2014 EduResolution #3: Let’s marry “high standards” with “whole child”

Most American parents recognize the importance of education and the need to improve schools. However, parents are torn between two very different narratives about what is happening in education.

One narrative decries American students’ mediocre performance on international tests. Poor scores, this narrative explains, demonstrate that young Americans are not developing the skills required to succeed in a highly competitive global economy. We all need to commit to higher standards for our children.

A second narrative objects to what it sees as an overemphasis on testing. Tests measure only a narrow range of what matters. By focusing so much on tests, the reasoning goes, we’re distorting our children’s education and our education system. Instead, we should be educating the whole child.

Advocates of the “higher standards” and “whole child” strands of thought are constantly battling one another in the public sphere. However, when it comes to the education and development of actual children, these two ideas are not in serious opposition. Young people have more opportunity when they acquire a high level of knowledge and skills, which will typically be reflected in higher test scores. At the same time, young people benefit when parents and teachers think holistically about their development, even though it’s harder to measure progress in domains like social-emotional learning. Education shouldn’t just be about acquiring knowledge and skills measured by tests; adults also need to help young people develop character strengths like persistence and help them discover their passion and purpose.

At GreatSchools, our strategy is to help break the impasse by advocating a vision of education that combines the best of the “high standards” and “whole child” philosophies. We aim to catalyze a groundswell of commitment by parents to guide their children to excel academically and to support their children as they become well-rounded young people.

Our research suggests this strategy meshes well with what parents need and want. We know parents want help being proactive with respect to their children’s education. They yearn to feel that they are leading their children in the right direction. They want inspiration and support in their quest to guide their children to education success. “High standards” meets “whole child” intuitively makes sense to most parents.

This is my third 2014 EduResolution for all of us working in education: let’s change our language so that “high standards” and “whole child” are friends, not enemies. And let’s inspire and support parents to pursue a vision for their children’s education that combines both ideals.

(This is the third post in a series of 2014 EduResolutions. See posts #1 and #2 here.)

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1 Comment

  1. Ann Hoffman

     /  May 10, 2014

    I recently moved to North Carolina where I started to use your website as a tool to help find a school for my children. I decided I would look up schools in my former area of NW AR/MO where I knew how the schools were first hand. I am familiar with Noel Elementary MO as we were thinking of buying land there. The school is an academic mess by all account and it is rated a 5? For the past 10 years (exception of 1) it has not met MO Adequate Yearly Progress. See dese.com. Your scores rate it 32% in language and in the 40 % in math and you give this school a 5? In city data they show as a school its standing is 31% of 100. Your website is no service to parents who are ernest about finding the right school. You really need to be more thorough if you care


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