Defining Academic Standards

(From Nilolay, P., Grady, S., Stefonek, T. (2000). “Wisconsin’s Model Academic Standards for Theatre.” Madison, WI: Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction.)

What are academic standards?

Academic standards specify what students should know and be able to do, what they might be asked to do to give evidence of standards, and how well they must perform. They include content, performance, and proficiency standards.

—Content standards refer to what students should know and be able to do.

—Performance standards tell how students will show that they are meeting a standard.

—Proficiency standards indicate how well students must perform.

Why are academic standards necessary?

Standards serve as rigorous goals for teaching and learning. Setting high standards enables students, parents, educators, and citizens to know what students should have learned at a given point in time. The absence of standards has consequences similar to lack of goals in any pursuit. Without clear goals, students may be unmotivated and confused.

Contemporary society is placing immense academic demands on students. Clear statements about what students must know and be able to do are essential to ensure that our schools offer students the opportunity to acquire the knowledge and skills necessary for success.

Why are state-level academic standards important?

Public education is a state responsibility. The state superintendent and legislature must ensure that all children have equal access to high quality educational programs. At a minimum, this requires clear statements of what all children in the state should know and be able to do as well as evidence that students are meeting these expectations. Furthermore, academic standards form a sound basis on which to establish the content of a statewide assessment system.

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