What are educational standards?

Education standards are the road map to indicate the level of content knowledge and skills that students have developed at specific grade levels [1]. In the United States these grade levels are 4th, 8th, and 12th grades. Standards serve as a blue print for education reform and help educators and policy makers to identify key outcomes at district, state and national level and also help them in identifying ways in which they can assess students knowledge and skills based on the predetermined outcomes [1].

According to Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction:
Academic standards specify what students should know and be able to do, what they might be asked to do to give evidence of standards, and how well they must perform. They include content, performance, and proficiency standards.
  • Content standards refer to what students should know and be able to do.
  • Performance standards tell how students will show that they are meeting a standard.
  • Proficiency standards indicate how well students must perform. [2]

What is the difference between national and state standards?

U.S Department of Education, although an over arching agency with respect to educational regulation and policies, they do not publish/create national standards. Every state is responsible for creating their own educational standards for grade 4, grade 8 and grade 12. Professional organizations like National Science Teachers Association (for Science), National Math Teachers Association, etc. are responsible for recommending educational standards at national level - however these standards are neither endorsed or objected by U.S. Department of Education. State DPI's uses these national standards as a reference guide to create respective state education standards. Bellow is a paraphrased comparison of National Science Standards and Wisconsin - DPI Science Standards.
[3], [4]

How has No Child Left Behind (NCLB) changed educational standards?

The No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act is a reform of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965. NCLB was created to in order to help close the achievement gap in the United States, which is the predicatble and continuous gap in achievement that is visible between students of low and high socieo-economic statuses. In the process of trying to close the achievement gap, the Federal role in K-12 education was redefined, and many new standards were imposed, both at the State and Local level.

The following requirements were created or expanded upon when No Child Left Behind was inacted in 2002. [3]

States and LEAs receiving funding under any title are subject to the requirements and provisions of that title. The major new requirements in the law are under Title I and include the following state provisions that will impact all LEAs in Wisconsin:
  1. Implementation of a statewide accountability system that ensures all students will be proficient or better in math and reading by 2013-14. [[http://dpi.wi.gov/esea/topics.html#accountability/adequate yearly progress|More information on Accountability and Adequate Yearly Progress]]
  2. State testing in reading and math in grades 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, and once in high school by 2005-06. State testing in science at least once in grades 3-5, 6-9, and grades 10-12. [[http://dpi.wi.gov/esea/topics.html#state assessments|More information on State Assessments]]
  3. Incremental gains or static benchmarks that all schools must reach each year.
  4. Measure and report on the progress of all students and subgroups of students including race/ethnicity, children with disabilities, economically disadvantaged, and limited English proficient.
  5. Schools identified for improvement (SIFI) for not making adequate yearly progress (AYP) in reaching state set benchmarks for all students or any subgroup for two or more consecutive years in reading and math. [[http://dpi.wi.gov/esea/topics.html#schools identified for improvement|More information on Schools Identified for Improvement]]
  6. Requiring all teachers teaching “core academic subjects” to be highly qualified. Core academic subjects under NCLB means English, reading or language arts, math, science, foreign, language, civics and government, economics, arts, history, and geography. [[http://dpi.wi.gov/esea/topics.html#highly qualified teachers|More information on Highly Qualified Teachers]]
  7. The development of a state report card with specific reporting elements prescribed in the law. [[http://dpi.wi.gov/esea/topics.html#data requirements|More information on Reporting Requirements]]

Provisions that will impact schools and districts receiving Title I funds include:
  1. Implementing the sanctions provision of NCLB for SIFI. NCLB has six years of sanctions corresponding with the number of consecutive years a school is identified for improvement. Sanctions range from offering intra-district public school choice, offering supplemental services, implementing corrective actions, and reconstitution. [[http://dpi.wi.gov/esea/topics.html#schools identified for improvement|More information on Sanctions and SIFI Schools]]
  2. Parent notification requirements on a variety of issues including parents’ rights to receive information on their child’s teacher, identification status of the schools, and parent options when a school is identified for improvement. [[http://dpi.wi.gov/esea/topics.html#parents and nclb|More information on Parent Notification Requirements]]
  3. Ensuring all teachers hired after January 8, 2002 and teaching in programs supported with Title I funds are highly qualified. [[http://dpi.wi.gov/esea/topics.html#highly qualified teachers|More information on Highly Qualified Teachers]]
  4. Ensure all Title I paraprofessionals newly hired after January 8, 2002 have at least two years of higher education or an associate degree or passed formal state or local assessments designed to demonstrate knowledge and ability. More information on Paraprofessionals
  5. The development of district and local report cards with specific reporting elements prescribed in the law.

While the overall effectiveness of NCLB is still debated today, most would agree that the changes it has implemented were designed in the best interest of the students. In general, NCLB outlines a system of accountability for both teachers and students, and what is expected of both parties is laid out in clear terms. Teachers and other professionals working with students, such as paraprofessionals, are required to be highly qualified, which all would agree is for the benefit of the students. However, some critics have argued that NCLB has not actually produced a new generation of highly qualified instructors, but rather that it has only worsened the nationwide teaching shortage in the United States.external image scrapbook_photo_get1.asp?ssphotoid=970&locid=71

Another one of the most visible and important changes NCLB created was the requirement of standardized testing in grades 3-8, as well as in 10th grade, to demonstrate student achievement as well as teacher effectiveness. In Wisconsin, the WKCE (Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Examination) is being used to meet this federal requirement. This assessment covers mathematics and reading, and is meant to give the school (as well as the state and federal government) information on student achievement and knowledge, however, some claim that the test is biased and is not an accurate measurement of student achievement. Similarily, many believe that teachers, especially those in high-poverty schools, have begun simply "teaching for the test," or in other words, that teachers have replaced regular curriculum with only teaching those concepts that are covered on the WKCE. They argue that the demand to shows results, which impacts school funding, has negatively impacted the instruction of our students today.

Regardless of someone's position on NCLB, the standards are in place and must be met. Teachers and other education professionals are required to be "highly qualified" as outlined by the United States Government, and students are required to demonstrate their knowledge through a series of standardized tests. It is important that when NCLB again comes before Congress for review that both educators and government officials review it's effectiveness through non-partis​an eyes and that they make sure that this legislation is actually accomplishing what is was created to do, improve the educational system for all American students.

What does teaching look like with and without standards?

The Obama administration has educational excellence as a goal, and may well promote a more complex way of reaching that goal. However, both national and state education standards are here to stay. The trick is to meet those standards without giving up the many creative methods teachers use to motivate children to learn. There are ways for you to help students meet educational standards and pass those standardized exams without teaching to the test.

First, make sure you thoroughly understand the curriculum requirements of your classroom, and that those requirements conform to national and state education standards. Take part in school and regional meetings dealing with curriculum, and brainstorm with other teachers at your grade level to share approaches to meeting curriculum requirements. Armed with a thorough knowledge of your curriculum, you can create a variety of enjoyable learning opportunities that meet national and state education standards while respecting the skills and academic levels of all of your students.

There is no need to choose between teaching phonics and exposing children to enjoyable books. Integrate your curriculum by using high-quality children's literature to teach phonics and other basic reading skills; by combining reading and art lessons with history, social studies, science, and math; and by relying on the concepts of multiple intelligences theory and differentiated (individualized) learning to reach every child. (7)

Examples of Social Studies (or any other subject you might select) Education Standards

The National Council for the Social Studies also publishes its own recommended national standards for teachers and curriculum; so, too, do the Center for Civic Education , the National Council on Economic Education , the National Geographic Society , and the National Center for History in the Schools .[6] Below is a video to help remember the National Geographic Society standards (i.e., SHARPE).

Examples of Education and Technology Standards

Wisconsin Model Academic Standard: A.8.2

Students in Wisconsin will select and use media and technology to access, organize, create, and communicate information for solving problems and constructing new knowledge, products, and systems.
Grades: 5-8
Performance Standard 2. Identify and use common media formats ? describe the operating and file management software of a computer (e.g., desktop, file, window, folder, directory, pull-down menu, dialog box) ? identify the various organizational patterns used in different kinds of reference books ? define the basic types of learning software (e.g., drill and practice, tutorial, simulation) ? use electronic encyclopedias, almanacs, indexes, and catalogs to retrieve and select information ? describe the various applications of productivity software programs (e.g., word processing, database, spreadsheet, presentation, communication, drawing, desktop publishing) ? identify common integrated software packages or applications suites ? use a graphics program to create or modify detail to an image or picture . (11)

Wisconsin Model Academic Standard: A.8.3

Students in Wisconsin will select and use media and technology to access, organize, create, and communicate information for solving problems and constructing new knowledge, products, and systems
Grades: 5-8
Performance Standard 3. Use a computer and productivity software to organize and create information ? explain the use of basic word processing functions (e.g., menu, tool bars, dialog boxes, radio buttons, spell checker, thesaurus, page layout, headers and footers, word count, tabs) ? use the spell checker and thesaurus functions of a word processing program ? move textual and graphics data from one document to another ? use graphics software to import pictures, images, and charts into documents ? use a graphical organizer program to construct outlines or webs that organize ideas and information ? compose a class report using advanced text formatting and layout styles (e.g., single and double spacing, different size and style of fonts, indents, headers and footers, pagination, table of contents, bibliography) ? classify collected data and construct a simple database by defining fields, entering and sorting data, and producing a report ? construct a simple spreadsheet, enter data, and interpret the information ? plot and use different types of charts and graphs (e.g., line, bar, stacked, scatter diagram, area, pie charts, pictogram) from a spreadsheet program ? incorporate database and spreadsheet information (e.g., charts, graphs, lists) in word-processed documents. (12)

Wisconsin Model Academic Standard: A.8.5

Students in Wisconsin will select and use media and technology to access, organize, create, and communicate information for solving problems and constructing new knowledge, products, and systems
Grades: 5-8
Performance Standard 5. Use media and technology to create and present information ? use draw, paint, or graphics software to create visuals that will enhance a class project or report ? design and produce a multimedia program ? plan and deliver a presentation using media and technology appropriate to topic, audience, purpose, or content (13)

How Standards Affect Teachers

Overall, research here has shown that most teachers agree with standards for education. In one report, “approximately two-thirds of science teachers across the board report agreeing or strongly agreeing with the vision of science education described by the National Science Education Standardsc(Weiss, Banilower, McMahon, and Smith, 2001). (8)

external image plu%20picture.jpgSeveral studies report on the impact of various interventions on teachers’ attitudes and beliefs. For example, in a study of the Milwaukee Urban Systemic Initiative (MUSI), Doyle and Huinker (1999) reported that there was “strong evidence to indicate that the strength of MUSI during its two years of implementation was a change in attitude toward mathematics and science instruction. Site visit interviews with principals, teachers, students, and MSRTs [Mathematics and Science Resource Teachers] all indicated more teachers were interested in teaching reform than had been in the past” (p. 28).(9)

Zucker, Shields, Adelman, Corcoran, and Goertz (1998) synthesized data gathered as part of SRI’s five-year cross-site evaluation of NSF’s Statewide Systemic Initiatives (SSIs). The evaluation covered 25 SSIs and included data from principal investigators, observations of activities, interviews with key stakeholders, and document reviews. The researchers found that “most teachers participating in the SSIs articulated an understanding of and commitment to the new paradigm of teaching—hands-on activities, students working cooperatively, teachers probing for students’ prior knowledge and encouraging the students to demonstrate an understanding of the concepts” (p.19).(10)


1] http://www.library.illinois.edu/edx/edstandards.htm
2] Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction http://dpi.wi.gov/standards/
3] Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction http://dpi.wi.gov/esea/background.html
4] National Academic Press: National Science Education Standards - 1996 http://www.nap.edu/openbook.php?record_id=4962
5] http://usliberals.about.com/od/education/i/NCLBProsCons.htm
6] http://www.education-world.com/standards/national/soc_sci/index.shtml
7] http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/2072585/meet_national_and_state_education_standards.html
8] http://books.nap.edu/openbook.php?record_id=10618&page=76
9] http://books.nap.edu/openbook.php?record_id=10618&page=76
10] http://books.nap.edu/openbook.php?record_id=10618&page=76
11] http://www2.dpi.state.wi.us/sig/practices/high_2.asp
12] http://www2.dpi.state.wi.us/sig/practices/high_2.asp