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Benchmarking in Education: Definition & Limitation

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Instructor: Dana Dance-Schissel

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.

Benchmarking is a common practice in education. What does benchmarking entail and what are its limitations? This lesson will explore these questions surrounding benchmarking. Updated: 01/09/2021

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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  • 0:04 What Is Benchmarking…
  • 0:43 Why Benchmark?
  • 2:11 Limitations of Benchmarking
  • 4:06 Lesson Summary
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Why Benchmark?

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.

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