National Standards

In terms of national trends, the consensus has been moving toward establishing a set of national standards for education. So far, there are voluntary national standards for math, science, and history. There are standards being developed for other subjects as well.

Many factors that go into decisions about the development and implementation of curriculum in U.S. schools. Some of these are:

  • whether the state and/or district have curriculum guidelines
  • whether state and local guidelines conflict with each other
  • whether there are a large number of students requiring bilingual education
  • whether the state or district requires schools to follow their guidelines or allows them to develop their own curricula
  • for schools that retain local autonomy over curricular decisions, whether they may choose to adopt or ignore state or district guidelines

For the latter, the school’s choice is likely to be influenced by the school’s history of achievement, community standards, financial resources, and how it understands the relationship between these factors and the curriculum guidelines being provided by the state or district.

The issue of standards for learning and teaching has developed in the United States in recent years as policymakers, legislators, educators, parents, and community leaders have all shown an increasing concern with students’ achievement levels. The word “standards” has been used in many ways during public discussions. Sometimes the term has been used to represent established levels of achievement; in other cases it refers to commonly shared sets of academic subject content, such as those embodied in state curriculum guidelines.

Curricular guidelines have been used to set standards in many states and have been linked to state-administered achievement tests. But standards in the United States also include more informal means by which schools maintain and promote the desired levels of achievement for their students. These achievement levels for schools and for students have usually been extrapolated from community expecta-tions, and local communities continue to greatly influence curriculum and instructional decisions made at the school level. In the end, standards are partly a result of local decisions, such as those governing the selection of textbooks and those affecting a school’s policy on the promotion or retention of students. The guides to standards have developed significantly, and school districts are feeling their influence.


Inside National Standards