Who developed these standards? Were any teachers involved?
A. The Academic Content Standards were developed by the Commission for the Establishment of Academic Content and Performance Standards for math, language arts, social studies, and science. Several teachers who were appointed to the commission participated in the development process. With the exception of math, these standards were adopted by the State Board of Education after obtaining input at public hearings. The State Board substituted its own version of the mathematics content standards.
There are so many standards at my grade level. How can I cover all of them?
A. You will have to prioritize. Assessment data from last year (including last year's STAR data) should help you identify areas you will need to stress. If low sub-test scores indicate your students are having trouble with skills relating to particular standards, you should emphasize these areas in your instruction.
Are English Learners and Special Education students expected to meet the standards?
A. According to the State Board of Education, the academic content standards apply to all students. Some accommodations must be made for these students. The new mathematics and language arts frameworks contain suggestions on such accommodations. Testing accommodations for special education students should be specified in their IEP or individual education plan. In addition to the academic content standards, the State Board of Education adopted ELD or English language development standards for English learners in July 1999. Teachers will begin testing these students with a statewide test during the 2000-2001 school year.
What happens to students who don't meet the standards?
A. A new emphasis is now placed on retention as a means of providing help for students who do not meet the standards. New funding for after-school tutoring and summer school is being made available to districts. However, the quality of those programs will depend largely on the quality of instruction (including the use of experienced, credentialed instructors).
These standards explain "what" students are supposed to know, but they don't tell "how well" students should know it. Where are the performance levels?
A. Performance levels are being developed for language arts. Hopefully, the State Board of Education will provide performance levels for the other subject areas soon.
How can teachers suggest changes to these standards? Will they ever be modified?
A. The legislation that created the standards contains provisions for review and modification of the standards. Your local association may want to become active in collecting teacher comments and suggested changes to the standards. These comments in turn can be forwarded to the State Board of Education.
More and more, it seems as if we're testing rather than teaching. What can we do about the number of tests being given?
A. Talk to your school site principal and district administrators about eliminating any unnecessary testing. Analyze the data provided by the SAT 9 and any other STAR testing. Other tests used to provide the same data can probably be eliminated. In your own classroom, an assessment matrix (see example in this booklet) can show you whether the various types of assessments cover your prioritized standards.
When standards and accountability are introduced into a school district, what are the implications for teacher evaluation?
A. Colleagues in states that have had standards-based accountability systems for a year or more report a shift from emphasis on input or what the teacher does (instruction, lesson design, teaching style) to output or what students are able to do (test scores, achievement levels). Many teachers report additional stress because they have little control over some of the factors that affect student performance in the classroom. Some local associations have successfully campaigned for a "value-added" approach in their communities. They have urged parents to ask: "What skills and knowledge do my children have now that they did not have before they walked into their classrooms this year?"