Education Standards at Work —- the NY Debacle

President Obama today touted his Race to the Top program, which pressures states to, among other things, adopt national education standards. Also today, the New York Board of Regents revealed that it had been misleading its citizens for years, giving them an inflated notion of how well their children were performing academically. Last year 77 percent of students were ”proficient” in English according to NY state standards. This year it’s 53 percent.

So what’s to stop this from happening at a national level? In fact, what’s to stop an endless cycle of setting high standards that produce low scores, gradually dumbing the standards down to give the illusion of progress, and then resetting them to a high level again when the deceit is discovered?

At any stage of this cycle, officials can claim that students are showing improvement or that steps are being taken to raise standards — without any need to, you know, improve the schools.

Instead, we could just adopt in education the same system of freedom and incentives  that’s been responsible for actual progress in every other area of human activity for the past two centuries. Or is that just too obvious?