CONCEPTUAL AND TECHNICAL CHALLENGES

Deliberations in courthouses and statehouses suggest that a desire to implement adequacy may be outpacing current understanding of how to define and achieve it. In comparison to wealth neutrality and equal spending, equity defined as adequacy requires difficult value choices, as well as policy decisions in areas in which the available technical knowledge is weak. Implementing adequacy requires establishing anchors for identifying what is adequate; determining the costs of an adequate instructional delivery system; making adjustments for student, school, and geographic characteristics; adjusting for inflation from year to year; and developing an assessment system for measuring whether adequacy has been achieved.

Establishing Anchors: What is Adequate?

We have already observed that adequacy requires both identifying desired educational outcomes and then making decisions about what kinds of educational experiences (qualitative adequacy) and how much achievement (quantitative adequacy) will be sufficient to meet the standard. We have also noted that sometimes courts provide the answer to at least the first of these dilemmas (e.g., in Kentucky), but often the question of outcomes and always the question of "adequacy of what" and "how much" are left to legislatures and governors to determine.

These are not easy questions to resolve through political processes. Value conflicts make it difficult for Americans to reach consensus about goals for education, or at least about which goals should receive priority. There are large uncertainties about which educational experiences are central to the achievement of specific goals. There are also large uncertainties about what levels of achievement are necessary for students to reach specific goals.

These are not insurmountable problems, and in fact headway is being made in addressing them. The Wyoming legislature, under a deadline from the court to define and cost out a "proper" educational package, developed a basket of education goods and services consisting of some 30 courses and kinds of knowledge designed to ensure that students acquired a common core of knowledge and a common core of skills. The basket served as the basis for subsequent efforts to identify and cost out the resources sufficient to achieve these objectives.

The standards-based reform movement (discussed further in Chapter 5) has inspired all states to undertake serious consideration of their educational objectives. Standards-based reform has encouraged states to deliberate on their own goals, to undertake the development of shared understandings about what students need to know and be able to do (i.e., to set content standards for education), and to develop systems to measure whether students do in fact master this content (performance standards). It is likely that standards-based reform reinforces the willingness of policy makers and judges to shift toward an adequacy standard for



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