inadequate? Or is it because, with adequate resources, our pedagogies and curricular designs for 4th graders are superior to those for older children? Or is it neither of these, and simply a case of the TIMSS being flawed, for example, being better aligned with the outcomes we seek in the 4th grade than the outcomes we seek for older children?

  • Do we assume, in funding an adequate education, that the level of resources necessary to produce adequate outcomes in reading are the same as those necessary to produce adequate outcomes in math? Are they the same as those necessary to produce an adequate quality of ''social ethics to facilitate compatibility with others in this society"?
  • To what extent should schools be held responsible for the specified outcomes, as opposed to other institutions? Educational policymakers have become aware of the need for more school resources to produce acceptable outcomes for children from economically disadvantaged families, but this awareness is still unsophisticated. Almost entirely unexplored are the relationships between school outcomes and the economic institutions that provide school graduates with economic opportunity. These relationships cannot be ignored if courts wish to require schools to enable graduates "to compete favorably with their counterparts in surrounding states." The competitiveness of a state's high school graduates is affected not only by these graduates' academic, social, and citizenship skills, but also by the state's economic infrastructure. A state with better-educated students may have more difficulty than surrounding states in attracting job-generating investments because its highways are inadequate or even because its climate does not provide the amenities sought by highly educated workers. Clearly, the adequacy of schools' resources cannot be measured solely, or even primarily, by the competitiveness of state industry, although educational preparation for work cannot be ignored either.
  • Public, and even scholarly debate about "standards" (i.e., adequate outcomes) suffers from a confusion between minimum and average goals, and between relative and absolute goals. This confusion becomes especially important if "adequacy" is defined as the resources necessary to produce "average" outcomes. Yet because it is so much easier to specify "adequacy" in norm-referenced terms, relatively little consensus exists regarding criterion-referenced adequacy, even in the basic skills of reading and math.
  • These problems make it difficult, if not impossible, to derive an understanding of resource adequacy from the outcomes we posit as minimally acceptable. The following examples illustrate why our understanding of outcomes is still too primitive to permit inferences about resource adequacy from this understanding. President Clinton has stated a standard that "all" 9-year-olds should read at a 4th-grade level. But a "4th-grade level" is the mean for today's 4th graders. There is invariably a distribution around this mean, so that if resources are adequate for the average 4th grader to read at a 4th-grade level, then these resources will still



    The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
    Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
    Terms of Use and Privacy Statement