- The Washington Times - Saturday, November 3, 2001

Virginia and Maryland are on the right track with their public school standards, but the District must work harder to align its curriculum with its tests, according to a new report released yesterday.

The annual report by the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), "Making Standards Matter 2001," rated Virginia's Standards of Learning (SOL) as among the best in the country, with clear and specific criteria in all subjects, except high school science, and at all levels.

"Virginia is well on the way to developing a strong, standards-based system. Tests and consequences are aligned with the standards, and most of the curriculum components have been developed," the report said.

But it called for improved science standards for high school students, and for state funding to assist students who are held back because of a new requirement that all high school students pass at least six SOL tests by 2004 in order to graduate.

In Maryland, improvements were needed in elementary social studies, the report said, calling its world history component "vague."

In the District, social studies and world history standards, and elementary and middle school levels fell short of the AFT's requirements. The report called for the development of a strong curriculum in the District and asked that tests be aligned with the curriculum.

"The District of Columbia has a lot of work to do to develop a coherent system," the report said.

The AFT is one of the largest teachers unions in the country, and has more than 1 million members. Its annual report analyzes academic standards and test-accountability measures for all 50 states and the District, said AFT spokeswoman Janet Bass.

"It is one thing to have standards and another to use them to make sure children are meeting promotion and graduation requirements," she said.

The report evaluates standards for four core subjects English, math, science and social studies and examines whether tests in these subjects are aligned to strong standards, among other things.

"The good news is that some form of standards-based education reform is firmly in place in every state," ATF President Sandra Feldman said in a prepared statement.

"The bad news is that no state is coordinating standards, curriculum, tests and accountability measures. Very few states have developed at least a basic curriculum, and most state tests are based on weak standards or don't match what is taught."

Kirk T. Schroder, president of the School Board in Virginia, said he was pleased to hear that Virginia had received high marks from the AFT.

"It is significant that a prominent teachers organization continues to rate the Virginia SOLs as one of the best in the nation," he said. "I am particularly pleased that they identified Virginia as one of the few states that showed an increase in overall instruction and teaching quality."

Mr. Schroder described the AFT's criticism of the science standards as "philosophical."

"They feel we should mandate science, but the philosophy in Virginia is to give students the option to choose from a variety of science offerings," Mr. Schroder said.

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