Standards-based Education Reform

Education reform in the United States since the late 1980s has been largely driven by the setting of academic standards for what students should learn and be able to do. These standards can then be used to guide all other system components. The standards-based reform movement calls for clear, measurable standards for all school students. Expectations are raised for all student's performance. Rather than norm-referenced rankings, the performance of all students is expected to be raised. Curriculum, assessments, and professional development are aligned to the standards.

[ Massachusetts Curriculum Frameworks ]
[ North Carolina Standard Course of Study ]
[ Washington State Essential Academic Learning Requirements ]

Some aspects of standards-based reform have come under scrutiny. Some education researchers such as Harvard's Gary Orfield disagree that all students must pass a rigorous test just to get a high school diploma. Others such as Mathematically Correct have questioned the NCTM standards approach to teaching mathematics. Some state standards have themselves been criticized for either not being specific as to academic content, or not implementing curriculums which follow the new standards. Advocates of traditional education believe it is not realistic to expect all students to perform at the same level as the best students, nor to punish students simply because they don't perform as well as the most academically talented.

Some of the common components of standards-based education reform are:

Certificate of Initial Mastery Certifies student has meet the standards at age 16.

High school graduation examination High stakes testing denies diplomas to students who do not meet high standards. Examples are WASL, MCAS.

Criterion-referenced tests based on fixed standards set by committees rather than norm-based rankings.

NCTM standards mathematics reform which emphasizes deep understanding for all students rather than abstract academic mathematics.

School to work tying academics to career.

Goals 2000 set world-class standards in the 1990s.

No Child Left Behind mandates continuous improvement in student and school level achievement across all student populations.