Is There a Downside to High Achievement Standards?
January 24, 2012 4 Comments
“High achievement standards” is a buzz-phrase that gets thrown around a lot in the ed-reform debate. Unfortunately, because it’s a buzz-phrase not enough attention is paid to its actual substance. For example, what do high standards entail? How do they affect students?
A new study on truancy rates conducted by a group of German researchers provides some interesting answers. The study found that although “high standards” lead to less truancy, poor instructional pace can lead to more truancy.
High achievement standards were associated with a lower truancy rate at both the student and the class level, whereas fast instructional pace was associated with more truancy at both levels. A perception of the workload as being too low was an additional predictor of high truancy at both the student and the class level.
The problem for the “high standards” chorus is that holding students to high standards often involves cramming as much material as possible into the school year. Although the display of confidence implicit in the standards could initially benefit students, the accelerated classroom pace could leave them worse off.
The lesson is that people need to have a more nuanced view of “high achievement standards.” It doesn’t matter how perfectly crafted or widespread a set of standards might be; little will be accomplished if those standards are not enforced in a productive way.
The study also points to the promise of a true blended learning environment (think Rocketship on steroids.) When a single teacher attempts to teach a room of 30 students it’s impossible for each student to learn at his ideal pace. It takes a great teacher to even maintain a pace that works for half the kids. But if each student is guided by a computer tutor finely calibrated to his skill level and pace, the student can reap the benefits of high standards without the drawbacks of a classroom that doesn’t move at his speed.
Sälzer, C., Trautwein, U., Lüdtke, O., & Stamm, M. (2011). Predicting adolescent truancy: The importance of distinguishing between different aspects of instructional quality Learning and Instruction DOI: 10.1016/j.learninstruc.2011.12.001