Practice Activity: Understanding Standards-based Reform
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Understand the Big Picture

. Standards-based reform is a national effort that has been embraced by every state to varying degrees. The No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act further reaffirms the critical role of state standards by requiring annual state assessments that are aligned with each state’s content standards in reading and mathematics. To provide some background knowledge in standards-based reform, you can view and listen to Dr. Mike Hickey, Executive Director for the Center for Leadership in Education at Towson University, share information about the national context as well as Maryland’s reform efforts. You may choose to use some of his powerpoint slides in your own presentation to staff.

. Dr. Mike Hickey presentation

In 1990, Maryland became one of the first states in the nation to reform its educational system by holding schools accountable for high levels of education and measurable results for all students. A key component of Maryland’s reform effort has been a state assessment program that tests what students know and are able to do on the Maryland Content Standards.

The Content Standards are based on national and international studies of student achievement and recommendations of educational reports and have been embedded in the Maryland State Curriculum. The State Curriculum also assists local school systems in developing program, course, and unit outcomes.

In a nutshell, Maryland’s standards based reform is based on the premise that three critical elements are in place.

  • State Content Standards — what students should know and be able to do
  • State Performance Expectations for students, schools, school systems and the state
  • Aligned curriculum, instruction, staff development, and assessment
We have learned that having state content standards and assessments is not sufficient. The missing piece is changing teacher behavior at the classroom level. We need a comprehensive system of curriculum/instruction, staff development, and assessment to address the alignment of classroom activities with state expectations for students. We must ensure that teachers:
  • Know what to teach
  • Know what good student performance looks like
  • Know how to monitor student progress
  • Know what to do if students are not progressing
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