Standards to Start, Not Conclude, Learning

The most dreaded “s” word in home education after “socialization” has got to be “standards.” Having national standards of learning indicate that a standardized checklist of everything a child should know by the time they turn 18 is the only way to ensure an entire generation is prepared to contribute to the future of the nation.

Supporters of these national standards say that clear details on each subject create a uniform learning environment where everyone will emerge with the skills and knowledge they need in order to contribute to the workforce and secure America’s place as leaders on the global stage.

Opponents see it another way. Having a consistent set of standards, such as Common Core, means there’s no room for inconsistencies and variation. This makes it difficult to cater to the myriad learning styles, languages, goals, abilities, interests, and developmental stages that 55 million children demonstrate throughout their educational careers. Having national standards denies individual states, districts, and schools the flexibility they need to meet the needs of individual students.

Looking at standards through the homeschool lens, however, nationally accepted standards such as Common Core are actually extremely helpful. These standards are set to raise the national bar and pave the way so that every student in America can go beyond them. (I know, in a perfect world, right?) But homeschoolers typically soar way beyond the minimums set by any educational system. They score 30 percentile points higher on standardized tests. They graduate with more college credits than their public school counterparts. They are more likely to do well in college and earn advanced degrees.

So why should homeschoolers get upset over national standards? Homeschoolers have been beating out this system of mediocrity for decades now and setting higher standards for the country is a way to challenge everyone, homeschoolers included. What’s wrong with that?

Further, homeschoolers don’t stop learning once standards have been met. They keep going! Regardless of what curriculum you’re following (talk to me about Unit Studies—I think they’re great!), standards are a starting point. While I’m profoundly opposed to the cost of implementing Common Core, with estimates running from a cost of $8.3 billion to savings of $927 million, national standards only become rigid with the system that imposes them. Further, educators start teaching to the test once the test influences everything else in the system: salaries, security, and success. A single test can’t possibly be designed that will accurately evaluate 55 million kids (and shouldn’t be read as evaluators of teacher quality either).

Homeschool parents (and good teachers!) use them as guidelines and idea generators, not the checklist that prepares kids for the standardized test in May.

 

What do you think? Do standards help or hurt education? Leave your thoughts below!

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avatar About the Author: Christa Johnson is focused on helping new parents get started with homeschooling. She writes about homeschooling strategies and successes, including the latest research in the field. She is the founder of No Agenda Homeschool, which provides practical tools to start homeschooling with confidence.

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