because they cannot do so, then they will have been punished for events beyond their control. Thus arguments about higher standards are not just nonsensical; if adopted, the programs they advocate can lead to lower morale and reduced effectiveness among the many educators in the U.S. who must cope with poor school funding and extensive child poverty. (pp. 12-13)

Thus Biddle questions the fundamental premise on which this project is based—that the standards have an influence on student achievement. If you want to know what influences student achievement, says Biddle, don’t follow the standards, follow the money. Improving achievement is about making resources available to children and to their teachers, not about setting standards. The contrasting figures below illustrate Biddle’s argument. Figure 6-1 comes from our inquiry framework.

The NRC points out the inadequacies of this model for investigating the influence of standards and propose an alternative that opens up the black box, suggesting curriculum, professional development, and assessment as channels of influence that influence teaching practice, which in turn influences student learning. Biddle proposes that if we are really interested in improving student learning, we should not waste our time opening up the black box. Instead we need to look outside the black box to find the factors that really influence student learning: school funding and child poverty. Figure 6-2 illustrates Biddle’s alternative model; Biddle claims that the influence of standards is insignificant in comparison with the variables he has identified.

Biddle backs up his argument with analyses of data from the Second International Mathematics Study and Third International Mathematics and Science Study showing that (1) the United States has greater disparities in school funding and higher levels of child poverty than other developed countries participating in the study, and

FIGURE 6-1 The black box.

SOURCE: NRC (2002, p. 12).

FIGURE 6-2 Biddle’s alternative model.

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