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Welcome to Teaching to Academic Standards. Start here in the Explanation section, which is all about the CONCEPT. Then go on to Demonstration and the following sections, where we move from CONCEPT to CLASSROOM!
What are academic standards?
What's different about academic standards?
What do standards have to do with my classroom?
How have standards developed since they began in the early 1990s?
Another perspective
What are the benefits of academic standards?
How can standards help students to learn better?
What do critics of standards have to say?

What are academic standards?

What are these statements? What do they mean? Standards describe the goals of schooling, the destinations at which students should arrive at the end of the unit or term. For example, most standards expect students graduating from high school to be able to write for different audiences in different formats -- things such as reports, instructions, literary criticism, and persuasive and reflective essays -- and to demonstrate a command of standard written English.

Note that the standard doesn't prescribe how to get the students to this destination -- that is determined by the curriculum. Standards do not prescribe any particular curriculum: National standards don't mean that local ability to choose teaching materials and methods are compromised. Standards indicate what students should know and should be able to do at grade 4, grade 8, grade 12. The teacher can choose whatever curriculum he or she finds appropriate to help the students meet the standards.

Standards are the WHAT of education while curriculum and instruction are the HOW.

Linda Darling-Hammond, professor of education at Stanford University, explains why she is in favor of standards.

Two kinds of standards are referred to -- content standards and performance standards. Content standards indicate what students should know and should be able to do. For example, students should be able to write and speak for a variety of purposes and for diverse audiences, using conventional grammar, usage, sentence structure, punctuation, and spelling.

A performance standard measures how well a student's work meets the content standard. A performance standard has levels (4, 3, 2, and 1; or advanced, proficient, novice, and basic) and frequently examples of student work are provided for each level.

Performance standards are essentially the same as rubrics. Rubrics describe what student work must consist of to get a certain score. Rubrics or performance standards list one of the characteristics of student work -- for example, problem-solving in mathematics or persuasive writing in English/language arts. All examples of problem-solving or persuasive writing, no matter what the topic, should contain these characteristics.


Standards can be found on state department Web sites and on Web sites such as the Putnam Valley School District's. Two major collections of standards have been organized, one by the Mid-Continental Regional Educational Laboratory (McREL) 1 and the other by the Council for Basic Education (CBE) 2. There are two annual surveys on standards and on the ways they are being implemented: "Quality Counts," issued every winter by Education Week; and "Making Standards Work," issued every summer by the American Federation of Teachers (AFT).

1. 2.

One private group, the National Center on Education and the Economy (NCEE) 3, has produced a set of standards that are regarded by those who support standards as exemplary, especially in English/language arts. These are the New Standards Performance Standards (very confusing name, unfortunately) at grades 4, 8, and 10 in English/language arts, mathematics, science, and applied learning. Usually called the New Standards, they were developed in the mid 1990's by Marc Tucker of the NCEE and Lauren Resnick of the Learning Research and Development Center (LRDC) at the University of Pittsburgh with the help of teachers who met in large groups to ascertain what students should know and should be able to do.



Workshop: Teaching to Academic Standards
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