Blogosphere is buzzing about the "Common Core." These are voluntary national standards for English, math, et al. Right now each state has its own standards. Lists. Stuff kids should learn. Many states are pretty reasonable about these lists. Not Texas. But most. Sometimes the lists get too mushy, though.
The bigger problem is the states' race to the bottom on tests. The tests measure whether kids actually learned the standards. But some states set the cut scores really low.
Smart wonkish people, like Checker Finn, like the Common Core first draft. Because the standards are legit. Real knowledge. Low mush. If a kid were to actually learn the stuff on the list, he'd be in good shape.
Smart teacher people, like blogger Kate Nowak, look at the lists and wonder about real life.
I don't have the patience to list them all, but here is a sample of standards required of all students that seem overly ambitious and/or a bit goofy....
....A-REI-19: In the context of exponential models, solve equations of the form a b (exp)ct = d where a, c, and d are specific numbers and the base b is 2, 10, or e.
That's required of all kids? Base e?
The politics are that it's safer to make the standards hard and the cut scores easy.
From an individual teacher's point of view, the whole enterprise is disorienting. Standards are a whole K-12 ladder. But you only "own" one rung on the ladder.
You might be theoretically responsible for the 10th rung as a 10th grade teacher, but the average kid walks into your class on the 5th rung. Now what?