A reader over at my other blog asked some questions about how the standards were developed and about this idea of field testing standards that has been floating around recently. On the question of field testing, he says
She [Diane Ravitch] also talks about how the standards were never field-tested. I may be wrong, but it seems to me there’s nothing to test about the standards themselves. It’s simply a decision about what we want students to know and be able to do.
This is eminently sensible. Standards are an agreement; you can’t field test an agreement. You can field test curriculum and assessment based on the agreement, and at some point you may want to revise the agreement as a result of what you learn. But field testing the standards themselves would have meant not having common standards; and so would have told you nothing about the advantages or disadvantages of having common standards. The only way to field test the standards would be to have some parallel United States, just like ours, but where different common standards were adopted. And follow it for 10 years.
In fact, we did do the closest thing we could do to field testing: we looked carefully at standards of high achieving countries and states. You could think of this as a sort of observational study, which is what you do when a field test isn’t feasible.
The other question my reader had was about the role of teachers in developing the standards, and the opportunity for public comment. I’ll answer that one tomorrow.