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What are Curriculum Standards?

By Alison Faria
Updated Mar 02, 2024
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Curriculum standards are a set of rules or guidelines that reflect the goals of an educational system or community. Typically, curriculum standards affect how schools are run, and how instructors teach their students. For example, enough time must usually be allotted for flexibility within curriculum lessons. This way, instructors can monitor and evaluate a curriculum to see how beneficial it is to student learning.

The first step in planning curriculum standards often involves the development of an overall curriculum framework. These frameworks can be developed on a local, regional or national level, with the regional level often being the most common. The curriculum usually needs to address many audiences, purposes, and situations.

If the curriculum standards are being formed at the regional level, then they are generally being formed for regional or local school districts. Sometimes, a curriculum committee is formed to address the overall concerns that might arise. The committee is typically made up of school board members, administrators, instructors, community members, parents, and occasionally students. Overall goals that might be set during meetings often include the implementation of ways to increase student achievement through various forms of learning.

For example, if curriculum standards are being discussed for social studies courses, a framework is usually developed addressing thematic strands. These are topics that social studies classes most commonly address. Culture, time, change, individuals, groups, and institutions are things that might be implemented in a curriculum framework for social studies classes.

One of the main responsibilities of a regional curriculum committee is to analyze local and national education standards. During this analysis, members typically look for facets such as content standards and the use of technology in instructional activities. The goal is usually to implement the most effective aspects into the district curriculum standards.

Selection of standards generally has a lot to do with purpose and audience. Guidelines might be established in regard to instructor requisite knowledge. This knowledge usually involves instructors having certain degrees or certifications in the topics they teach.

Instructors also usually need to be able to teach in various ways to accommodate various learning styles. For example, an instructor who primarily lectures typically needs to be able to adjust his or her teaching style to accommodate not just auditory learners, but also visual and tactile learners. Standards usually not only have to allow for this kind of flexibility, but also provide a constant framework for each educational situation.

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Discussion Comments
By nextcorrea — On Jul 02, 2011

@mammmood - I can understand the arguments of critics who don't agree with "multiculturalism" in education, but in the end my sympathies are a lot closer to your line of thinking. Here is why.

It is really hard, in most things but especially education, to define absolutes. What is right for one kid might be wrong for another. Therefore, who really has the authority to define what every kid in America should know? Obviously there are some basics that all kids should know, but there are lots of areas of the curriculum that I think state and local schools should have some flexibility to decide. If we set rigid national standards we are just running the risk of leaving kids behind of educating them with information they don't need or want. We need dynamic schools that can do what they need to serve their students.

By Mammmood — On Jul 01, 2011

@hamje32 - I don’t quite share your cynicism. Many schools in the United States have realized the need for a back to basics approach to education. I hardly think that multiculturalism is the cause for casualties in the educational system (it just gets a lot of airplay because of the heated arguments it provokes).

It’s interesting that you mention Asian nations, because we have in fact adopted some of their approaches, especially when teaching math. Singapore Math textbooks are just one example; they are developed in the United States, in conjunction with the Singapore ministry of education, but they have been modeled to reflect California Curriculum Standards for math.

As a matter of fact, California adopted Singapore math for its curriculum in 2007. That shows, I believe, that the United States is willing to acknowledge the strides made in education by other countries, and adopt them where needed.

By hamje32 — On Jul 01, 2011

I’m a great believer in core curriculum content standards. These should be the same from state to state. In my opinion these should define not only what children need to know to complete their education, but what they need to know to understand our great Western tradition.

That’s why the book series What Your Fifth Grader Needs to Know, What Your Sixth Grader Needs to Know, etc., was so popular. It aimed to educate the public about the kinds of facts and knowledge that once made up part of the great classical tradition of education in the United States, but which has been sacrificed on the altar of multiculturalism.

The fact remains that while we squabble in the United States about which is better, whole language or phonics, new math or old math, other countries – particularly Asian nations – are excelling in traditional education because they don’t feel the pressures of political correctness.

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