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Is There a De Facto National Curriculum? Evidence from State Content Standards

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### Is There a De Facto National Curriculum? Evidence from State Content Standards

Andrew Porter and Morgan Polikoff, University of Pennsylvania

John Smithson,

University of Wisconsin-Madison

Background

- Success of standards based reform depends on alignment
- National vs. state content standards
- Policy attributes theory

Questions

- To what extent does there exist a de facto national curriculum, as represented by state content standards?
- How focused are state content standards?
- How demarcated is content across grade levels?
- To what extent are state content standards aligned with national professional standards?

Procedures

- Surveys of Enacted Curriculum
- Two-dimensional (content & cognitive demand)
- ELAR, science, mathematics
- Coarse- and fine-grained analysis
- Alignment
- Scale from 0 to 1 with 1=perfect alignment
- Calculated at the fine grain

Data

- Completed since 2003
- Grades 4 & 8
- 14 states in mathematics, ELAR; 13 states in science; NSE & NCTM
- Grades K-8 or 1-8
- 10 states in math, 7 in ELAR, 4 in science; NSE & NCTM

Results

Average alignment, maximums, and minimums among

state content standards and national professional standards

Coarse-grained content maps for the two most aligned states, ELAR grade 4

Alignment = .48

Coarse-grained content maps for the two least aligned states, ELAR grade 8

Alignment = .07

Coarse-grained content maps for the most aligned state, Science grades 4 and 8

Alignment = .52

Coarse-grained content maps for the least aligned state, Science grades 4 and 8

Alignment = .12

Coarse-grained content maps for the two most aligned states, Mathematics grades 1-8

Alignment = .62

Coarse-grained content maps for the two least aligned states, Mathematics grades 1-8

Alignment = .36

Coarse grained content maps for the most aligned state to NSE Standards, Science grades 1-8

Alignment = .50

Coarse grained content maps for the least aligned state to NCTM Standards, Mathematics grades 1-8

Alignment = .35

Conclusions

- No evidence of a de facto national curriculum
- Alignments moderate when aggregated across grades, low for individual grades
- Some evidence of small core curriculum
- 8-13 cells per subject with emphasis > .01
- Capture 10-36% of content depending on state/subject

Fine-grained content maps for Comprehension for the two most aligned states, ELAR grade 4

Fine-grained content maps for Writing Components for the two most aligned states, ELAR grade 4

Fine-grained content maps for Comprehension for the two least aligned states, ELAR grade 8

Fine-grained content maps for Writing Components for the two least aligned states, ELAR grade 8

Fine-grained content maps for Earth Systems for the most aligned state, Science grades 4 and 8

Fine-grained content maps for Ecology for the most aligned state, Science grades 4 and 8

Fine-grained content maps for Earth Systems for the least aligned state, Science grades 4 and 8

Fine-grained content maps for Ecology for the least aligned state, Science grades 4 and 8

Fine-grained content maps for Number Sense for the two most aligned states, Mathematics grades 1-8

Fine-grained content maps for Basic Algebra for the two most aligned states, Mathematics grades 1-8

Fine-grained content maps for Number Sense for the two least aligned states, Mathematics grades 1-8

Fine-grained content maps for Basic Algebra for the two least aligned states, Mathematics grades 1-8

Contrast of most and least focused states, fine grained for Comprehension, ELAR grade 4

Contrast of most and least focused states, fine grained for Writing Components, ELAR grade 4

Fine grained content maps for Earth Systems for the most aligned state to NSE Standards, Science grades 1-8

Fine grained content maps for Ecology for the most aligned state to NSE Standards, Science grades 1-8

Fine grained content maps for Number Sense for the least aligned state to NCTM Standards, Mathematics grades 1-8

Fine grained content maps for Basic Algebra for the least aligned state to NCTM Standards, Mathematics grades 1-8

Conclusions, continued

- Within-state 4-8 alignment as high or higher than between-state alignment
- State alignment with national professional standards no greater than among states
- Considerable variation across states in level of focus
- States use between 2%-14% of the cells to capture 80% of the total curriculum

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