An Overview of Learning Standards

All humans have the ability to learn, and some of this learning takes place without outside intervention. A baby, for example, can learn to crawl without anyone showing her how. But humans learn best through a process of facilitated learning called education. Formal education is facilitated learning that occurs in a structured environment, such as a school.

If you are writing content to be used in a formal education setting, it should align with the relevant learning standards, which, according to the US department of education, are “a set goals for what students should know and be able to do while learning academic content.”

Learning standards are typically categorized by subject area and by grade, and encompass what a student should learn in the course of a semester or year. A curriculum is what’s taught in the classroom, and its purpose is to help students achieve learning standard goals.

Learning standards may be subdivided into smaller learning objectives, which are goals that may be achieved in a single class period or a single unit. Assessments are measures of student performance. Most people equate assessments with tests, but student performance may also be assessed through student-produced lab reports, writing, speeches, and films. Educational content, including trade nonfiction books, should be written so that each section of exposition and each assessment meets one or more learning objective.

As of the year 2000 each US state had independently developed its own set of learning standards. The resulting lack of consistency led to a push to introduce national standards in various K-12 subject areas, including English Language arts, mathematics, science, information technology, social studies, health and physical education, dance, media arts, theater and visual arts. National standards have been developed for higher education as well. A brief description of each standard and a link to the relevant website is provided below.

Of these standards, only Common Core has been adopted by a majority of states (42 as of this writing, and 5 US territories). Common Core standards encompass math and English language arts. Next Generation Science Standards, which encompasses science, has been adopted by 18 states.

Since the national standards have not been adopted by all states I’ve also included links to standards for the four largest states (California, Florida, New York, and Texas). These four states have the most students, so educational content is typically written to meet the standards of these states as well as the national standards.

Common standards for K-12

English Language arts & mathematics
Common Core State Standards Initiative
developed by: the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices
adoption: Currently adopted by 42 states, 4 US territories (American Samoan Islands, Guam, Northern Mariana Islands, US Virgin Islands) and the District of Columbia. Have not been adopted by Alaska, Indiana, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Puerto Rico, South Carolina, Texas, or Virginia. Minnesota has adopted the ELA standards only.

Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS)
developed by: the National Research Council, National Science Teachers Association, American Association for Advancement of Science, Achieve
adoption: Currently adopted by 18 states (Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Nevada, New Jersey, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington) and the District of Columbia.

social studies
National Curriculum Standards for Social Studies (NCSS)
developed by: the National Council for the Social Studies

information technology
Education Technology Standards
developed by: International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE)

dance, media arts, music, theatre and visual arts
National Core Arts Standards
developed by: National Coalition for Core Art Standards

health and physical education
Health Education, Dance, Physical Education and Sport Standards
developed by: Shape America/Society of Health and Physical Educators

National Health Education Standards
developed by: Centers for Disease Control

Common standards for higher education
Council for the Advancement of Standards in Higher Education (CAS)

Standards of the largest states
New York