Connecting Students, Standards, and Success: Using standards-based curriculum connections to improve student learning

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In many classrooms, lack of preparation and support for true standards-based curriculum, instruction, and assessments, as well as inappropriate uses of high-stakes tests, have driven standards-based reform efforts in directions that tend to fracture learning, diminish teaching, and focus curricula almost exclusively on the discrete subject areas represented in large-scale tests. The authors make a case for connecting curriculum, instruction, and assessments using standards, in order to improve student learning and understanding and to provide all students with access to a comprehensive and challenging curriculum—one of the elements identified in research as a key to closing achievement gaps. The basis for these connections include the schoolwide goals for student learning derived from analysis of the many national standards documents, and five research-based ways to make multi- and interdisciplinary connections. These five keys to standards-based connections are global skills, ways of making meaning (thinking and learning processes), common concepts, shared content, and cross-discipline instruction.