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From who the president is to how to tell time, what you’re expected to learn in school each year depends on where you live in the U.S.

South Dakota’s second-graders are supposed to learn how to tell time to the minute. In Alaska, students might be forgiven for being late – they aren’t required to learn how to tell time to the minute until fifth grade.

Academic standards range widely across the country for even the simplest set of facts. Such disparities are one reason why 48 states jointly developed a set of common standards, which seek to provide a single, clear definition of what should be taught in English and math in America’s public schools from kindergarten through 12th grade. The common standards, released on June 2nd, are also intended to better prepare U.S. children for college and the workplace.

As many as 15 states are expected to adopt the grade-level requirements for reading, writing and math by the end of June. Another 15 states are expected to come on board by the end of August and 10 more by year’s end.

Click on a question to find out what grade each state teaches it, and then click on an individual state to read the exact language of its standard.

Want to see the full standards for states?

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Sarah Butrymowicz oversees and contributes to The Hechinger Report’s investigative and data work covering all levels of education, from early childhood to K-12 to higher education. She has worked at...

Letters to the Editor

8 Letters

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  1. “How to use an adverb?”

    1) The standards you cite often do not address this specific point, for example in Connecticut “write three or more paragraphs, maintaining focus on a specific topic and using a variety of sentence beginnings, e.g., start with an adverb” is not the same thing at all.

    2) Given that Massachusetts — highest achievement — and Michigan — not so much — are the two states that don’t require this by your measure until sixth grade, what does that say about the importance of this issue, particularly in terms of grade level timing?

    3) Your wording of the prototype standard simply doesn’t reflect a sophisticated understanding of how humans learn to use language. You don’t have to know what an adverb is to use an adverb. If you ask a three year old about their trip to an amusement park and they say “The roller coaster went really fast!” then they know how to “use an adverb.”

  2. Tom — thanks for your comment. A few thoughts in response:

    #1 — Agreed. That’s kinda the point — that there’s absolutely no uniformity across states in when, or even what, concepts are taught. In a globalized world of highly mobile people, it probably makes a lot less sense for standards to be all over the map than it did a century ago.

    #2 — What I find most interesting about the Massachusetts vs. Michigan comparison is that the MA standard is much more modest and realistic than the MI standard. The MA standard passes the Goldilocks test: not too much, not too little, but just right. The MI standard, by contrast, is a perfect example of one that becomes meaningless as it seeks to be all-encompassing: by the end of sixth grade, students in Michigan will correctly use a “variety of grammatical structures in writing including indefinite and predicate pronouns; transitive and intransitive verbs; adjectives and adverbial phrases; adjective and adverbial subordinate clauses; comparative adverbs and adjectives; superlatives, conjunctions; compound sentences; appositives; independent and dependent clauses; introductory phrases; periods; commas; quotation marks; and use of underlining and italics for specific purposes.”

    This type of standard isn’t much help to teachers — it’s too much, and it’s too jargon-y. It illustrates well why the Common Core State Standards Initiative sought to produce standards that were “fewer, clearer and higher” than what most states currently have.

    #3 — Agreed. But, again, that’s the whole point. It’s impossible to write a statement — on adverbs, or anything — that captures precisely how a given concept is expected to be learned in all 50 states because the current standards are all over the place. Is it possible to use an adverb correctly without knowing what an adverb is? Of course! But isn’t it preferable to know how language actually works rather than to get things right (or wrong) just by guessing? The common standards seem eminently reasonable to me here: by the end of third grade, students will be able to “explain the function of nouns, pronouns, verbs, adjectives, and adverbs in general and their functions in particular sentences.”

  3. Explaining how to ride a bike or understanding the physics of a spinning wheel will never help kids ride the bike. Kids just get on the bike fall down a few times and are soon riding all over the neighborhood. Explaining “the function of nouns, pronouns, verbs, adjectives …” will not make good writing. Writing and reading with a purpose develops good writing. In a connected world facts are as close as my cell phone.

  4. If students all know all of the information by the time they graduate from high school, what difference does it make WHEN they learn the information?

  5. > If students all know all of the information by the time they graduate from high school, what difference does it make WHEN they learn the information?

    Some decades back, I moved from a school A to school B, that taught algebra & geometry in the opposite order.
    Took a few weeks to figure that one out.

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