- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 11, 2001

State education standards are driving students to perform better academically, but more support for teachers and their pupils is needed to balance the increasing pressures to excel, a national study has found.

"For more than a decade, states have been engaged in an unprecedented effort to raise academic expectations for all students," said Virginia B. Edwards, editor of the report Quality Counts 2001, which looked at standards, testing and accountability policies in all 50 states.

"That effort is beginning to pay off where it counts: in the classroom," said Mrs. Edwards, who also serves as editor of the Maryland-based publication Education Week.

"Our concern is that unless states balance the pressures they're now putting on schools and students with the training and materials needed to do the job, their high expectations won't be realized. And public support for education, in general, could be undermined," she said.

The study, which was part of a comprehensive annual research project undertaken by Education Week with funding from the Pew Charitable Trusts, grades the 50 states on student achievement, standards and accountability, improving teacher quality, school climate and resources. In its fifth year, the Quality Counts study updates report cards it started in 1997 that are used "to gauge the health of each state's education system."

Overall, states averaged a grade of C-minus in all categories. Those that earned the highest marks included Colorado, Connecticut, Kentucky, Massachusetts, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas and West Virginia.

Maryland's schools earned an A in standards and accountability, two C's in improving teacher quality and resource adequacy, but two F's in school climate and resource equity. In Virginia, schools received a B in standards and accountability, a C in improving teacher quality, a D in school climate, a B-minus in resource adequacy and a D in resource equity.

Grades for the District of Columbia are not included in the report because "the indicators used for determining the grades focus on state-level policies," the report's authors said.

In Texas, the home state of President-elect George W. Bush and his nominee for education secretary, Houston school superintendent Rod Paige, schools earned a B in standards and accountability, a B-minus in resource equity, a C in school climate and a C-plus in resource adequacy. The lowest grade, a D, was given in the category of improving teacher quality.

In addition to the report cards, this year's report included a poll of 1,019 public school teachers of English, math, science and social studies. It found that they support state standards with some hesitation, including fears that the new learning requirements developed by state leaders and educators may be "too voluminous."

Seven of 10 teachers, the poll found, said there wasn't enough time to teach everything that was included in the states' standards. More than six in 10 teachers, however, said that expectations for student learning had risen, and they noted that their students were reading and writing more.

National Education Association President Bob Chase said the report was filled with "intriguing insights and some warnings."

"The complete and successful implementation of higher standards will take more than the 'get-tough' punitive approach being advocated by too many policy-makers," Mr. Chase said. "This effort must include additional, thoughtful support for teachers and students to meet their individual needs. The poor implementation of standards-based education is robbing children of the education they deserve."

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