Dana teaches social sciences at the college level and English and psychology at the high school level. She has master's degrees in applied, clinical and community psychology.
What Is Benchmarking In Education?
How do we know if students are learning the right things at the right times? Is there even such a thing? Should high achievers set the standard for education? These are the main questions surrounding the practice of benchmarking in education.
Benchmarking in education occurs when measurable standards are set for learning. For example, benchmarks might be set for the concepts that must be mastered in each grade. They might also be used to see where a particular student, class, or even school ranks in comparison to others.
Now that we understand what benchmarking is, let's look at the reasons for using it.
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Jordan is a third grade student. His family is moving from Florida to Ohio, and he will be transferring to a new school. Since states vary greatly in terms of education, how will the new school know where Jordan is in terms of academic aptitude?
Benchmarking may provide the answer. For example, if Jordan's Florida school is able to share the academic benchmarks that Jordan has achieved thus far in third grade, it might help the new school place him in the correct class or program. Therefore, assessment is one reason to use benchmarking.
This assessment is not limited to assisting with placement. For example, educators can use benchmarking to improve performance among specific students or even among students at large in at-risk schools and districts. Let's say we have a high-performing school in a certain district in Illinois. Benchmarking may help other schools and districts understand and replicate the practices used in that high-performing Illinois district. In other words, schools can use benchmarking to set standards for best practices in learning and achievement.
Stated more simply, benchmarking can raise standards in education by creating a model for excellence and achievement. This model can then be duplicated by others. You may now be thinking that benchmarking in education sounds too good to be true. Let's take a look at some of the limitations in benchmarking.
Limitations of Benchmarking
Imagine that we have two elementary schools: school A and school B. School A is a high-performing school based on measures of achievement. School B is deemed a low-performing or failing school. How would you feel if your child was a student in school B? You might worry about the quality of education your child is receiving and may even begin to look for other options.
How would the students, teachers, and staff at school B feel? Revealing inequities is one of the unintended drawbacks of benchmarking. It may even lead to disparity in education, or a situation where some students and schools have decreased opportunity when compared to others.
Assume that you are a teacher in school A. How much pressure do you think you would feel to keep your school highly ranked? How would you handle a student who did not measure up? Would you worry about job security in the face of low performance?
Intense pressure to perform can emerge through the practice of benchmarking in education. High-performing schools feel pressure to maintain that level of excellence, while low-performing schools feel the need to raise the bar. Needless to say, this constant need to measure up can make things tough for students, teachers, and staff.
If the education of students is highly focused on meeting benchmarks, the individual needs of students may fall by the wayside. This is especially problematic for low-achieving students as they may not get the extra attention in the classroom that they need. This can set them up for failure going forward in their educational journey.
Therefore, care must be taken when using benchmarking in education. The needs of students, teachers, and staff must take precedence over the pressures to achieve. A balance must be found between setting and reaching educational benchmarks and meeting the needs of students.
Okay, let's take a moment to review what we've learned. As we learned in this lesson, benchmarking in education sets standards for learning and achievement. It can help in assessment for placement and performance. Furthermore, benchmarking can be used to raise standards in education by establishing best practices. However, benchmarking is not without its limitations. If not used carefully, benchmarking can lead to inequity in education, excessive pressure to perform, and loss of individual attention in the classroom.
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Benchmarking in Education: Definition & Limitation
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