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Standards are an important first step in improving Education by raising expectations for all students.

Learning standards are written statements of what students should know and be able to do as a result of their education at every grade level. They are also called “Content Standards.” Learning standards describe what teachers are supposed to teach and what students are supposed to learn. In Massachusetts, the standards are spelled out in books called Curriculum Frameworks. They provide guidelines for what schools should teach; they define the overall goals of student learning. Each public school must use these standards, or Frameworks, as guidelines for what is taught.

Currently, Massachusetts Curriculum Frameworks (standards) are developed for these subject areas:

o Arts
o English Language Arts
o Foreign Languages
o Comprehensive Health
o Mathematics
o History and Social Science
o Science and Technology/Engineering
o English Language Proficiency Benchmarks and Outcomes for English Language Learners
o Vocational Technical Educational Frameworks

The English Language Proficiency Benchmarks and Outcomes is a supplement to the English Language Arts Curriculum Framework. It is intended to guide English language instruction for students who are just learning English for the first time.

The Curriculum Frameworks are online at www.doe.mass.edu/frameworks/current.html. Many schools keep them in the school office or library, and they are available in many public libraries. Copies may also be purchased for $6 from the State Bookstore by calling (617) 727-2834 or (413) 784-1376 or emailing bookstore@sec.state.ma.us.

Performance Standards

Performance standards describe the levels of mastery for each learning standard. In Massachusetts, these levels are “Above Proficient,” “Advanced,” “Proficient,” “Needs Improvement,” and “Warning/Failure.” Students take MCAS tests each year to determine how well they have learned the standards in various academic subjects. These tests are part of the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System. Click here for MCAS performance level definitions.

A state and national goal is for all students to reach “proficiency” in English Language Arts (reading and writing) and Mathematics by 2014. “Proficiency” means that a student has an understanding of the subject area tested that is appropriate for his or her grade level. Students’ performance levels are determined by their performance on MCAS tests.

Every fall following a student’s spring participation in MCAS assessments, parents receive a “Parent/Guardian Report” on their child’s MCAS results for each MCAS test the child took. Click here to learn more about MCAS and how it is scored.

How Can Standards Help Students Learn?

• Written learning expectations give parents, students, and teachers a clear understanding of what each student should know and be able to do, and by when. Since learning goals by grade are the same for all Massachusetts public school students, standards help assure equity.

• By clarifying the goals of education, standards give parents, students, and teachers a tool for comparing student work to the standard specified.

• Standards-based education makes it clearer to parents, students, and teachers when children have and have not achieved the quality or work that is expected for mastery. This makes it easier to work together to help students improve.

Massachusetts Curriculum Frameworks are models of world-class learning and performance standards. Massachusetts provides national leadership in the mission to bring all students to high levels of achievement.


    “A nation without true career- and college-ready standards is lying to its children. A nation with low academic standards is telling students and parents that our kids are doing well—when, in fact, they are not.”

    Arne Duncan, U.S. Secretary of Education, March 20, 2009