The standards movement crept into education after the publication of A Nation at Risk: The Imperative for Educational Reform in 1983. Slowly, state by state education departments adopted standards and state-wide assessments. The purpose was to get all students in the state on an equal playing field and to measure academic achievement. Publishers pivoted and created resources aligned to either national or state standards. For the most part, private schools were late to the standards movement. Private schools felt successful with the outcomes of their graduates. These schools were graduating students, and 95% of graduates were moving on to college or university. The question needed to be asked. Is what we are teaching equivalent to our public school counterparts? Were we producing comparable results on IOWA, PSAT, SAT, ACT, and other standardized assessments with the scores of public school students? How could we even compare scores if we were not teaching the same standards or curriculum?
In time, many private schools either developed their own set of standards, adopted state standards, or created a hybrid set of standards. Without coordinated, systemic planning, many private schools, even to this day, have unique standards and curricula. This uniqueness does not make one school better than another, but it does create a system of schools and not a school system. Standards-based curriculum means that resources align to the standards you have developed or adopted. The textbook is a resource, not the curriculum. Teachers-Pay-Teachers is a resource, not a curriculum. As fundamental as this sounds, educators still confuse curriculum and standards. To keep it simple, remember that standards are the concepts and skills we want students to master. Curricula are the resources for the trip through the standards. If you are teaching directly from the textbook, you use one out of many resources to help students master the standards.
Why a standards-based curriculum? That’s an easy question to answer. Knowing your community of learners and stakeholders allows you to plan appropriately. These concepts and skills are what your graduates walk away from when they graduate from your school. Having a set of standards makes horizontal and vertical articulation available for educators. The standards-based curriculum allows teachers and students to know where they are going and where they should end up. Now that summer is upon us, let’s take some time to think about the next school year and decide what we might pack for our school trip. Meanwhile, when you plan your vacation, take the right resources with you to have a relaxing and energizing break.
Photo by Max Fischer