Standards-based curriculum has become the norm in education. The use of standards gives teachers a way to measure student progress and help students succeed. Focusing on critical and analytical thinking as well as communication skills, standards provide a guideline detailing what every student should know in math and language arts. Becoming familiar with the standards allows educators to be effective in the classroom.

Elementary Years

In elementary school, standards in language arts require a deep understanding of text, regardless of the level at which students are reading. Even very young students are expected to read and understand literature at grade level, as well as think critically and analytically about the text. Students should be able to explain their reading and writing, as standards emphasize oral skills as well.

In math, students in kindergarten through second grade should focus on concepts and problem-solving skills related to addition and subtraction; grades three through five standards focus on concepts, skills and problem solving related to multiplication and division of whole numbers and fractions. Students are expected to gain a strong fundamental foundation so that they're able to understand and apply concepts with fluency and solve problems both in and out of the classroom.

Middle School

Middle school language arts standards focus on students’ ability to understand key details from a text and the structure of a story, and integrate their understanding of what they read in grade-level texts. Standards require middle school students to dig deeper in their thinking than in previous years. For example, students may be asked to analyze how a specific sentence fits in to the structure of a text, or to determine an author’s point of view or purpose for writing. Students need to be familiar with the concept of themes and how they are conveyed in stories. They should also display the ability to compare and contrast their thoughts with another student.

Middle school math students need to divide multidigit numbers and add, subtract, multiply and divide multidigit decimals. Standards at this age focus on four broad areas: ratio and rate as they connect to whole-number multiplication and division; division of fractions and rational numbers, including negative numbers; writing, interpreting and using expressions and equations; and developing an understanding of statistical thinking.

High School

High School standards are geared toward college and career readiness. In language arts, the overall focus is on key ideas, details, craft and structure, integration of knowledge and ideas as well as comprehension skills. Students should be able to create hypotheses based on texts they have read and defend their thoughts both verbally and in written form. Math is usually organized by conceptual category, including understanding quantity, algebraic functions, geometry, modeling, probability and statistics. For example, students need to be able to plot points on a graph to show their understanding of the relationship between the x and y axes, as well as to use formulas to solve equations such as to find the slope of a line.

Common Characteristics

Forty three states have adopted Common Core Standards; those states opting out have developed their own standards-based curriculum. There are common characteristics involved in standards-based curriculum: The teacher's job is to teach the content until students have mastered it, using pretests and frequent benchmarks as guides. Teachers are charged with being knowledgeable of the standards and modeling their classrooms around them. Work is integrated into all content areas. For example, words are expected to be spelled correctly in social studies, science and history assignments -- not just in language arts.

Most textbook companies and state education websites offer standards-based classroom checklists. Visit your state's department of education website or your textbook online resources, like Glencoe/Mcgraw Hill, for specific information.