Quality Curriculum and Assignments

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Imagine arriving at college or your first job with a high school diploma but without the skills and knowledge you need to succeed. That sums up the situation for many students, especially those of color or from low-income families who are denied access to a rigorous secondary curriculum. Far too often, these young people are assigned low-level, content-poor busy-work.
     Research shows that a challenging high school curriculum can help predict postsecondary success. That means all students should take four years of English, at least three years of science including two lab courses, four years of math up to Algebra II, four years of social studies, and two years of a foreign language. Nowadays, the knowledge and skills students need for college match those required for careers—even for blue-collar trades.
     Students rise to the rigor of the work they are assigned. Yet an examination of assignments in one state found that the higher the grade level, the less likely academic standards aligned with that grade level. The result: an artificial instructional gap that denies students the chance to master grade-level content. Classwork or homework that simply asks students to fill in the blanks will not prepare them for postsecondary opportunities.
     The Education Trust seeks to ensure that all students have access to an intellectually demanding curriculum and assignments—prerequisites for a productive life after high school, be it in the classroom or on the job.
     Read more about the importance of quality curriculum in conjunction with college- and career-ready standards in our paper "Instructional Supports: The Missing Piece in State Education Standards." 
     For more on the NCLB first-round waiver plans for standards implementation, including curriculum, click here.