State standards: all over the map

If you live in New Hampshire, Utah or Vermont, you could theoretically graduate from high school without ever being taught how to tell time to the minute, what an adverb is (or how to use one), and who the current U.S. president is.

In fact, 15 states have no standard about students learning to tell time to the minute. Most of these states are satisfied if students can tell time in 5-minute intervals; expectations in California and Utah are even lower: telling time to the nearest ¼-hour suffices. And standards about telling time were more consistent from one state to the next than the other two standards I recently looked at.

Standards Map (created by Sarah Butrymowicz)

In 24 states and, surprisingly enough, Washington, D.C., there’s no expectation that students learn who the current president is. Kindergarteners in Arizona are expected to know who the current president and governor of Arizona are, but students in Maine have until the end of eighth grade to “identify key representatives in legislative branches and heads of executive and judicial branches in Maine and in the United States government.”

It’s not only the grades in which students learn things that range widely, but also how comprehensively the topics are covered. In Iowa, students are simply expected to “identify and use adverbs” by the end of eighth grade. But in New Jersey, students are expected not only to use adverbs by fifth grade, but also to understand the concept well enough to justify their choices.

U.S. standards are all over the map, even within individual states. Take South Dakota, for example. It’s one of the few states that expect students to tell time to the minute by second grade. But when it comes to adverbs, it’s one of only two states with no expectations until middle school.

Maybe adverbs are overrated, though. Stephen King, whose books have sold over 350 million copies worldwide, is squarely in the adverbs-are-overrated camp. In his book On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, King writes:

The adverb is not your friend.

… I believe the road to hell is paved with adverbs, and I will shout it from the rooftops.  To put it another way, they’re like dandelions.  If you have one on your lawn, it looks pretty and unique.  If you fail to root it out, however, you will find five the next day…fifty the day after that…and then, my brothers and sisters, your lawn is totally, completely, and profligately covered with dandelions.  By then you see them for the weeds they really are, but by then it’s – GASP!! – too late.

Sarah Butrymowicz

POSTED BY ON June 10, 2010