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February 17, 2004, Extra Credit
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February 17, 2004
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A State Defines Its Standards

As part of No Child Left Behind, every state defines its own standards and expectations for what children should know and when they should know it. Following are excerpts from a recent article in the Providence Journal detailing Rhode Island's efforts to provide more specificity to its standards:

"The state Department of Education unveils this month its most specific criteria yet for what elementary and middle school students should be learning each year in reading, writing and math.

"Instead of vague goals such as requiring kindergartners through fourth graders to 'individually and collaboratively use language arts to formulate questions and problems relating to various topics,' (a framework found on the [Rhode Island] Education Department's Web site), the new requirements are much more detailed and grade-specific.

"A second grader is expected to identify synonyms and antonyms; a third grader should be able to distinguish a homonym from a homophone; and a fourth grader shows his or her breadth of vocabulary by discerning shades of meanings, such as the difference between cold and freezing.

"In math, a second grader should grasp numerals 0 to 199; a third grader should understand 0 to 999; and a fourth grader should comprehend 0 to 99,999.

"'This makes clear what content and skills students need to know and be able to do at a specific grade,' said Diane Schaefer, who runs the Education Department's office of instruction.

"They are not meant to replace a wider curriculum; rather, the grade-specific guidelines should be the foundation of each district's learning plan, Schaefer says.

"The expectations also serve as a blueprint for yearly state tests, which the federal No Child Left Behind initiative will require in grades three through eight and a high school year.

"Rhode Island education officials collaborated with their counterparts in Vermont and New Hampshire to create the expectations, and together have hired a company to draft new tests that all three states will use."

"Many teachers have longed for guidelines as concrete and clear as the new grade-specific expectations, say some Rhode Island educators."

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NCLB Extra Credit is a regular look at the No Child Left Behind Act, President Bush's landmark education reform initiative passed with bipartisan support in Congress.

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Last Modified: 08/13/2013