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ERIC Number: ED506947
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 2009-Aug
Pages: 72
Abstractor: ERIC
Reference Count: 66
International Lessons about National Standards
Schmidt, William H.; Houang, Richard; Shakrani, Sharif
Thomas B. Fordham Institute
Whether to adopt national standards and tests has long been a subject of lively debate in the United States. With 47 states now participating in the Common Core State Standards Initiative, and a commitment from Education Secretary Arne Duncan to allocate hundreds of millions in stimulus funds to the development of common tests, the country is better positioned than ever before to take the leap. Still, many questions and pitfalls remain. This report looks beyond America's borders for guidance on how we might best make a transition to an acceptable, workable form of national standards and tests. An examination of the systems and histories of ten countries--Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, the Netherlands, Russia, Singapore, and South Korea--led to six key insights, described herein. Lessons from Germany are particularly salient, as that federal nation recently embarked on a strategy similar to the Common Core State Standards Initiative. As this report illustrates, many high-performing countries with national education standards have education systems that are even more decentralized in their operation than ours, at least in terms of the autonomy enjoyed by school-level educators. This and other lessons are outlined in these pages in an effort to shed light upon how the United States might also tread a path toward national standards, even national testing, without sacrificing our fealty to local control, properly conceived. The six key insights are: (1) It's not true that national standards portend loss of local control; (2) An independent, quasi-governmental institution is needed to oversee the development of national standards and assessment and produce reports for the nation; (3) The federal government should encourage and provide resources for the standards-setting process but shouldn't meddle inappropriately; (4) We ought first to develop coherent, focused, rigorous standards for English, math, and science; (5) National assessments (including open-ended questions) should be administered every other calendar year in grades 4, 8, and 12; (6) Hold students, teachers and schools accountable for performance. Appended are country profiles and supplementary tables. (Contains 9 tables and 7 footnotes.) [Foreword by Chester E. Finn, Jr., Michael J. Petrilli, and Amber M. Winkler.]
Thomas B. Fordham Foundation & Institute. 1701 K Street NW Suite 1000, Washington, DC 20006. Tel: 202-223-5452; Fax: 202-223-9226; e-mail:; Web site:
Publication Type: Information Analyses; Reports - Evaluative
Education Level: Elementary Secondary Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: Thomas B. Fordham Institute
Identifiers - Location: Brazil; Canada; China; France; Germany; India; Netherlands; Russia; Singapore; South Korea; United States