My comments are in the <bg- xxxx>, the rest is as copied from US News and
World report. The answers for the questions are at the end. See how you can
do, and no cheating :)
I've done some reformatting from the origional article, and I've added some
additional comments after the answers.
U.S.NEWS & WORLD REPORT, APRIL 1, 1996
WHAT KIDS WILL HAVE TO KNOW
SEE IF YOU'RE GOOD ENOUGH TO COMPETE WITH STUDENTS AT A WORLD-CLASS LEVEL
What should students know and be able to do? Drafting a fitting response has
turned into a mammoth endeavor, with hundreds of experts producing thousands
of pages of suggestions. Some are so vague it is hard to know how they
translate to the classroom. Others are so detailed that only a superhero
could wade through the material, let alone teach it. Some criteria are so
tough even Ph.D.'s complain they can't meet them.
In the midst of this muddle, the National Education Goals Panel created a
working set of standards in a few subject areas and tested students against
them. Their findings guide much of the material below. While governors and
corporate executives debate in Palisades, N.Y., about what to do, U.S. News
has waded through dozens of proposals to highlight a few of the best ideas
about the standards experts think children should meet by the end of 4th,
8th and 12th grades--when national performance tests are usually given. Take
a close look at the questions. You may be stumped by more than one:
READING & WRITING. Three in 4 students can't meet suggested standards. Only
7 percent can write a persuasive essay about a topic like this: Why should
children be allowed to watch TV?
GEOGRAPHY. Seventy-eight percent can't meet suggested standards. Thirty
percent are unable to answer a question like this:
1. Which landforms were most likely created by the eruption of volcanoes?
a. plains b. mountains c. canyons d. deltas
MATHEMATICS. Four in 5 can't meet suggested standards, and 39 percent are
unable to answer questions such as:
2. What is 108 divided by 9?
<do it manually>
HISTORY. Five in 6 can't meet suggested standards, and 36 percent cannot
consistently answer basic-level questions such as:
3.Which state last became part of the United States?
READING & WRITING. Advance beyond basic comprehension to know the difference
between fact and opinion, between well-developed characters and stereotypes.
Employ more than basic grammar and punctuation skills in writing. Have the
ability to analyze and edit one's own work to make it more precise and
Read at least 25 books during the year, including such works as:
The Little Prince
The Wind in the Willows
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
Keep a reading log with reactions to the texts--comparing and contrasting
characters with people the student knows in real life, analyzing the
author's choice of words and symbols, critiquing the story.
<bg- how many adults do you know who keep a reading log with all this
information? IMO, the teachers should be teaching the love of reading over
who does what>
Produce a verse-by-verse paraphrase of a poem and an original poem that
follows conventions of rhyme and meter.
<bg- Poetry escapes me- I can't do this>
Craft two different types of writing about the same subject, such as a
personal narrative about trying out for a sports team, then an informative
report on how to try out for that sports team.
<bg- this is needed, but at the 4th grade level?>
MATHEMATICS. Master basic arithmetic and more-advanced concepts involved in
geometry, algebra and probability concepts. Be able to apply them to all
sorts of real-life situations.
Design the floor plan for a dream house in which regular rooms cost $75 per
square foot and special rooms (indoor pools, science labs, etc.) cost $150,
spending no more than $100,000. The house must include a kitchen, bathroom,
living room and bedroom.
<bg- I don't think I could do this till I was in college- and they want 4th
graders to do it>
Set up a system for discovering and recording all the possible combinations
from rolling two dice and show what fraction of total possible outcomes each
combination sum amounts to. (Hint: You can roll ``7'' six different ways;
and six is one sixth of the 36 possible combinations of the two dice.)
SCIENCE. Master the basics of how to formulate hypotheses and test them in
valid experiments. Understand physical properties like light, heat, sound
and magnetism. Start appreciating how living things interact with the
Design and build a musical instrument and show how different forms affect
<bg- I didn't study sound waves until I took physics in HS, and I don't
think I could give a adequate explanation for how the form of the instrument
works- and I can play 5 different woodwind instruments>
Explain the reasons why each of the following helps keep aquarium fish
alive: a light, thermometer, rock, snail and plant.
<bg- this is a good one>
GEOGRAPHY. Know how to use maps and graphs. Develop a sense of the world as
a whole and the relationships between different regions and peoples.
Point out on a map features such as Lake Okeechobee and the Ozark Plateau,
the Corn Belt and New England.
<bg-how eastcoast centric. This is a good idea, but do it locally where it
does the child immediate good>
Explain how the local physical environment shapes how people live, such as
the building materials they use and the types of plants they grow.
<bg- huh? This is WAY too ambigious>
HISTORY. Learn more than just the names and dates of historical events.
Discover how decisions shape history; weigh the merits of different accounts
of a historical event. Be able to place oneself in the shoes of someone
living during that period.
Compare characters and events described in historical fiction with primary
sources of information about that period and make a judgment about the
accuracy of the story.
<bg- while this is a needed skill, is it really necessary at this level?
Most kids at this age don't have the skills yet to judge the accuracy- not
the mental skills, but the research skills>
Analyze how the world would be different today if those involved in key
historical events (the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, etc.) had chosen a
different course of action.
<bg- great what-if stuff, but I'd rather that my kids look at this a
different way- why we are today because of what happened back then>
FOREIGN LANGUAGE. Don't just begin reading, writing and speaking at a basic
level in a foreign language, but learn about a country's culture and how it
compares with one's own.
<bg- this is necessary>
Become pen pals (via letter or E-mail) with a student in a foreign country,
asking and answering questions about family, school events and celebrations.
After listening to folk tales and songs in the foreign language, describe
how they are similar to or different from those in this country.
THE ARTS. Master the essentials of dance, theater, music and visual
arts--then learn to improvise and create simple works in all four arts.
Recognize how art is affected by culture and vice versa, and see connections
between different art forms.
Paint a representation of a favorite song.
<bg- I can't do this- some people are just incapable of doing this>
Script a play for class that includes original music and a choreographed dance.
<bg- how many 10 year olds can write origional music? Or choreograph a dance?>
READING & WRITING. Seventy-two percent of students can't meet suggested
standards. Just 1 in 3 can write a well-developed review of a school
performance, and only 8 percent are able to write a persuasive essay on a
subject like: Why random drug searches should (or should not) be allowed in
GEOGRAPHY. Seven in 10 can't meet suggested standards, and 30 percent cannot
answer a basic question like:
4. In ancient Greece, most towns were built on tops of hills primarily because:
a. it was easier to find water on hilltops than lowlands
b. temperatures were warmer at higher elevations
c. defending a hill town was easier than defending a lowland town
d. people in early Greece did not rely on farming for food.
MATHEMATICS. Three in 4 can't meet suggested standards, and 37 percent
cannot answer a basic question like:
5. How long does it take to earn $45 if one earns $2 a day on Mondays,
Tuesdays and Wednesdays, and $3 a day on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays
(nothing is earned on Sundays)?
<again, don't use your calculators>
HISTORY. Eighty-six percent of students can't meet history standards. Four
out of 10 cannot answer a basic question like:
6. Who wrote ``We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are
created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain
unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of
READING & WRITING. Become well-versed in many literary forms--essays,
poetry, plays, short stories, novels--and be able to compare the style and
merits of two pieces of literature. Know how to create complex fictional
characters and how to build essay arguments.
Read 25 works, such as:
Inherit the Wind
Ryan White: My Own Story
The Princess Bride
A Midsummer Night's Dream
<bg- I have only read "Inherit the Wind" and I've seen "Midsummer Night's
Dream"- and that was in HS>
Read in depth four books from a single genre (historical novels), by a
single writer (like Jack London), or on a single subject (adolescent life);
make connections between the works.
<bg- this is a good one>
Write a persuasive essay, such as an editorial on a school issue, that
anticipates and addresses counter-arguments.
<bg- I think that this is totally appropriate goal, however, I can see a LOT
of problems with it. It can be way to subjuctive, and with the current
attitudes towards test scores, how do you test it?>
MATHEMATICS. Move from simply memorizing math rules to having a good sense
for which of different strategies would be the wisest to solve a given
problem. Make sense of complicated patterns and understand how math plays a
part in endeavors ranging from music to space travel.
<bg- great goals>
If, in a school of 1,000 lockers, one student opens every locker, a second
student closes every other locker (second, fourth, sixth, etc.), a third
student changes every third locker (opens closed lockers and closes open
lockers) and so on until the 1,000th student changes the 1,000th locker,
which lockers are open?
<bg- huh? I don't even know where to begin without doing it longhand and
taking an entire day>
Show two different methods of answering the question: How many handshakes
will occur at a party if every one of the 15 guests shakes hands with each
of the others?
<bg- at least this can be the hard way>
SCIENCE. Develop an awareness of the many things that interact in large,
complex, evolving systems by studying such things as heredity and genes, the
solar system and ocean life.
<bg- again, great goals>
Explain the lines of evidence showing that dogs and cats are related by
Explain what happens to the reading on a bathroom scale if one stands on it
while riding an elevator.
<bg- I think both of these are very do able- but the real problem I see is
how do you grade these on a objective scale, and if you do that- how do you
keep kids from becoming walking encyclopedias who can tell you all sorts of
information but can't synthesize information>
HISTORY. See the cause-and-effect relationship between the attitudes and
actions in all sorts of historical endeavors--social, technological,
economic, political, philosophical and religious--and the mark they have
left on the present.
<bg- superb goals!>
Imagine yourself as the director who built Stonehenge. Prepare a plan to
make it happen: How will the stones be obtained? How are the laborers to be
recruited, provisioned for and supervised? How will the enterprise be
financed? How will the structure be used?
<bg- I think that this sort of global thinking is a little beyond most 14
year olds. Some can do it (I think I could) but the lack of general
knowledge that they have about how things work would be a real detriment>
Draw evidence from literature, biographies and other historical sources to
evaluate the influence of the Horatio Alger stories on the notion of the
``American Dream.'' What do ``rags to riches'' stories tell about American
values? To what extent is that dream alive today in TV or modern novels?
<bg- excellent questions>
GEOGRAPHY. Gain a more sophisticated appreciation for how human and physical
elements interact, for better or worse, and begin to formulate solutions to
current problems (like pollution and acid rain).
Write a set of instructions on what your family should do in case of a
natural disaster such as a hurricane, earthquake, fire, tornado, blizzard or
<bg- what does this really have to do with Geography?>
>From memory, draw a map of the world on a single sheet of paper. Outline and
label major physical features (including continents, oceans, mountain
ranges, large rivers and deserts) and important human-devised features
(including major cities, the equator and the prime meridian).
<bg- I had to do this in 7th grade, and I am eternally grateful for it>
FOREIGN LANGUAGE. Advance to a deeper level of thinking in the language.
Move from describing tangible things to expressing opinions and experiences
and understanding more subtle ways of communicating.
Keep a journal (in the foreign language) with four entries per week. Include
reactions to literature and newspaper articles.
Write an essay (in the foreign language) on the differences between
nonverbal gestures in another culture and American gestures and how the
differences might have come to exist.
<bg- if the kids start early enough, these should be no problem. BUT, if
they are allowed to move between languages, or they don't start early
enough, etc. this will be a REAL problem>
THE ARTS. Hone a unique, personal style in artistic creations. Grow better
at discriminating between good and great works of art and be able to learn
from art works about other times and cultures.
<bg- WAY too subjective. What is good art? I love some stuff that everyone
else seems to hate, and the other way around. The part about learning from
art works about other times is excelent>
Recognize the historical period and genre of famous works of art, then
compare and contrast them and explain what makes these art works excellent.
<bg- again, what is excellent? Otherwise, pretty good>
Accurately evaluate one's own and classmates' creations or performances,
offering suggestions for improvement.
<bg- nah, too easy. I can just see the backroom politicking that will take
place- "you give me an A and I'll give you an A as well.">
READING & WRITING. Two in 3 students can't meet suggested standards.
Forty-five percent cannot craft a well-developed essay on an object and what
it would reveal about current times if placed in a time capsule. Just 12
percent can write well on a subject like: Why students should be required to
do community service.
GEOGRAPHY. Seventy-three percent can't meet suggested standards. Three of 10
cannot answer a question like:
7. What do Rome, Jerusalem, Mecca and Benares have in common?
a. capitals of highly industrialized nations
b. the world's four most densely populated cities
c. areas of highest elevation
d. religious centers.
MATHEMATICS. Eighty-four percent can't meet suggested standards. Over a
third can't answer a basic question like:
8. If x can be replaced by any number, how many different values can the
expression x + 6 have?
HISTORY. Eighty-nine percent can't meet suggested standards, and 57 percent
can't answer basic questions like:
9. Many American colonies believed the Stamp Act (1765) was a form of:
a. taxation without representation
b. colonial self-government
c. compromise with the British Parliament
d. limitation on international trade.
READING & WRITING. Read with enough insight to surmise the political and
social influences on a piece of literature, and to detect the biases present
in nonfiction. Know how to marshal persuasive evidence to support
Read 25 books, including works such as:
For Whom the Bell Tolls
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings
A Brief History of Time
<bg- I haven't read any of these- I've seen Julius Caesar tho, and I
consider myself well read>
Compare two works on the same theme from different periods.
Produce an investigative piece that could run in a newspaper, using a
variety of sources.
Write a reflective essay--such as an analysis of a proverb's significance.
<bg- all good for Seniors in HS>
MATHEMATICS. Have a full command of advanced theories and formulas like
quadratic equations and the Pythagorean theorem. Use knowledge from
geometry, trigonometry, algebra, statistics and calculus to solve real-world
Explain which is a better fit, a round peg in a square hole or a square peg
in a round hole. (Hint: Think in terms of ratios.)
Ann tells you that under her old method of shooting free throws in
basketball, her average was 60 percent. Using a new method of shooting, she
hit on 9 out of her first 10 throws. Should she conclude that the new method
really is better than the old method? (Hint: Advanced statistical formula
must be used.)
<bg- What the fuck is an advanced statistical model. I barely passed
SCIENCE. Delve into current scientific mysteries using the same approach as
a career scientist: Design useful experiments and analyze the results.
Design modifications to in-line skates, skateboards or bicycles which make
them safer, faster or less expensive.
<bg- although I think that this would hold students attention, I'm not sure
if I want this in business or science classes>
Explain how DNA testing works. Take a position about including it as
evidence in a trial.3. Write about both the positive and negative
consequences of a technological innovation that has occurred during your
<bg- excellent question. I think that this is totally appropriate for a Sr.
In HS- at least one on a college track>
HISTORY. Be able to identify the influences of multiple, competing voices
throughout history and take account of the many unforeseen consequences, for
better and worse, generated by historic events.
Create a chart of important technological advances through history such as
the bow and arrow, the wheel, weaving, the sail, bronze casting, the plow,
etc. Explore their possible origins; discuss the impact each technology had
on the social organization and political power of the time.
Draw upon ideas of religious groups such as Virginia Baptists, mid-Atlantic
Presbyterians and millennialists to assess how religion became a factor in
the American Revolution.
<bg- I was a history major at a very religious college, and I don't think I
could do this. I can do it on the constitution, and on a lot of other
stuff, but on the revolutionary war?>
GEOGRAPHY. Grasp the reality and consequences of global interdependence, and
explain the many reasons people form themselves into regions and why those
regions inevitably change over time.
Name three places in the local area that have been affected by pollution.
Identify the sources and types of pollution and explain how each type
affects the people living there. Suggest solutions.
Write an essay about the geographic differences between developing and
developed regions of the world and how those differences alter the way of life.
<bg- again, excellent>
FOREIGN LANGUAGE. Reach a high fluency level. Comprehend subtle nuances and
literature and understand how the language itself shapes ideas. Become
well-versed in the history, traditions and current events of the country.
Write an essay in the language about idioms and phrases that have no direct
translation to English. Form a hypothesis about their origin and what they
say about the culture.
View a film in the language and write an essay (in that language)
summarizing personal reactions to the film's themes.
<bg- reread my comments about the 8th grade foreign language>
THE ARTS. Specialize in at least one of these four arts--dance, music,
theater, or visual arts--creating complex works. Begin to convey more
abstract themes in artistic works.
Create a work of art that deals with a current social theme. Revise it
several times, explaining the reasons for each artistic decision and saying
what was lost and gained by each decision.
Identify genres (in music, dance, etc.) that show the influence of two or
more cultural traditions and race the historical conditions that led to
their coming together.
<bg- again, this is way too subjective, and it is written by people who
already know art, and probably have always known it.>
5. 3 weeks
6. Thomas Jefferson
8. Infinitely many
In the current climate, there is a huge move towards very objective
standards- testing to get out of grades, etc- which I think are impractical
(and possibly unconsitiutional) and very dangerous. I think that they are
impractical because there is no way to accurately gauge teachers- some of
the teachers who made the most difference in my life are reviled and even
thought horrid teachers by others. In modern day life, people move long
distances (out of state) with a regularity unseen in a peaceful country in
hundreds of years (if ever seen)- therefore, this needs to be standardized
on a federal level, which violates the 10th amendment.
I think it is also very dangerous because we are going to have most teachers
teach kids to do well on the tests, not to teach kids how to think. Later
in life, the facts won't do a thing for them- but being able to think for
themselves will. As a businessman, I'd much rather have one person who can
think for themselves and never scored well on the tests than 10 flesh and
blood robots who can't think but got perfect scores on their tests.
Only I hold these opinions-not my company
Nothing can be so perfect while we possess it as it will seem when remembered.
-Oliver Wendell Holmes