Here in New Zealand the National Government has introduced National Standards. They have done this with the expectation that if standards exist then students will achieve, with appropriate teaching the standard for their class. The standards are set in Reading, Writing and Maths.
However I believe there are too many factors involved to make this fait accompli. Actually wouldn't it be marvellous if it happened. Students arrive at school with different levels of readiness, they come from a background that has encouraged them to talk, explore and experience or they have come from a very limited background. They have varying levels of parental encouragement and support. They each have their own attitude towards learning and intellectual capactiy.
We already can identify those in our class who lag behind, who haven't grasped Maths concepts, who struggle with reading and writing. We seek as teachers to support them and coach them, but we are limited human beings, there are many of them and one of us to each room. Those who need a lot of help need individual teaching. This is where the government needs to step up and fund for far more Resource teachers of literacy, and to initiate Resource teachers of Maths. Teachers who have a few schools that they travel around to, teaching the students who need that one on one attention.
As a syndicate in my school we have been examining the writing standards. These, along with the learning progressions map out for us what is expected at each level. We have identified the skills our students will need if they are to meet the standards. They are daunting. So far we have decided to list all the skills we will need to target if our students are to reach the standard for their year level. We have decided we will try introducing various skills in our classrooms and share how we got on at our next meeting.
One of the hardest aspects I find, is inspite of setting next steps with individual students they still hand in work that shows little evidence of revising or proof reading. I think it is going to take awhile for students to realise they are going to be held more accountable. Yet I don't want them to experience writing as something tedious and to be dreaded.
However it is a joy to read the writing of students that show personal voice and so many other things that good writers do. I sometimes wonder to myself what would it have been like if I had received the targetted teaching in writing that children do today. It certainly would have made university work easier later in life.
It will be interesting as the year progresses, and the years progress to see if the standards make a difference.