Standards-based reform is one of the most prominent features of the current educational landscape. Across the nation, states have adopted standards that describe the content that schools are expected to teach and that students are expected to master. The requirement for standards and aligned assessments has been a feature of federal legislation since the Improving America's Schools Act (IASA) of 1994, and it is the centerpiece of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB) (20 U.S.C. 6311 et seq.). That act, which was signed into law in January 2002, has exerted a strong influence on state and local decisions about education policy and practice since then. The NCLB requirements represent one important milestone in the evolution of a movement that had been in place for more than a decade prior to the law's enactment. This paper summarizes the history of the standards-based reform movement, discusses what we know about how this movement has shaped educators' practices and student outcomes, and puts forth recommendations for improving these policies in the future.
Reprinted with permission from "Standards-Based Reform in the United States: History, Research, and Future Directions" by The Center on Education Policy. Copyright © 2009 Center on Education Policy.