Tuesday, June 16, 2009

In an Alternate Universe, I'm Very Excited

NY Times:

In a move that could put the College Board in a good position to influence the national debate on standards and testing, the board has announced a project that it says could redefine what high school students need to know.

The program, called "Pacesetter," would use the latest consensus by educators on what secondary students should know in English, mathematics, science, world history and foreign languages to develop a curriculum and test for high school students, said Donald M. Stewart, president of the College Board, who announced plans for the program on Wednesday. The College Board also administers the Scholastic Aptitude Test to college-bound high school students.

The program would be similar to the board's Advanced Placement Program, which, for a fee, offers high school teachers college-level curriculums in a variety of subjects. Students who do well on a test given at the end of the course can receive advanced placement or credit when they enter college.

The Bush Administration has called for national tests and standards for public school students, and Federal education officials were in the audience for Mr. Stewart's announcement. Some business leaders have been lobbying for some kind of national standard tests that high school students would have to pass to indicate their readiness to enter the workforce.

Mr. Stewart said the Pacesetter project reflected the College Board's commitment to raising the "learning and achievement of all students."

"Any system of curriculum and examinations must be based on the expectation that all children can learn," Mr. Stewart said. "This is especially true at a time in our nation's history when cultural, racial and ethnic diversity has never been greater.'

Mr. Stewart said the Pacesetter project would reflect the consensus of educators on "what all students should know in certain subjects before they graduate from secondary school."

"Pacesetter will allow participating schools and districts to raise the expectations of all students, to confront the seemingly disparate issues of equity and standards, and to prepare students for productive lives after high school -- on the job or in college," Mr. Stewart said at the news conference.

Working to develop the curriculums for project is a group of high school and college teachers and curriculum experts in partnership with such national education organizations as the American Council of Learned Societies, Mathematical Association of America, and the National Council of Teachers of English.

That's from 1992, and oddly enough, I'm a big fan of the resulting Pacesetter English 12th grade curriculum. And, The College Board is one of the three organizations working on our new national English standards (I don't know anything about Pacesetter Math). And they were publishing research about it at least as late as 2001 and running the tests at least as recently as 2005. On the whole, though, it seems to have been swamped by a resurgence of AP, a competitor within the same company. And at this point I would be surprised if the Pacesetter work was even consulted by the people at The College Board working on new national standards. I wouldn't be surprised if they didn't even know it exists.

In some alternative universe, however, my favorite high school English curriculum is completing its decade long rise to the commanding heights as the federally mandated capstone for all 12th graders. Unfortunately, I think that's also the universe where Captain Picard as Locutus leads the Borg to the complete destruction of Earth and the Federation of Planets, so in the long term, it doesn't work out so well.

1 comment:

Scott Elias said...

I was trained in the math Pacesetter course and used it in the late 90s with my Precalculus students. I've often wondered what happened to it since then.

It was a pretty solid program that leveraged inquiry-based learning in the math classroom. And it was one of the first (at least in math) that really encouraged teachers teach less and facilitate more.

Pretty radical stuff back then...

As you point out, it would be interesting to ask around and learn how many College Board people even know about it.