2000-09-09 / Columnists

Focus On 27

Focus On 27

School District News And Notes
Performance Standards: An Overview

In the early 1990’s, the New York City Board of Education collaborated with The Learning Research and Development Center at the University of Pittsburgh, The National Center on Education and the Economy, and other states and urban districts to create a system that measures students progress as compared to national and international standards. The program, called New Standards, forms the basis for New York City’s performance standards.

To date performance standards for literacy and mathematics have been integrated into the New York City Public Schools curriculum. This year a great emphasis will be placed on the science standards. As each curriculum area is introduced, teachers take part in professional development activities. They are trained in the methods prescribed by performance standards. Administrators and staff developers at schools assist classroom teachers in the proper implementation of the program.

Performance standards are a series of goals, or benchmarks, which all students are expected to reach and demonstrate proficiency in. These goals are based on necessary skills, rather than minimal requirements. Like an Olympic athlete who must reach a certain skill level before competing on a world class level, students will be expected to have certain skills when they leave school. Achieving standards based education goals will better prepare students for the life ahead of them as they apply the skills they’ve learned in the "real world".

Performance standards give parents and students a clear understanding of the requirements for achievement, and specific criteria for what a student must be able to do to be promoted. Children learn by example. Standard level work is displayed and discussed. It becomes the goal. Lessons focus on the techniques needed to reach that goal. As students learn these skills they share their work with their teachers and classmates and are asked to make critical judgements regarding work quality. They improve and refine their work to reach the standard(s).

A student’s progress throughout the term is measured using several criteria. Ongoing assessment of a child’s classroom work including writing, reading, mathematics and verbal skills offers students a continuous awareness of their personal strengths and weaknesses. It enables teachers to tailor more individual attention to his/her students. In addition, standardized citywide testing for English language arts and mathematics are also factors into the overall assessment, as is student’s attendance. No single assessment tool can be used as the sole judgement for promotion. Parents are kept informed of their children’s standings through report cards, letter and parent/teacher conferences.

The New York City Board of Education has created a series of grade specific booklets called What Did You Learn In School Today: What Every Student Should Know…And Be Able To Do! These booklets clearly outline what students should master for end of term promotion and how their work is assessed. They also offer strategies and resources to help parents make their children better learners and achieve promotional standards. The booklets are made available to parents annually through the schools. Copies of the booklets, in all grade levels through high school, are also available on the New York City Board of Education website:

http://www.nycenet.edu, under Parent Guides.

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