All About Arizona Academic Standards

Published: July 7th, 2017
standards versus curriculum

What is the difference between standards and curriculum? What role does the Arizona Department of Education (ADE) play in each? These are common questions raised by parents and community members.

A standard is an expectation approved at the state-level for what the student should learn by the end of the school year. For example, Arizona Mathematics Standards expect a first grade student develops understanding of addition, subtraction, and strategies for addition and subtraction within 20. Standards vs Curriculum Infographic

Curriculum is the local decision of a district or charter governing board to determine the program selected to teach students to learn the standards, such as the detailed day-to-day teaching to ensure the student meets or exceeds academic expectations. Hypothetical example, Yellow Dog Elementary School District utilizes Casey’s Curriculum to teach students first grade math. Casey’s Curriculum includes resources, activities, lessons, assessments and textbooks utilized by the teacher to ensure student learning.

As one of many responsibilities, Superintendent Douglas pledged to frequently review and revise the Arizona Academic Standards. It is through this mission that the Continuous Improvement Standards Process (CISP) was created, a strategic plan to schedule frequent revisions of State Academic Standards. The Arizona Continuous Improvement Standards Process was intended to be a vehicle for public oversight, government accountability, and educational progress by creating a development/revision cycle for education standards.

This revision of the current system increases educator and parental voices in the process, and creates a more streamlined and standardized process, with specific timetables for revisions. In other words, we needed to make sure people with specific knowledge of education designed our curriculum, and they updated it as needed.

This cycle invites public input in multiple stages, which has proven valuable in anticipating education trends, and ensures continuous review of academic standards to prevent stagnation and hold leadership accountable for outcomes.

This process has been partially implemented to great success, having led to improved standards in:

  • Mathematics (adopted 2016)
  • English Language Arts (adopted 2016)
  • Arts Education (adopted 2015)
  • Physical Education (adopted 2015)
  • World and Native Languages (adopted 2015)

Stated Purpose of the Proposition

  1. Ensure all academic standards are continuously improved based on public input, recommendations from ADE specialists and recommendations from Arizona educators at every level, and that they are developed with evidence-based practices and research.
  2. Ensure Arizona’s standards represent the best interest of Arizona’s students.

Where We Stand

As our federal funding stream for the ADE Academic Standards Division ended, we were left at a crossroads. To see the CISP through, Superintendent Douglas recently requested a General Fund appropriation from the Arizona Legislature to offset the discontinued federal funding allocation utilized for this important CISP work. Unfortunately, funding was not allocated, and the livelihood of the CISP is at risk.

Among the endeavors threatened by lack of funding:

  • Review of science standards, revisions 2017
  • Review of social studies standards, revisions 2017
  • Health Education (2018)
  • Educational Technology (2018)
  • World and Native Languages (2020)
  • Physical Education (2020)
  • The Arts (2020)

The Arizona Continuous Improvement Standards Process gives millions of Arizonans of a voice in education. The plan was developed by the Arizona Department of Education, and approved by the State Board of Education, as a necessary upgrade of the existing program.

If you know you deserve a voice in education, Arizona education standards should be kept current, and agree that CISP must continue, this is your chance to #BeHeardAZ!

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