Where you live can have a big impact on the kind of education and school services available to your child.
That’s because states and local communities decide what public school students are expected to learn in math, reading and other subjects. Standards are set by grade. They begin in kindergarten and continue through to requirements for high school graduation.
The goal of these standards is to make sure all students in the state are taught certain subjects and skills. States test students to see how well its schools and school districts are teaching these subjects and skills.
“Students with learning and attention issues—including learning disabilities—aren’t exempt from state standards.”
Different Standards in Different States
For many years, school standards have varied widely from state to state. Under the U.S. Constitution, education is considered a state responsibility. States have the power to decide which skills students should learn in different grades. States also have the power to choose the tests that check how much students are learning.
One thing states have in common is achievement gaps. Test results show children in wealthy suburbs outperform kids in low-income neighborhoods. Students without disabilities also outperform students with disabilities.
In an effort to close these gaps, in 2001 the No Child Left Behind Act began addressing schools with consistently low test scores. Sometimes schools were provided with free tutoring. But other times, underperforming schools were shut down. Some states responded to this pressure by lowering their academic standards or making their tests easier.
The result? A student who is considered a proficient (or pretty good) reader in one state might not meet another state’s standards for basic reading skills. Students meeting expectations at the state level might not perform well on national assessments.
Adopting Common Core State Standards
To cut down on state-to-state inconsistencies, states have been encouraged to adopt what’s called the Common Core State Standards. The goal is that all U.S. students finish school ready to start college or a career.
Over 40 states and the District of Columbia have agreed to adopt Common Core. Some states have already started using its standards. Many others are on track to start using Common Core standards by the 2015–2016 school year.
What State Standards Mean for Students With Learning and Attention Issues
Students with learning and attention issues—including learning disabilities—aren’t exempt from state standards. They still have to take state tests and meet state and local requirements for graduation. But depending on their abilities, they might be given what’s called an alternative assessment.
If your child qualifies for an Individualized Education Program (IEP), ask the school about ways to help your child during state tests. For example, if your child has dyslexia, she might be given extra time to complete the test. Or she might be allowed to have portions of the test read aloud to her. Other common accommodations include allowing a student to take tests in a quiet location free of distractions and to take breaks during the tests.
If you’re curious about how Common Core State Standards affect your child, explore this checklist of questions to ask the school. You can help your child stay on top of schoolwork by finding out which skills kids are expected to learn in each grade.