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Setting the Standards

Category: Where The Child Things Are
Posted: September 7, 2017

By: Megan Stepniewski, Youth Associate

Student taking a test.School is back in session, and while parents rejoice for the moment, they soon dread all the information overload of placement testing, reading levels, MAP testing, Common Core State Standards, Next Generation Science Standards, STEAM based learning, the Daily 5, Lexile, Fountas and Pinnell, research based practices, response to intervention, and all this other educational jargon!

What is all this? When did sending your kids to school become so complicated?

Take a deep breath. You’re in good hands. Libraries offer a plethora of information on a lot of these topics that explain their origin, their reason, and their implementation. Although I won’t hit all the jargon I flew through, we will focus (in brief) on the most prevalent and also most controversial topic: Educational Standards.

As an Early Elementary Educator, I have had to do extensive research and have had a lot of practice on implementing various standards throughout the years. I, of course, have my own personal opinion on them, but here I want to give you an unbiased break down on the origin of and reason for the most relevant and commonly used standards, so you can look further into them and make an informed decision about them.

Logo for the Illinois State Board of Education
Illinois State Standards

Surprisingly to some, Educational Standards have been around for quite a while in some states. Illinois already had general educational standards in place before Common Core; however, those standards were only first implemented in 1997.

Most of those standards are no longer in use since Illinois adopted the Common Core State Standards in 2010. Here are some things you should know about the history of Illinois State Standards:

Who Was Involved

  • Seven writing teams with team leaders were selected on the basis of state and national expertise and reputation.
  • A coordinating team composed of a cross-section of Illinois constituencies guided the production of the drafts.*
  • The University of Illinois at Springfield
  • Seven refinement teams which included educators, business people, parents, workforce preparation specialists, and technology specialists
  • Illinois citizens were also invited to complete surveys and review the standards organized by the University of Illinois at Springfield.
  • An external advisory team, consisting of both supporters and opponents of the standards, analyzed issues that came from the public comment data.
  • Illinois State Board of Education


  • 1985: Illinois adopted 34 State Goals for Learning.
  • 1995: Seven writing teams with team leaders were gathered to begin writing the framework of the Illinois State Standards due to the Illinois Quality School Act passing (the bill was officially signed by the Governor on August 6, 1996).
  • 1996: Drafts of the framework were released for public comment in July.
  • 1997: Comments and surveys were returned and analyzed by the University of Illinois at Springfield, under contract with the State Board of Education. In February, the teams reassembled and worked on revisions. Later in the year, the standards were finalized, accepted, and ready to be put into action.


  • To begin an education reform.
  • To maintain high expectations for all students as a way to accomplish fairness in education.
  • To create standards that are more accessible for students with disabilities and students with English as a second language.
  • To create a better way to measure student progress.
  • To keep districts, schools, teachers, and students more accountable.
  • To unify the what schools across Illinois expect their students to know and learn by the time they graduate.

Common Issues/Controversies:

  • These standards were still in effect up until Common Core was adapted, and were not updated very often.
  • It is unclear as to exactly who participated in guiding and creating the framework and standards for Illinois.
  • Although it attempted to make the standards more clear, they were still rather vague.
  • An issue around the implementation of these standards was whether or not standard-based education was actually useful and effective.
  • It allowed for more standardized and benchmark testing in schools.

Visit the old Illinois State Board of Education Standards webpage to learn more. The current Illinois State Board of Education Standards webpage now reflects Common Core State Standards and Next Generation Science Standards that have since been adopted. Information that was asterisked was pulled directly from the old ISBE Standards webpage.

Common Core State Standards Initiative: Preparing America's Students for College & Career
Common Core State Standards

The Common Core State Standards are probably the most well known of all the educational standards out there at this moment. It is certainly the most debated and most controversial among many educational circles.

Regardless, here’s some things you should know about these standards:

Who Was Involved

  • State Leaders (Governors and State Commissioners of Education)
  • National Governors Association Center for Best Practices (NGA Center)
  • Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO)
  • National Education Association (NEA)
  • American Federation of Teachers (AFT)
  • National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM)
  • National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE)
  • And many other smaller educational based organizations and teachers for feedback and constructive criticism.


  • 2007: The idea for updating and unifying state standards arises during the Council of Chief State School Officers’ Annual Policy Forum.
  • 2008: Proposal for the Common Core State Standards is made and communicated across states.
  • 2009: States commit to the development of the standards with a focus on Mathematics and English. Development begins on the college and career ready standards to address what students are expected to know and understand by the time they graduate from high school.* Grade by grade standards are developed based on the college and career ready standards. First drafts of both sets of standards are created and begin feedback, criticism, and editing processes.
  • 2010: Revised draft of the standards goes through the feedback, criticism, and editing process again. Independent reviews of the standards begin.*
  • June 2010: NGA and CCSSO release the final Common Core State Standards. CCSSO and NGA release the report summarizing the work of the validation committee, which reviewed the standards and found them:*
    • Reflective of the core knowledge and skills in English language arts and mathematics that students need to be college and career ready;*
    • Appropriate in terms of their level of clarity and specificity;*
    • Comparable to the expectations of other leading nations;*
    • Informed by available research or evidence;*
    • The result of processes that reflect best practices for standards development;*
    • A solid starting point for adoption of cross-state common core standards; and*
    • A sound basis for eventual development of standards-based assessments.*
  • 2011-2012: States review the Common Core State Standards and decide whether or not to implement them throughout the education systems in their state.
  • 2013: 45 States are in process of implementing the standards locally.
  • 2014: Some states drop out and 43 States begin implementing the standards locally.
  • 2015: Another state drops out and only 42 States implement the standards locally.


  • Prior to the Common Core State Standards, each state had their own educational standards which determined what students should know by the end of each grade and what they should know before entering college/the work force. Each state varied and emphasized different knowledge bases. One of the purposes of the Common Core State Standards was to unify the standards across the United States.
  • College and Career Readiness Standards: what students are expected to know and understand by the time they graduate from high school.
  • K-12 Standards: what students should know by the end of each grade in elementary school through high school.

Common Issues/Controversies

  • CCSS changed and added additional standardized testing.
  • The demographics used to create the standards were focused on successful and affluent schools and didn’t take into account schools that were underperforming or had underprivileged students. Implementing such high standards in those schools is setting those students up to fail.
  • Textbook corporations (such as McGraw Hill and Pearson) took advantage of the CCSS “scare” to create new curriculum when some of the curriculums in use were completely suitable for the CCSS, making unnecessary changes and complications to their curriculums to turn a profit.
  • CCSS prevents diversification of knowledge and how things are learned, making a cookie cutter type system of “successful learning.”
  • CCSS only covers Mathematics and Language Arts.

Visit the Common Core State Standards website or check out Common Core Standards for Parents for Dummies & Common Core (Yea/Nay) for more information. Information that was asterisked was pulled directly from the CCSS website.

Ultimately, it is important to know that Common Core State Standards cover Language Arts and Mathematics and Next Generation Science Standards only cover the sciences. Standards for social studies, history, and health/sex education have not received any national standards and Illinois still operates on its own developed standards for these areas. With the implementation of Common Core State Standards and Next Generation Science Standards, Illinois did update all other standards that it developed and are still in use.

I hope this little breakdown helps you understand the basis and origins of the most common standards in use today in Illinois and the upcoming school year is a little less stressful for you. Good luck out there!

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