The Board of Education is expected to adopt common national standards for Hawaii public schools today as part of a push to standardize what students across the country learn and better compare school performance.
If approved, Hawaii schools will start following the new standards in the 2011 school year.
At least nine other states already have adopted the standards, which the Obama administration has endorsed as a key step in improving education in the United States.
Hawaii educators say the new standards do not differ dramatically from the state standards in effect now, but students might see a few differences — from new textbooks to revamped curricula.
More important, the standards will give educators a handle on how Hawaii schools compare with those in other states — and a better understanding of where improvements are needed.
"Right now, an A in Hawaii is not the same as an A" in other states, said Kathryn Matayoshi, interim superintendent of schools. The standards "create a way to compare apples to apples."
Performance standards spell out what students in each grade level are expected to learn. With no national standards, students have different learning expectations state by state.
The voluntary movement toward national learning standards, led by the Council of Chief State School Officers and the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices, has been embraced by 48 states in a bid to ensure rigorous academics in U.S. schools and better prepare students for college or the workplace. Only Alaska and Texas have not pledged to participate.
Some states will have to make big overhauls to their curricula to comply with the new standards.
For Hawaii schools the new standards will mean some "tweaking" but probably no major changes to what students are expected to learn, said Ruth Silberstein, Palolo Elementary School principal. "There’s a lot of rigor (already) in Hawaii standards."
Silberstein said the new standards are vital for students to "function in a global society." She added, "What’s nice about it is that it gives common direction to all students as well as educators throughout the United States."
The standards go into detail on what kindergartners through 12th-graders should learn by the time they wrap up a school year. For example, these are some of the mathematical concepts an eighth-grader needs to know: linear equations and systems, the Pythagorean theorem, and congruence and similarity in geometry. Some of the language arts standards for that same eighth-grader include being able to compare different poetry structures and being able to explain the comparisons an author makes through metaphors, allusions or analogies in a text.
For more information on the standards, go to www.corestandards.org.