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Wisconsin Policy Research Report, v13 n1 Sep 1999

Standards-based reform activity dominated K-12 education during the 1990s, reflecting a consensus that improving learning requires state-level curricular standards and examinations. Opponents argue state-imposed standards and tests overly burden districts, degrade teaching and learning, suffer from numerous technical problems, and have failed to improve achievement. These concerns have been raised by opponents, particularly parents, of Wisconsin's Model Academic Standards and Student Assessment System (WSAS), and lobby groups succeeded derailing early plans for a high school graduation test. Despite opposition, efforts to implement standards-based initiatives are impressive, and interview data from 50 Wisconsin school districts indicate curriculum directors view them favorably. While acknowledging technical problems and teacher resistance, these directors report the initiative compels teachers to engage in curriculum analysis and revision and to focus attention of improving teaching and learning. The standards-based movement has shown potential for improving teaching and learning, but unnerves many, causing about half of curriculum directors to doubt the initiative can be sustained. Sustaining the effort requires addressing current shortcomings and may necessitate changes in K-12 governing structures. The governor should authorize the Council on Model Academic Standards to coordinate and oversee efforts to improve the initiative, including commissioning a comprehensive review of standards, describing and disseminating model state curricula reflecting these standards drawn from best practices, and developing and implementing a statewide system of "value-added" assessment. To provide a governance structure in which policy initiatives can survive on their merits, Wisconsin should abolish the Department of Public Instruction and establish a semi-autonomous Board of State Governors for K-12 education. (Contains 25 references.) (TEJ)

Descriptors: Academic Achievement, Academic Standards, Achievement Tests, Curriculum Design, Curriculum Development, Educational Policy, Educational Testing, Elementary Secondary Education, Evaluation, Evaluation Research, Lobbying, State Standards, Testing Programs

Autor: Schug, Mark; Western, Richard


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