Standards and Sources of the Standards
Educational standards in Indian Prairie School District 204 (IPSD) align mostly with Federal and State norms. Such initiatives as Common Core developed by several states on a national level became a basis for almost all curriculums within district 204. For the organization of the pre-school education curriculum, IPSD follows the Illinois State Board of Education standards that cover a whole variety of curricular settings such as Math, Science, English Language Art (ELA), etc. In addition to that, if a child eligible for studying in IPSD has permission for at-home education, such education is also regulated by Illinois state standards. As in the case with norms for school districts, the board included there each essential subject.
Both elementary and middle school are again guided by State standards created by the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE). In addition, the nationwide Common Core Program also leaves an imprint on the district’s instructional program. In fact, IPSD uses separate Math, and ELA standards, while the rest are still elaborated by the state. However, ISBE also adopts and promotes standards developed in professional educational organizations. As such, social and emotional learning in IPSD is planned and implemented in accordance with standards designed by the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning. Additionally, ISPD practices offer programs aimed at international learners. ISPD uses its own local standards for developing a tailored program for language minorities for whom English is a second language. These programs concern mostly math and ELA.
Impact of the Standards on the Alignment of the Instructional Program
Indian Prairie district follows the state-developed standards in full and acts in accordance with Common Core and ISBE. As an example, IPSD grade six students learn to gradually develop college-level critical thinking. The district ELA program requires students to read and engage with peers in the discussion aimed at assessment and formation of a viewpoint. In addition, the understanding of the text is important, and the teachers instruct learners to write essays about the meaning of the book or a story. This program aligns with Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts & Literacy as it postulates that one of the core goals for sixth graders is to build critical thinking through collaboration and personal understanding through detail (Council of Chief State School Officers, n.d.). Thus, in the field of ELA IPSD complies fully with national standards.
Another example of alignment of the district’s educational programs is its math curriculum. IPSD website presents a description of the typical process, core competencies, and goals for mathematical education in middle school (Indian Prairie School District 204, n.d.). There it is stated that in seventh grade, for instance, students learn how to build proportions, solve linear equations, add, subtract, multiply and divide rational numbers, draw shapes, solve geometrical problems, and many other skills. The same is listed in the Common Core standards.
Benefits and Drawbacks of Aligning Standards to Instructional Program
The most evident negative impact of standardized education is the fact that it limits the ability of the educators to reach learning goals for each and every student in a class. For instance, from a 20 people class, there will almost always be 1-5 people who have special learning needs, and the standards are written for an average 5th-grade, or 8th-grade student do not apply. Such students require special attention which the teacher can rarely give without sacrificing their own time or the time allocated for other students in the class. Tailored and individual learning where teacher addresses each student’s needs personally, requires guidelines and not standards. Such a system was implemented, for instance, in Scandinavian countries.
The above-mentioned problem also creates disengagement. As learners develop and mature, their interests become more and more diverse, which a standardized curriculum cannot address fully. As a result, students may become less interested in the material provided in class.
Nonetheless, standardized education programs have more benefits than drawbacks. The United States on the whole and Illinois, in particular, is not yet developed to a level that allows providing every student with personal education at the expense of the budget. Therefore, the majority of students still remain a priority. Standards allow easy and cheap implementation in a majority of settings which allows saving state budgets and creating quality instructional programs. In addition, as most of the standards are developed in collaboration with the community, educators, and politicians, the educational outcomes embedded with programs usually deliver outcomes that satisfy almost all members of these groups.
Promotion of Standards
The district employs both active and passive means of promoting the new standards for instruction, curriculum, and assessment. As the passive method, one can name using social media such as Facebook and YouTube and a website to post and advertise the content of new, standardized curriculums, and instruction standards. This provides an opportunity to reach wider publicity and gather supporters. Also, ISPD creates parental comities and boards that advocate, among everything else, for standardized instruction programs. In addition to that, the district organized local meetings with school board members, other officials, parents, and teachers to discuss the implementation of the standards into the district’s curriculum.
The understanding of the need for standardization in the districts’ board has emerged before their implementation. Yet there were still team members who did not understand what positive impact they could bring. I participated in member meetings aimed to provide a clear explanation of the core features of the educational intervention and what it could bring to the district. I was once a speaker at such meeting.
As for professional growth, I am far from a professional myself, but I still try to develop and assist others on that path. Together we search for learning opportunities and collaborate to become better educators. I engage in discussions about the need for professional development that inspire some participants to increase their competencies in the matters they seem to have blind spots in.
The shift in Thinking and District Improvement
The recently adopted standards provide a great basis for quality practices, well-thought learning goals for students, and points to be mindful of for teachers. By continuing to contribute to enlarging the knowledge and skills pool of young learners, teachers will soon understand the benefit of the program shaped in accordance with professional, state, and national standards. The shift will be the understanding of the fact that thousands of experts around the United States developed them. Such understanding will provide motivation for further improvement of the district by raising the quality of instruction, assessment, and curriculum. A set understanding of those benefits will in the future, allow modifying them to suit future learning needs instead of questioning their significance.
Council of Chief State School Officers. (n.d.) Common core state standards for English language arts & literacy in history/social studies, science, and technical subjects. Web.
Indian Prairie School District 204. (n.d.). Middle school course descriptions. Web.