Cross-Cutting Guidance for the Elementary and Secondary Education Act - September 1996

A r c h i v e d  I n f o r m a t i o n

Theme 1. High standards for all children--with the elements of education aligned, so that everything is working together to help all students reach those standards

When children are not achieving to high levels, one response is to expect less. But research and experience have shown that when teachers, parents, and other influential adults expect all students to reach high standards, children will learn more and perform at higher levels. This theme of high standards in the ESEA signals that no child should be held to lowered expectations; each is expected to acquire the knowledge and skills to become a productive citizen in the 21st century. Experience also suggests that regardless of amount, resources will have the greatest impact when they are marshalled toward the achievement of a demanding goal and when all parts of the education system are aligned around the same goals.

* High standards that apply to all students. Regardless of the program or the child's needs, the same high standards must apply. As Vermont's Green Mountain Challenge states, "High standards for all students--no exceptions, no excuses." ESEA calls on schools to raise standards for all children--and all means all.

Example of North Dakota's English/Language Arts Content Standards for Grade 4

Students gather and organize information effectively through reading, writing, listening, and speaking. They achieve the benchmarks if they:

  • Understand the story elements, e.g., character, setting, conflict, plot, theme.

  • Understand the main idea and supporting details.

  • Use context clues to determine the meaning of words, e.g., root words, prefixes, suffixes, compound words, affixes, multiple meanings, key words, antonyms, synonyms, word families, syntax clues, semantic clues, context clues.

  • Use simple organizational structures, e.g., lists, introduction, body, conclusions.

  • Use simple reference tools, e.g., glossary, dictionary, globe, encyclopedia.

  • Use vocabulary knowledge to gather information.

  • Understand verbal and non-verbal cues.

  • Use speaking and listening to enhance comprehension, e.g., conversations, interviews, collaborative groups, taking turns.

  • Understand that creating mental pictures helps increase understanding, e.g., poetic images, figurative language.

* Alignment of all educational components. Challenging standards are much more likely to be met if the other important elements of teaching and learning--including assessments, instructional materials, and professional development--are aligned with the standards. Some States have explicit standards and curricula that are not well coordinated with other aspects of their educational system. For example, if State assessments are not tied to standards, then teachers have incentive to teach the content tested rather than the content embraced in the standards. The new ESEA encourages alignment of all major components affecting teaching and learning.

Baltimore County, MD:
Aligning Professional Development with High Standards

With a Goals 2000 grant and involvement of Towson State University, Baltimore County public schools are using school-based professional development to better prepare current and prospective teachers to help students reach State content and performance standards. At planning institutes in 1995, classroom teachers, university faculty, and principals developed strategies to reshape three district schools as "professional development schools," in which preservice teachers, inservice teachers, and teacher educators work, learn, and confer together to improve instruction and raise student achievement. All 100-plus teachers in the three schools are encouraged to participate in standards-based professional development, with the ultimate aim of spreading the professional development school model to other district sites and embedding it into preservice training for all Maryland teacher education candidates. In Baltimore County, professional development has addressed such topics as high expectations, State performance assessments, effective reading instruction, mathematics content standards, and teaching for at-risk students. To promote best practices, teachers also observe other classrooms and engage in dialogue with outstanding teachers and university faculty.


[II. Improving Teaching and Learning with ESEA Resources] [Table of Contents] [Theme 2. A Focus on Teaching and Learning]