Standards are academic guidelines for what should be taught to students throughout their education, and at what grade level they should understand different concepts or attain specific skills. Standards are expectations – they do not dictate how a teacher teaches, how a student should learn or what materials, such as textbooks, should be used.
For example, a standard may call for a student in third grade to understand the meanings of different prefixes and suffixes and be able to use them. Standards provide clear goals of what students should be taught and what is required for future challenges.
Standards pinpoint the knowledge and skills that students should acquire at each grade level. They provide teachers the roadmap for what skills, lessons and material they need to teach each year, but do not dictate how teachers teach. Standards are designed to ensure that all students, regardless of where they go to school, are prepared for success after high school. Standards help guide teachers in the classroom; they help teachers build their lesson plans around a set of core academic concepts.
Unfortunately, standards in states across the country have been lowered for decades. As a result, the majority of students who graduate high school are not ready for college or a well-paying job.
Standards are the guidelines, but the multitude of ways students are taught and how they learn represent curriculum. Teachers have the freedom to use a variety of methods in their toolbox to teach students. Curriculum decisions, including which textbook and programs to use, are made by local districts. Instructional decisions regarding student progress throughout the year are made in the classroom.
The Common Core State Standards initiative is a state-led effort to establish clearer, higher and more consistent and rigorous academic standards in the subjects of English and math that states can voluntarily adopt. More than 45 states have voluntarily adopted Common Core State Standards in these two subjects.
Common Core State Standards are designed to ensure that students graduating from high school are prepared to enter college or the workforce, and that parents, teachers and students have a clear understanding of what is expected of them.
Common Core Standards are higher, clearer, more rigorous and internationally benchmarked. They have been graded by academic standards experts at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute as superior to existing standards in 39 states for math and 37 states for English.
States had academic standards in place before the development of the Common Core State Standards. This new initiative is merely a shared effort to dramatically raise those standards to better prepare students. Each state has its own specific process for adopting new standards.
Common Core standards are not federal standards. States led the development of the standards. Each state followed its own specific constitutional, legislative or administrative processes to adopt these standards as its own. This included consulting with principals, teachers, parents and other stakeholders.
Principals and teachers will continue to make decisions on how to run your child’s school. How your child will be taught is still up to his or her teacher(s). The new standards merely set higher academic benchmarks than had previously been expected of students.
Let’s be honest though. More rigorous standards mean tougher courses for students. As students adjust to higher expectations in the classroom, test scores may drop at first. However, the result will be more students graduating high school ready for college and the workforce, which is critical to their future and the future of this nation.
If you have concerns with how or what your child is being taught, your school and local school board will continue to be where you should turn to challenge curriculum decisions – such as what books are included in reading assignments. Parents play a critical role in determining the quality of education in their community, and being a vocal and vigilant advocate for your child improves the system.
They do not. You still have complete control over what you teach your children. States already have existing academic standards, and the adoption of the Common Core State Standards does not affect this relationship.
These standards are state standards and are not required to be followed in private schools that do not accept state funds. Although, many private schools have voluntarily adopted higher standards in the form of Common Core because they are just that – higher academic expectations to better prepare students for life after high school – whether it be in college or the workforce.
Do state-adopted common standards mean the federal government will direct what is being taught in schools?
No. The states still retain complete control over academic standards and what is being taught in schools. The federal government has no say in what is being taught in your child’s school. The adoption of standards was a state decision backed by many conservative governors who are on the front lines of preventing federal overreach in education.