The Debate about Standards: Where Do We Go from Here?

Ravitch, Diane
January 1982
Education Digest;Jan1982, Vol. 47 Issue 5, p2
This article focuses on the role of secondary schools in maintaining educational standards in the United States. Educators have argued the issue of standards during most of the twentieth century. Traditionally, the discussion of standards focused on the secondary schools, particularly on the nature of the curriculum, on requirements, and on the use of grades and promotion policy. Recently districts across the country have begun to apply standards like promotional gates and have introduced minimum-competency tests in the elementary grades. For the moment, at least, it appears that standards are in. The belief that particular school policies contribute directly to diminished academic performance, as well as to a climate that undercuts the schools' seriousness of purpose, has provoked the most recent criticisms of the schools and has led to demands for higher standards of performance. The present calls for change should be understood as an attack not on teachers but on the conditions that undermine teaching. A growing and significant body of research establishes beyond doubt that at the heart of good education is the well-prepared, purposeful teacher. The gist of new, increasingly convergent research is that schools do make a substantial difference in children's lives and that there are important differences between schools, even when children of similar backgrounds attend them.


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