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Educational Standards


Producers need to pay attention to educational standards when designing educational media, be it video, Web, or print. In this era of high-stakes student testing and teacher accountability, the materials used in schools or in informal educational settings are often scrutinized for their alignment with educational standards. Just because an activity is fun or engaging is not enough to justify precious learning time. A producer who carefully reads the national and state standards and then creates a product that addresses a particular standard or set of standards will have multiple payoffs: The product will be "educationally sound" and more likely to be used by teachers and students.


The publication of A Nation at Risk (National Commission on Excellence in Education, 1983) launched the modern standards movement. Amid growing concerns about the educational preparation of the nation's youth, President George H.W. Bush and the nation's governors called an education summit in Charlottesville in September 1989. That summit established six broad goals for education that were to be reached by the year 2000.

The nation's professional organizations in math, science, social studies, and English/language arts took the next step. They defined national standards for their disciplines: what students should know and be able to do from grades K-12. Individual states then followed suit, creating their own standards, using the national standards as their guide. According to a 2001 American Federation of Teachers report, 48 states and the District of Columbia now have academic standards in all core subjects: mathematics, science, social studies, and English/language arts.

Why Standards Matter

According to a 2000 report of the Education Commission of the States, "Of all the education reforms that have emerged over the past 15 years, none has been more powerful and enduring than the push to establish challenging academic standards for students." Similarly, a 2000 public opinion poll by the Business Roundtable found that "81 percent of public school parents and 85 percent of the general public believe the push to raise academic standards is a 'move in the right direction.'"

The current Bush administration is strongly behind standards-based reform. The No Child Left Behind Act, which was signed into law January 8, 2002, ties student achievement to the consequences of funding cuts. Specifically, it sets up the following timeline by which states must have academic standards (know and able to do) in reading, math, and science for grades K-12:

  • 2002-03, administer tests in each grade span, 3-5, 6-9, 10-12
  • 2005-06, administer tests each year in grades 3-8
  • 2007-08, science achievement tested

This act also calls for state and district report cards. Within 12 years, all students must perform at proficient level.

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