The Iatrogenic Consequences of Standards-Based Education
Stanley, Gregory Kent
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Standards-based assessments were prescribed as the cure for the poor accountability of public schools. Billions of dollars have been spent on curricula, tests, and scoring rubrics so that federal and state agencies can rank schools in terms of student achievement. Over the past twenty years, standards-based education has become the de facto, only accepted method to address questions of quality in American public education. No other paradigm is even on the horizon. Despite its pandemic acceptance, the standards-based solution has serious iatrogenic consequences. This article examines five negative side effects: (1) Propagation of a fixed curriculum; (2) De-emphasis on individualization; (3) Subversion of the teacher; (4) Focus on measurable outcomes; and (5) Development of an expensive, expansive bureaucracy unrelated to instruction. The author argues that, while standards-based education may address the question of accountability, its corresponding iatrogenic consequences have been devastating in its bureaucratic intrusion on the sanctity of the classroom and representing an edict against individualization.