Standards-based education has the potential to create the conditions under which significantly increased student achievement can be realized. In a standards-based system, important components of the education system are consistent with each other. The legislation that originally created California's system called for a plan to, over time, align content standards, performance standards, curriculum and instruction, materials, testing and reporting, and accountability. Accomplishing that goal depends on a partnership between parents, students, teachers and administrators.
Standards-based education has the following components:
- Content and performance standards
- Curriculum and instruction that is consistent with the standards, and
- Student assessment and accountability.
Even though the state-adopted standards are voluntary, they are intended to drive curriculum, instruction, and assessment. This is accomplished by requiring all students to take a test that will ultimately be based on these standards.
Standards refer to the following:
Content Standards specify what students should know in different subject areas and be able to do.
Performance Standards set expectations about how much students should know and how well students should perform. These answer the question: "How good is good enough?"
Opportunity-to-Learn Standards describe under what circumstances the learning takes place. These specify the conditions and resources necessary for teachers and schools to meet higher standards for students.
California's system recognizes only content and performance standards. Academic content standards have been developed for language arts, mathematics, science, and history/social science.
Examples of academic content standards for California students:
||Students estimate, calculate, and solve problems involving addition and subtraction of two- and three-digit numbers. |
||Students make predictions for simple probability situations.|
||Students solve a quadratic equation by factoring or completing the square.|
Language Arts: Reading
||Students retell the central ideas of simple expository or narrative passages.|
||Students understand how text features such as format, graphics, sequence, diagrams, illustrations, charts and maps make information accessible and usable.|
||Students analyze an author's implicit and explicit philosophical assumptions and beliefs about a subject.|
Student Assessment in a Standards-Based System
Assessment is an essential aspect of teaching and learning. Teachers use many types of classroom assessment including quizzes, unit tests, homework and performance tasks. The assessments are used to diagnose student strengths and needs, plan and adjust instruction, and provide feedback to student and parents regarding progress and achievement.
In 1997 legislation was passed to create a new statewide testing program. The Standardized Testing and Reporting Program or STAR program requires districts to test annually California students in grades 2 through 11 using a statewide standardized achievement test. This test is intended to give parents and communities a single, uniform tool they can use to compare students to each other and to a national norm.
California's Standards, Testing and Accountability System
In addition to the STAR Program, several laws were enacted that are designed to hold students, teachers, and schools responsible for meeting academic and performance standards on the basis of tests. These are the Pupil Promotion and Retention laws, the Public School Accountability Act, and the High School Exit Examination.
Pupil Promotion and Retention Program
These laws have five components that are aimed at eliminating social promotion:
- Districts determine promotion policies and guidelines.
- Money will be provided to support mandated remediation programs before and after school.
- Students will be required to attend summer school.
- There is to be a focus on reading, writing and mathematics.
- Mandatory retention: students in grades 2-9 who do not meet district promotion policies will not be allowed to move to the next level.
California's Public School Accountability Act (PSAA)
CTA did not support this program because it created timelines for improvement that were unrealistic and it contains too much emphasis on blaming and punishing. This is the first comprehensive program to attempt to hold individual schools accountable for making significant progress and to penalize those schools that do not meet targets. PSAA includes three components:
- An Academic Performance Index (API) will provide a single "index" or number to rate the performance of each school in California. The common index or score will allow the state to compare schools and rate their growth over time. These scores will be used to decide which schools qualify for rewards and which "underperforming" schools must participate in intervention programs. The state will assign annual growth targets of at least five percent based on a school's API score.
- Schools that fail to meet their growth targets can be subject to a variety of state interventions, including reassigning teachers, turning the school into a charter school, or triggering a state takeover of the school.