August 15, 2012 by

Move the Beehive Gently (1960)

Take a moment to step back from the ongoing media blitz of commentary on the ultimate fate and effect of the Common Core State Standards to read “Move the Beehive Gently” (PDF) from the January 1960 Educational Leadership.

This article, by Oregon Director of Elementary Education Florence E. Beardsley, looks at the effect of school standards in Oregon 12 years after their passage by the legislature.

Unlike the Common Core standards, the standards under review here are far broader in scope than merely curriculum. In fact, the majority of Beardsley’s examples describe the standards’ positive effect on the physical environment of schools: whether children have access to hot water under pressure or must clean their hands in a nearby cold mountain stream, how quickly leaky roofs are fixed so that children aren’t soaked while sitting at their desks, and whether playgrounds are available.

She cites several studies conducted since the standards’ passage and finds almost unanimously positive feedback on their effect on schools. By one study’s account, inservice programs are more readily and consistently available, instructional materials are more up-to-date, and attitudes have improved across the school community.

Although state standards on items such as the conditions of schools are a different beast than national curriculum standards, it’s worth considering their effect in this case in light of today’s discussions, which often hinge on broad feelings about standardization itself. In this case, did standards work, and if so, why?

Beardsley writes, “It would be presumptuous to attribute all progress to standardization, but it has seemed to provide the broad base,” and speculates that their success has depended on flexibility and input from the education profession in their design.

In “My Back Pages,” we look at important issues through the historical lens of the Educational Leadership archives. ASCD members can access EL issues from 1943 to the present by logging in.