Education Standards by State
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Education standards in the U.S. vary from state to state. Ideally, however, national standards encourage each state to establish guidelines that help children prepare for the future. Standards-based education became an important part of education reform in the 1980s. The book A Nation at Risk convinced many educators that standards were imperative to the success of students and the country. By setting standards, school boards had the opportunity test students and determine whether schools had taught them the skills that they needed to confront future challenges.
Standards-based education also allowed school systems to align class curriculum with desired outcomes. For instance, if a school needed to teach high school seniors about the basics of chemistry, then the curriculum developers could design courses that would prepare students to complete standardized tests on this material.
Standardized testing means that students are not compared with each other. This prevents students from appearing to perform well just because they all perform at the same level. Instead, a student's success is determined by whether he or she meets a goal established by the state and federal boards. The individual student assessment has nothing to do with how other student's perform. It is simply a matter of reaching pre-determined goals.
Education Standards by State and the Federal Government
Robert J. Marzano and John S. Kendall discuss educational standards in their article entitled “Awash in a Sea of Standards” published in 1998. The authors begin by identifying the sources of standards used in education, and they continue by discussing the time restraints faced by educators.
The main sources of standards used in education are:
- Federal government published standards
- Curriculum defined standards via individual states
- Local or community based standards set by school boards
Marzano and Kendall study the possible changes to current standards and instructional practices to insure the appropriate standards are met by the teachers. The researchers in the article suggest the actions that would be appropriate for the stakeholders in the educational system.
Currently, published standards are readily available in the various curriculums in the educational system grades one through twelve. These standards are usually published by grade levels and subject areas. The authors of the study find that one of the problems with the published standards is the vast number of standards that are available that apply to the various grades and subjects. These documents can vary considerably in content and presentation and provide mixed signals to the educators seeking guidance for their individual educational programs. Documents outlining standards come from national, state and local organizations. Marzano and Kendall discovered in their study that the standards available would be impossible to cover in the current amount of instructional time available to educators. The available standards are more numerous in some subject areas than in other areas.
Education Standards by State: Implementing Realistic Standards
In a time based, calendar defined school year, the amount of time available for instruction is a concern that must be considered when developing and implementing realistic standards. The researchers found that the number of days available for instruction varies from 175 to 184. The amount of time each day varied from four to six hours. Unfortunately, when achieving appropriate standards, the time available for instruction is not always used for instruction. Calculations show that to meet the benchmarks and standards set, twelve years of instruction would have to be increased to twenty-one years. “One of the major recommendations of the National Commission on Time and Learning is that schools allocate at least 990 hours per year of instructional time to core academic subjects. This would represent an increase of 42 percent from the 695.6 hours per year currently dedicated to instruction”. The other option is to reduce the number of standards which poses the problem of eliminating content. The standards available from the multiple sources mentioned previously need further study and revision.
Marzano and Kendall provide valuable information on the standards required of educators in American schools at the elementary and secondary education levels. They note that setting the appropriate standards and providing the needed time to reach those standards are only two of the variables that educators must address. However, these very important variables will affect either positively or negatively the other important variables in delivering a quality education to students. The article, “Awash in a Sea of Standards”, provides valuable information on the standards that exist already and the challenges to meeting those standards. The authors set out a map for investigating further the dilemmas faced by educators presently, and they offer encouragement for attempting the important task of requiring high standards achieved in an appropriate amount of time.