N.J. Standards Beginning To Alter What Is Taught, But Not How

By Kathleen Kennedy Manzo — May 03, 2000 2 min read

New Jersey’s 4-year-old academic standards have started to influence what is taught in math and science classes throughout the state, but they have yet to significantly alter how teachers teach the subjects. That, in part, is because professional-development opportunities for teachers have been inadequate, a new report says.

And, while students in the state’s poorest districts have far greater access to textbooks, manipulatives, and other classroom resources than they did a decade ago, they are less likely than their peers in better-off districts to encounter more active methods of learning, according to the first year of findings from what will be a three-year study.

The findings were released last week at the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association in New Orleans.

In an effort to gauge how the state’s core-curriculum content standards have influenced teaching practice, researchers at Rutgers University asked a representative sample of 4th grade teachers to document how much time they spent on specific topics. The researchers found that while teachers had continued to spend much of their time on conventional math and science topics, they had also begun to cover newer themes.

William A. Firestone

“It’s good to see that the curriculum is actually changing,” said William A. Firestone, a professor of educational policy at Rutgers in New Brunswick, N.J., and one of the authors of the report. “There is past qualitative research suggesting that it’s not hard to change the topics taught, but it is harder to change pedagogy that encourages deeper thinking about math and science.”

Newer Topics Added

In mathematics, the report says, the traditional classroom diet of whole-number facts is being balanced with such topics as probability and the use of data. In science, lessons in chemistry, physics, and investigative skills, as well as the use of math in science, are supplementing long-standing coursework in areas such as weather and ecosystems.

The researchers could not determine from the surveys, however, the quality and depth of coverage of the subjects.

The kind of innovative teaching that helps students understand mathematical and scientific concepts, however, has yet to take hold, Mr. Firestone said.

Moreover, he said, teachers in the state’s poorest districts tend to adhere to conventional, textbook-oriented instructional strategies, while their colleagues in wealthier districts offer students more exploratory and active modes of learning.

But New Jersey officials say that the state is still in the early stages of its standards-based improvement program and that change will be incremental.

“It will take some time to align curricula to standards, and to have teachers embrace the expanded content and a change in practice,” said Jay Doolan, the director of the office of standards and professional development for the state education department.

The new professional-development standards—which, beginning next fall, will require 100 hours of rigorous content-area training for teachers every five years—will significantly improve instruction, Mr. Doolan predicted.

The study, over the next two years, will take a more in- depth look at instruction, professional development, and the content of courses.

Related Tags:

A version of this article appeared in the May 03, 2000 edition of Education Week as N.J. Standards Beginning To Alter What Is Taught, But Not How


This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Student Well-Being Webinar
Equity, Care and Connection: New SEL Tools and Practices to Support Students and Adults
As school districts plan to welcome students back into buildings for the upcoming school year, this is the perfect time to take a hard look at both our practices and our systems to build a
Content provided by Panorama Education
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Classroom Technology Webinar
Here to Stay – Pandemic Lessons for EdTech in Future Development
What technology is needed in a post pandemic district? Learn how changes in education will impact development of new technologies.
Content provided by AWS
School & District Management Live Online Discussion A Seat at the Table: Strategies & Tips for Complex Decision-Making
Schools are working through the most disruptive period in the history of modern education, facing a pandemic, economic problems, social justice issues, and rapid technological change all at once. But even after the pandemic ends,

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Standards How New Common Core Research Connects to Biden's Plans for Children and Families
A study of national test scores indicate the early phase of the Common Core State Standards did not help disadvantaged students.
5 min read
results 925693186 02
Standards Opinion After All That Commotion, Was the Common Core a Big Nothingburger?
The Common Core State Standards may not have had an impact on student outcomes, but they did make school improvement tougher and more ideological.
3 min read
Image shows a multi-tailed arrow hitting the bullseye of a target.
DigitalVision Vectors/Getty
Standards New Media Literacy Standards Aim to Combat 'Truth Decay'
The RAND Corporation has released a set of media literacy standards designed to help teach students to identify misinformation.
6 min read
Visual shows a young woman lying down and watching live news content on her mobile phone.
gorodenkoff/iStock/Getty Images Plus
Standards How to Assess English-Learners' Needs From a Distance? Here's Some Help
With schools unable to conduct in-person evaluations, schools must find new ways to determine if students need English-language-learner support services.
2 min read