Academic standards and curriculum are often confused with one another. Standards are expectations for what education should help students know and be able to do. Curriculum is how and with what materials a school or district will teach the knowledge and skills. While a curriculum defines actions, standards address only outcomes.
Just as states frequently update materials and instructional techniques to stay current, they must also update K–12 standards to ensure student outcomes include the skills and knowledge necessary for success in society. The Region 17 Comprehensive Center has developed a guide (see download below) to help states develop their processes for revising academic standards.
States have different reasoning and governing agencies responsible for determining why, when, and how academic standards are revised. Some states, like North Carolina, Texas, and Ohio, have a codified review process. Most have timelines, within a year or over a longer period, to review standards. For example, North Carolina considers the entire five-to-seven-year span of its review as an ongoing cycle of continuous improvement that includes implementation, feedback, and revision.
Essential Steps for Standards Revision
The Region 17 Comprehensive Center has supported Idaho in revising its English language arts, math, science, and social studies standards and Montana in revising its math standards. Through this work, we have identified some essential steps for standards revision:
- Determine a timeline for the work, incorporating any known deadlines or mandated inputs (e.g., reports to a state board or legislative committee)
- Define a process for collecting stakeholder feedback or other information to inform revisions
- Identify key stakeholders
- Identify key advisors to inform the review process
- Define a process to synthesize stakeholder feedback, learning from implementation in the field and best evidence within content areas
- Form working groups to draft revised standards
- Develop a process to collect, synthesize, and incorporate public feedback on draft revised standards
- Develop final revised standards
The guide further details actions associated with each of the essential steps above. This guide is not meant to be prescriptive or all-encompassing but to provide a checklist for state education leaders to consider when developing the various components of an academic standards revision process.