They provide a roadmap to teachers on the relevant skills and knowledge that students need to learn. They direct students on the right skills and on what to do with the knowledge gained. According to Schmoker & Marzano (1999, p. 198) standards provide room for teachers to work together as a team since they are all involved in teaching similar subjects. This way, it is easier to share teaching material and solve problems that may arise in the course of their duties. Academic standards are also very effective in assessing students’ performance. They provide a common base for determining performance in all students thereby eliminating bias in measurement.
Standards increase the effectiveness of school textbooks. Publishers only include relevant content in their publications according to the set standards. Standards help develop an effective curriculum framework at the national and district level. This curriculum if effectively followed eventually raises the level of education in a country. It is, therefore, without a doubt that standards are an effective tool for educational reform.
Education reform requires clear academic standards for its establishment. Standards need to be set at the national level as well as at the district level. However, setting effective standards requires substantial time.
Borthwick, A., & Nolan, K., (March 1996). Performance standards: How good is good enough?
Paper presented at the National Education Summit held March 26-27, 1996, in Palisades,
Lewis, A.C., (June 1995). An overview of the standards movement. Phil Delta Kappan, 76 (10),
Schmoker, M., & Marzano, R., (March 1999). Realizing the Promise of Standards-Based
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