Analysis of Literacy Standards in Four States

Principal Investigators

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 standards—both 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


Research Completed

Publications to Date

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  1. 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.

    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.

    PDFAbstractOriginal Study