Creating a Common Understanding: Standards, Curriculum, and Instructional Materials
Educators and publishers often use the terms standards and curriculum or curriculum and instructional materials interchangeably. Moreover, many educators consider their instructional materials to be their curriculum. As discussed below, each of these terms represents a distinct component of an educational program with successful student outcomes as its goal.
The federal government, through ESSA, requires that each state create learning standards for public schools in three subjects — English language arts/reading, mathematics, and science. Most states have gone beyond ESSA’s minimum to set standards in social studies, career and technical education, world languages, and other subjects. State standards prescribe the minimum expectations for what students must know and be able to do by the end of the course.
Whereas state standards are defined at the state level, curriculum is developed at the district level and is the product of local policy making. While the standards set forth the learning expectations for each grade level and subject/course, the curriculum is the district’s road map for getting there.
The district’s curriculum may be reflected in documents titled, Scope and Sequence , Units
of Instruction, or Pacing Guide . These curriculum documents generally divide the school year into 6- or 9-week units of instruction. Each instructional unit prescribes the state standards to be covered, instructional guidance for teaching the knowledge and skills required by those standards, suggested instructional materials for teaching those
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