Educational Standards

AAP and our member publishers strive to provide equitable access to a high-quality educational materials for all students. To achieve this goal, publishers collaborate with schools and teachers in each state to develop rigorous and stimulating content that implements a variety of evolving education standards. Standards describe and determine what students should know and be able to do in a variety of academic subjects. 

    Preparing Students to Compete in the Global Market

    In today’s global, knowledge-based economy, educational achievement is an increasingly important factor.

    To better prepare students for this success, states develop and set educational standards to define the measurable learning objectives and skills that students need for higher education and the demands of 21st-century jobs. These educational standards must continually evolve to address the latest developments in technology, new pedagogical research and evolving student learning styles. Once the standards are developed, state and local school officials develop a curriculum plan to implement them. These curriculum plans must also be kept up to date as their underlying educational standards evolve.

    Publishers then create engaging, effective and diverse learning materials to implement the curriculum. They also develop assessment materials that measure how well students have acquired and retained the learning objectives and skills necessary to compete in the global market.  

    What Are Educational Standards?

    Educational Standards Inform Curriculum

    In general, standards identify the measurable skills a student should have at certain points in the education path. For instance, under the Common Core State Standards, kindergarten students are expected to learn the following counting skills:

    • Know number names and the count sequence
    • Count to tell the number of objects
    • Compare numbers

    Some standards are more general and offer guidelines for core ideas to incorporate into curriculum, rather than measurable goals. These are often referred to as frameworks. For instance, the College, Career, and Civic Life (C3) Framework for Social Studies State Standards, which expects students in grades 3–5 to “create maps and other graphic representations of both familiar and unfamiliar places" but does not delineate what maps to use, is a framework.

    Curriculum is the overarching content plan for implementing standards. It defines, to varying degrees, what content a state, district or school will use to impart the skill(s) and other learning objectives defined by the state’s educational standards.

    For example, a possible curriculum for the above sample standard might include a series of kindergarten lessons where students learn to count from 0 to 5 using their fingers or colored blocks, and to associate the names of numbers to specific quantities.

    Curriculum design, in turn, informs what books and materials the school will use, what materials publishers will publish, what a teacher will teach, and what content students will use to learn the new skills laid out in the standards. 

    Publishers Help Students Achieve Educational Standards

    Delivering an effective education is a shared responsibility. Publishers, states and schools must collaborate to create content-rich textbooks, lesson plans, instructional guides, classroom activities, print and digital materials, and supplemental resources to enable students to meet or exceed a state’s chosen standards. 

    “Publishers help schools to implement standards in flexible ways through customized curriculum using innovative content.”

    —Tom Allen, President & CEO, AAP

    To do this, education publishers must understand the educational standards for all fifty states and thoroughly grasp their scope, sequence, goals and nuances. Different grade levels, different states’ interpretations of standards, and different social and cultural preferences across the country all affect what publishers include, and exclude, from a curriculum. For instance, some states do not allow images of “junk food” to be used to teach counting in a math textbook. Others may disallow the use of certain terms or subject matter in a social studies curriculum.

    Publishers must also dedicate significant time and resources to monitoring and adapting learning materials to ever-changing standards in order to ensure that schools and teachers can quickly and easily integrate these revised goals into the curriculum.

    This nuanced understanding of so many standards means that, collectively, AAP members possess a wealth of experience and technical expertise in producing high-quality, research-based print and digital materials for the classroom, as well as adaptive learning tools. This expertise allows professional publishers to help teachers help students to meet and exceed state standards in effective, efficient and engaging ways.

    Find Out More

    Learn about the current state of standards at one of several PreK-12 Learning Group events: Fall Policy Exchange, Master Class, and the 2016 Content in Context.

    States Set Educational Standards

    Congress has made clear that states and local school systems, not the federal government, have the primary public responsibility for education. In fact, federal laws prohibit the Department of Education from exercising any direction, supervision or control over school curricula or the educational standards that drive them.

    Each state, therefore, is able to develop and adopt its own unique variety of educational standards, ranging from specific skill requirements (such as writing a five-sentence paragraph) to more comprehensive multi-grade-level frameworks covering an array of disciplines, such as science, mathematics, reading, social studies and history. Although states may develop their own standards, they may, and often do, adopt ones that have been developed by a collaboration of state, education and subject matter experts and associations.

    Three standards that are being considered for adoption by multiple states are Common Core State Standards, Next Generation Science Standards, and College, Career, and Civic Life (C3) Framework for Social Studies State Standards.

    AAP and publishers respect the authority of the states to choose the educational standards that are best suited to their residents, and they do not advocate for the adoption of any educational standards over others. Instead, publishers work with schools and teachers to implement educational standards in creative, innovative and pedagogically effective ways. 

    Common Core State Standards

    The Common Core State Standards in English Language Arts and Mathematics (Common Core) was released in June 2010 by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers. Their goal was to create rigorous standards to prepare students for college and careers using evidence-based, internationally benchmarked learning goals. Adoption is voluntary by state.

    As a single set of educational standards for grades K-12, Common Core aims to reinforce learning objectives across grade levels and subjects in a clearer manner than previous standards have in the past.

    For example, to help explain the difference between the old standards for English Language Arts and the new Common Core standards, the Foundation for Excellence in Education notes: 

    While the old standards focused on simply expecting students to recite facts learned through reading textbook passages, the new standards expect students to read books and textbook passages that are more challenging than what was previously read in each grade level—including reading more original writings whenever possible.… Students are then asked to show a deeper understanding of this material than has previously been required of them, demonstrating greater critical thinking and analytical skill. 

    Current Status of Common Core

    Common Core was expected to be in place for the 2013-14 school year, with its assessments in use for the 2014-15 school year. Forty-five states, the District of Columbia, four territories and the Department of Defense Education Activity initially adopted Common Core. 

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    However, a number of states are now reassessing their decision to adopt the standard and its assessments for a variety of reasons. These include concerns about federal government involvement in Common Core; lack of teacher training to implement the new standards; and lack of public involvement in establishing and adopting Common Core, among other issues.

    Next Generation Science Standards

    The Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) are designed to provide a new model of rich, cross-discipline content, practices and teaching, so all U.S. students can gain an internationally benchmarked science education. The standards enable schools to teach sciences in a cohesive, integrated, grade-specific progression that builds a student’s skills throughout their school career.

    The NGSS were developed through a state-led collaboration with the National Research Council (NRC), the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA), the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), and other partners. The standards were completed in April 2013.

    The NGSS have three core components:

    • Disciplinary Core Ideas
    • Scientific and Engineering Practices
    • Crosscutting Concepts

    According to the developers, these core components “reflect the interconnected nature of science as it is practiced and experienced in the real world.” They also underlie the NGSS approach to setting performance expectations that “include a student’s ability to apply a practice to content knowledge…as opposed to memorization of facts devoid of context.”

    However, the developers also state that the performance expectations “simply clarify the expectations of what students will know and be able to do by the end of the grade,” and it is up to the states and schools to develop “coherent instruction programs that help students achieve these standards.”

    The NGSS align with Common Core State Standards, enabling the standards to overlap in meaningful and substantive ways. States that adopt both standards can include science as part of a child’s comprehensive education and align learning in all content areas.

    As with all standards, adoption of the NGSS is up to each state. Where adopted, publishers work with school boards and teachers to customize curricular content to implement the standard while reflecting the unique historical, cultural and social values of each state.

    College, Career, and Civic Life (C3) Framework for Social Studies State Standards

    In 2013, the National Curriculum Standards for Social Studies were updated and re-named, the College, Career, and Civic Life (C3) Framework for Social Studies State Standards. The primary purpose of the C3 Framework is to provide guidance to states and teachers on the concepts and skills necessary to prepare students for college, career, and civic life. The C3 Framework does not, however, specify particular content. Rather, each state retains control over the development of local social studies curricula and related instructional content.

    C3 Framework Goals

    • Enhance the rigor of the social studies disciplines
    • Build critical thinking, problem solving, and participatory skills to become engaged citizens
    • Align academic programs to the Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts and Literacy in History/Social Studies.

    C3 Framework Guiding Principles

    • Social studies prepares the nation’s young people for college, careers, and civic life.
    • Inquiry is at the heart of social studies.
    • Social studies involves interdisciplinary applications and welcomes integration of the arts and humanities.
    • Social studies is composed of deep and enduring understandings, concepts, and skills from the disciplines.
    • Social studies emphasizes skills and practices as preparation for democratic decision-making.
    • Social studies education should have direct and explicit connections to the Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts.

    Additional AAP Resources

    See Also