Analysis of Literacy Standards in Four States
Sheila Valencia, University of Washington
Elizabeth Dutro, Cleveland State University
This research drew on analyses of four states and districts that explored the relation between state and local standards, specifically, how state-level reading standards are translated into district curricula. Considerable attention, time, and resources are spent constructing state Language Arts content standards, yet little is known about how, or if, these state standards influence local curricula, teaching practice, or student learning. And, in states and districts where accountability pressure is high, state assessments rather than standards, may receive the bulk of district-level attention. The answers to the following research questions provided important insights into the potential of state standards to improve teaching and learning.
Main Research Questions
- In what ways do district standards align with state standardsboth in content and in underlying philosophy of literacy learning?
- How have state standards and state reform efforts influenced the development of district standards and local reform?
- What process, if any, have local districts engaged in to align their curricula to state standards?
- How is that process, and the actual district standards document, influenced by the presence or absence of high-stakes assessments?
Case study research, document analysis
Publications to Date
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The Relation Between State and District Literacy Standards: Issues of Alignment, Influence, and Utility
A Research Report by Elizabeth Dutro and Sheila W. Valencia, January 2004.Description:
This Research Report explores how state content standards in reading affect local content standards. The study, undertaken in four states, shows that under the guise of "alignment" between state and local standards, there is considerable variability, and that the usefulness of the state's efforts to promote local standards-based reform in this areas of the curriculum depends on various attributes of the state policy, the characteristic relationship between state and local level, and local engagement in professional development.Abstract:PDFAbstractOriginal Study
At the core of standards-based reform are content standards—statements about what students should know and be able to do. Although it is state standards that are the focus of much public attention and consume substantial resources, many local school districts have developed their own content standards in the major subject areas. However, we know very little about the role state standards have played in local standards efforts. In this article we report on a study of the relationship between state and local content standards in reading in four states and districts. Through interviews with key personnel in each state and district and analyses of state and local content standards in reading, we explored the alignment between state and district content standards, the path of influence between the two, and the role of high-stakes tests in state and districts reform efforts. Our findings suggest that alignment had multiple meanings and that state standards had differential utility to districts, ranging from helpful to benign to nuisance. This wide variability was influenced by the nature of the standards themselves, the state vision of alignment and local control, districts' own engagement and commitment to professional development, and student performance on high-stakes tests. We explore implications for the future of content standards as the cornerstone of standards-based reform and argue that states must promote district ownership and expand accountability if state content standards are to have any relevance for local efforts to reform teaching and learning.