Why the Standards Movement Failed: An Educational and Political Diagnosis of Its Failure and the Implications for School Reform
In the first paper, “How Well Does the Standards Movement Measure Up?,” I documented the movement’s failure in diverse areas—academic achievement, equality of opportunity, quality of learning, and graduation rates—and described its harmful effects on students and school culture.
In this paper, I diagnose the reasons for the failure and propose an alternative agenda for school reform. I link the failure of the standards movement to its faulty premises, historical myopia, and embrace of test-driven accountability. As part of the audit culture and the conservative restoration, the movement ended up pushing a data-driven, authoritarian form of schooling. Its advocates blamed educational problems on a retreat from standards, for which there was little evidence, while ignoring the long-standing, deep structure of schooling that had caused persistent achievement problems throughout the 20th century. Drawing on reproduction theories and analyses of the neoliberal reform project, I make the case for repealing NCLB and Race to the Top and outline a progressive framework for reconstructing schools.
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