Understanding State Documents

Every state has a different approach to setting expectations for teachers and students. Some states simply pass all control to local authorities. Others have extremely detailed state-level requirements. Still others have chosen a middle path, with comparatively vague state documents that leave details up to local authorities.

In general, guiding state documents come in three kinds: curriculum, standards and framework. The trick is that different states mean different things by these words. What passes for curriculum in one state might look like another state’s framework, and vice-versa. In addition, some states have documents laying out “Grade Level Expectations” or “Grade Cluster Expectations.”

These general descriptions may help non-specialists understand the technical terms that describe state documents, although usage varies widely from state to state:

Standards define the knowledge, concepts and skills that students should acquire.

Curriculum is, in theory, drawn from standards and sets out specific courses and the content that will comprise a course of study.

Frameworks provide support for the development, organization, implementation and assessment of standards and curricula.

Grade Level Expectations are specific outcomes defining what students should know at the end of a particular grade.